John Paul II Square in Zadar

Ante Uglešić
: John Paul II Square is located at the very centre of Zadar’s old town, the urban tissue rich with historical layers. This microlocation includes, among the more relevant archeological findings, the remains of the ancient Roman Forum (from 1st century BC to 3rd century AD) with the Severian basilica (2nd/3rd century AD), the town’s 16th-century water cistern, the remains of the medieval town walls with parts of their foundations built in the ancient times. In the vicinity there are also the remains of the Roman capitolium, St Donat’s Church (9th century), the cathedral (12th century) with its belfry (19th/20th century) as well as contemporary buildings mostly built in the 1950 – 1970 period. Archeological research of the area was carried out in 1963, after which a part of the ancient Forum was revealed whereas the rest of the surface south-west of the Forum was left untouched, as a non-defined space covered in dirt and gravel. It was partly used as a provisional car park, bounded by the portico of the Forum, a modern residential building, a road and a promenade on the route of the former Roman street Cardo Maximus. The area which belonged to the pedestrian zone of the town centre was inaccessible and unused.


The primary task was to incorporate the 92×63 m square into the urban area of the town, thus transforming it into an active part of the city life. The potential of the space within the densely built structure of the old town would be fulfilled; it would be able to host a large number of people and it would be used for many events, public gatherings, concerts, festivals and other open-air happenings throughout the year. The space would not only serve as the location of many events, but it would also be a place where people would meet and relax. After the recent completion of the on-site archeological research, during which a series of other contents which testify the continuity of the town’s life throughout centuries had been discovered, another task was added to the assignment of contributing to and furthering the town’s public life. This task consisted in presenting three chosen findings: the ancient Severian basilica, the 16th-century water cistern, a part of which had been built within the basilica, as well as a part of the medieval town walls. The display of the Roman architecture fragments found in the area was also one of the conditions.


After having taken into consideration the set aims, conservationists’ conditions and the inherited geometrical matrix – the orthogonal Roman grid – the square space was divided into different but connected units: a raised square above the town’s water cistern with a reconstructed stone crown; a western, lower plateau with tall greenery, benches and a fountain which links the two levels; a southeastern green surface with a collection of stone fragments and a stone-tablet path which connects the lower plateau and the portico of the Forum; a pedestrian passage along a residential building with bar terraces; a basilica area which is incorporated into and connects all four previously mentioned units; and a side area along the road with a pavement and a partial reconstruction of the town walls. The primary material used was stone, which was structured and processed in different ways with the scope of differentiating the surfaces and elements: the reconstruction of the historical findings of the town walls and the walls of the basilica, the new pedestrian passage and surface, the stone benches, the fountain, the park path and others. The surface of the former indoor space of the basilica was processed by immersing stone pebbles into plaster. space reserved for the collection of the fragments of the town walls was covered with grass, and deciduous trees were planted in the park and lower pedestrian plateau. The square was supplied with urban fixtures and new street lighting, which can be regulated according to the needs of the events held in the square.


As predicted, the space hosts various events all year round and, when it is not being used for these purposes, it serves as a place for relaxation. John Paul II Square has become an unavoidable space in everyday lives of the inhabitants and visitors of the town.



Location: Zadar, Croatia

Client: Zadar city council

Architect: Ante Uglešić

Associate: Marijana Rančić

Design: 2005 – 2008 

Completion: 2010

Constructor: PLOTER d.o.o., Zadar

Area: 5654,50 m²

Budget : 1.700.000,00 € (13.000.000,00 kn)
photos: Velid Jakupović, Jakov Đinđić, Sandro Lendler

Metalco ArchInteligence

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