Noordung Space Wheel

Space centre opens in Slovenia

Space technology museum is based on a habitable space station concept by local resident Herman Noordung

Surrounded by grazing cattle, apple orchards and village housing is this positively cosmic arrival. The Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies is now complete, and it's not only its setting which is unexpected. For this was a collaboration between four architectural firms: OFIS, Bevk Perovic, Dekleva Gregoric and Sadar Vuga, all of which are Slovenian. This time, however, too many cooks didn’t spoil the broth, as this is a singularly monolithic creation.

It’s also known as the Noordung Space Wheel, as its location is the Slovenian town of Vitanje, the family home of rocket engineer Herman Potocnik Noordung, who came up with some of the first theories on outer space.

The architects took their inspiration from his original geostationary space station concept, which was a habitable wheel. Hence the centre’s stacked up but offset circular volumes. The main body is in concrete, which has been wrapped in perforated aluminium sheets. It’s a clever design, as from certain angles the building appears to be semi-submerged in the grassy banks.


Herman Potocnik Noordung's geostationary space station concept
Herman Potocnik Noordung's geostationary space station concept

Inside, the interlocking rings create a continuous ramp where there’s exhibition space, offices, research zones for the history of space technology. This ramp idea can’t help but remind Londoners of Foster & Partners’ 2001 City Hall. (Let’s hope the lower-rise space centre is a little easier to get around).

Inside it’s all exposed concrete, with light entering the structure through a series of circular skylights in the top cylinder, some of which have glazed walls down to the floor (a bit like a Star Trek-style beaming pod). The centre replaces Vitanje’s existing arts centre, and will host all manner of social activities in the coming months. For more great concrete buildings there's only one place to look