For many years the French Pavilion was just an intriguing ruin in the courtyard of Student Centre. This curious circular building was built in the 1930s as France’s expo pavilion, based on a project of French architects, when the area was hosting Zagreb Fair. It entered the history of architecture because of its ingenious lightweight roof – steel plates only 2mm thin, its ”hanging ceiling” and flat glass roof were a very innovative and bold engineering solution for a building of this size. Never before was a space of such dimensions domed by such a lightweight construction. The solidity of the roof was subject to a lot of scepticism, but architect Lafaille proved the sceptics wrong by riding a bike on the pavilion’s roof.
After years of decay, the pavilion was restored to its original beauty only in 2014 and rediscovered as a powerful performance venue, especially due to its magnificent spacious interior with incredible acoustics. Since then it has hosted a variety of events, from experimental music concerts to art exhibitions. Its fantastic interior has an air of a classical temple and a building from future or even a spacecraft at the same time. No performance can take place here without entering a unique interaction with this peculiar space: the soaring walls, the powerful echo, the peculiar mix of functional and decorative.
The French Pavilion is off the usual touristic trails in Zagreb, but it’s definitely worth exploring, together with some interesting street art in Student Centre courtyard.