The Slovenian Pavilion: Urska and Jure Sadar at Work

In News by Porter Anderson

The Guest of Honor Slovenia pavilion is designed with an emphasis on the natural lighting that Jure and Urska Sadar know at home.

Image: Publishing Perspectives, Johannes Minkus

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

A ‘Forest’ with ‘Canyons’ and Lots of Seating
In what may be a case of a brilliant image working almost too well, the Guest of Honor Slovenia program’s metaphor A Honeycomb of Words has prompted moments when designers Jure and Urska Sadar have had to reassure Frankfurt-bound visitors that there are no bees in the spacious, brightly lit pavilion they’ve designed to highlight Slovenia at the Frankfurter Buchmesse’s 75th anniversary edition.

Setting their vision on the first floor of the Forum building at Messe Frankfurt, these partners in both life and design have uncovered the huge expanse of windows overlooking the Agora to let light stream onto parts of their design they call “the forest”—shelves displaying representative Slovenian literature.

When they say “canyon,” they mean capacious seating areas that utilize a specially molded foam, forming planes and surfaces not unlike those found in the Slovenian, Julian, and Kamnik Alps.

So forests, yes; canyons, yes; bees, no. And yet the 200,000 Carniolan bee colonies of Slovenia have influenced the Sadars. Look up and you’ll see quietly floating hexagonal shapes overhead, perhaps glowing lighting sources above the café area with its tables and a small stage. Sit down in either the 60-seat or 120-seat performance area, and you’ll realize that the lightweight walls defining the space around you are also hexagonal.

Slovenian curator Miha Kovač likes to remind members of the press at news conferences that the honeybee is more than just a UNESCO-recognized and industrious friend to Slovenians: those bees, as Kovač says, remind his people that their nation’s diversity comes from the social pollination of many cultures, all brought home to those apiaries on buzzy wings.

“It was a starting point,” says Jure Sadar, “the honeycomb with its visual and spatial implications, and we developed a concept in which the honeycomb can be always, subtly present but not overwhelming so that one would think it’s a bee exhibition.”

While laughing, Urska Sadar says, “It was actually quite a challenge to follow the idea but not to overdo it.” It turns out that having lived for five years in London before returning to Slovenia, the Sadars do know the phrase “in your face,” and were careful not to let the aesthetic of clover-humming fields and sweet-nectar thrumming hives become obsessive.

Although they collaborate in projects, Jure is more in his element with architecture and Urska works in furniture and design. Comfortable in speaking together and poised in discussing their concepts, Urska and Jure’s Studio Sadar was one of seven design houses chosen to compete for the Guest of Honor Slovenia pavilion assignment. And there was little extra time to go hither and yon looking for inspiration: the work was compressed into some three months.

Urska and Jure Sadar: Design for Living

The ground plan for the Guest of Honor Slovenia pavilion includes subtly honeycomb-hexagonal sight-baffles around its performance spaces. Image: Studio Sadar

Studio Sadar is easily up to the task, as you can see at its site,, with projects that have included an “indoor greening intervention” called Green Island; the 4,600-meter Tivoli Sports Hall with rooftop parking in Ljubljana; and a glass-house topped Slovenian Forestry Institute, a university research building.

“We want to bring as much natural light in as possible and use artificial lighting to match that natural environment.”Urska Sadar, Sadar Studio

“We think when reading a book,” Urska says, “it’s quite nice to have natural light.” She looks outside her office window as she speaks. “Slovenia is very open and nice,” and life is lived close to nature.

She talks of how some of the pavilion designs at the Forum in the past have had the shutter closed to create a darkened room for dramatic, artificial effects. “We want to bring as much natural light in as possible, instead,” she says, “and use artificial lighting to match that natural environment.”

Similarly, the Sadars’ emphasis on seating is something that came from their own observations in previous pavilion designs as well as in comments—maybe from those of us who know just how desperate a weary trade visitor can become at Frankfurt for a simple place to sit when the only chairs you can see are reserved for meeting on publishers’ and vendors’ stands.

“If you want to keep people for a while,” so that they explore and enjoy the pavilion, Jure says, “if you want them to take a book, read a book, have a conversation, then you need as much seating as possible—and comfortable seating. So we designed this ‘canyon,'” which appears something like comfy alpine ledges, “made of recyclable foam. Typically, this material is used for car installations and so on. It comes in big blocks and offers vast areas to sit on.”

What’s also great about it is that once it has served its purpose at Slovenian pavilion, he says, it can be reclaimed, ground down, and reshaped for other uses in other projects and places. “And that plays, of course, into the narrative of sustainability, one of the key starting points for us.”


‘Between the cultural landscape and the reflection of words,’ an explanatory gallery note for visitors to the Guest of Honor Pavilion. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

In addition to the two auditoriums and the book-exhibition space, the cafeteria-seating area with its small stage and a “digital corner” with content presentations are also elements of the design.

“We developed a concept in which the honeycomb can be always, subtly present but not overwhelming so that one would think it’s a bee exhibition.”Jure Sadar, Sadar Studio

In the cafeteria area, the Sadars have lowered the ceiling for intimacy, used hexagonal lighting fixtures, and closed the space on two sides with fabric, “so you still have the view outside,” Jure says, “but with your back is protected by these textiles.”

Urska says that the fabrics they’re using are translucent, so you’ll be able to see light and shapes as people move in other parts of the pavilion but without the see-through quality of something fully transparent. Sound control in the various spaces is being handled by directed-audio systems.

“Acoustics are always a bit tricky,” Jure says, “but each space’s sound is directed toward its audience. Inevitably, there’s some overlap but this will remind you that it’s all part of this open exhibition.”

Outside the pavilion, the Sadars know from being at Frankfurt in the past, “It’s very intense, very tiring, very enormous,” as Jure puts it, and the idea of there being some sense of peace and comfort for visitors to the guest of honor pavilion is an important one.

“We were very happy to be chosen,” Jure Sader says, “and we continue to be happy.”

He pauses and then adds, with a smile and his characteristic wry humor, “We hope that everyone else will be happy with it, as well.”

Translucent fabrics are used in the Guest of Honor Slovenia pavilion to maintain the sense of natural lighting throughout the design — here in one of two presentation spaces. Image: Studio Sadar

A version of this story appears in our Frankfurt Book Fair Magazine, which is being distributed on October 18, in print at the trade show and digitally here at Publishing Perspectives.

The magazine has previews of programming from our Publishing Perspectives Forum at Frankfurt including our Executive Talks with Penguin Random House worldwide CEO Nihar Malaviya and Nanmeebooks’ Kim Chongsatitwana; highlights of key events at the 75th Frankfurter Buchmesse; and coverage of Frankfurt’s upcoming guest of honor programs (Italy, the Philippines, the Czech Republic) and this year’s Guest of Honor Slovenia.

There’s also news of literary agents and agencies; award-winning books from guest of honor markets; focus articles on artificial intelligence, sustainability; and a forthcoming effort to get more Korean literature into world markets; as well as 75th-anniversary “Frankfurt Moments.” Be sure to get your copy of the magazine when you arrive at Buchmesse on Wednesday, or download it here at Publishing Perspectives.

More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more on Slovenia is here, more on the world’s international trade shows and book fairs is here, and more on guest of honor programs is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.