We would like to congratulate the citizens of Rijeka, and particularly the tenants of the building in the street Ulica Ivana Grohovca on the hundredth anniversary that falls on this day.

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At the corner of Kalvarija and Ulica Ivana Grohovca stands the building that was constructed between 1914 and 1916 as the so-called Milosrdno dje?je prihvatilište /Orphanage of Mercy/. The building was constructed according to the design of Luigi Lupis, with the intention for the mezzanine to serve as the headquarters of the institution, and for the ground floor and the four other floors to be leased.  


The foundation stone for this building was laid on 15 May 1914, and the building was ceremonially opened on 27 February 1916. The orphanage also contained a small hall for theatre plays with a stage, while plaques with the names of benefactors and sponsors were built into the entrance wall. All of the aforementioned was erased with the adaptation of this space for the ?Solidarnost? /Solidarity/ shop, which is the name that older citizens still use to refer to the building. Those that are somewhat younger call it Bernardi after a shop that used to operate on the premises of the building. However, ever since the moment that, some thirty years ago, the kindergarten left its premises, it is as if the history of this remarkable (especially when it comes to care for children) building has ceased.

Art Nouveau Lifts

The building has been constructed in the style of Historicism and is divided into two units with separate entrances at the addresses Ivana Grohovca 1 and 3. In these buildings, lifts with glazed wooden doors and decorated with Art Nouveau motifs have been preserved in their original design and construction. These lifts have been included in the List of Protected Cultural Goods of the Register of Cultural Goods of the Republic of Croatia and represent one of the few early-20th century lifts that have remained preserved on the territory of Croatia.

The project for restoring and conserving the lifts and putting them back into operation was initiated in 2008. The project was completed in 2014 and managed to preserve the lifts in almost their original condition, while only the engine and electronic control units were replaced.

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Machina Vacuum

Central vacuum cleaner socket
Central vacuum cleaner socket

Apart from the lifts, this building also safeguards another technological ?treasure?. On the first page of the historical deed of ownership, there is a detailed description of the common areas. The ground floor is described as comprising the following: a porter’s lodge (which did not serve as the residence of the porter but as a reception, while the porter’s quarters were located in the attic), a room for the central heating unit (central heating for the entire building), a coal storage room, a laundry room (a furnace and a large concrete trough have also remained preserved), facilities for the operation of the lift and, finally: ?a room for the Machina Vacuum”. This machine functioned as follows – the apartments contained one metal socket each, into which a tube with a length of 30 or 50 metres would be inserted. After this, the switch would be flipped to vacuum the entire apartment without any noise (as the machine worked several floors below). In searching for similar technological examples, we are led to the conclusion that this machine was quite a rarity. An incredible standard! The reception itself was connected to the apartments via telephone, via which the receptionist would check whether a particular guest had been invited and was permitted to go ?upstairs?.


This building played a large role in social life for a very long time and lost both its primary role (kindergarten) and its secondary role (shop) due to a set of circumstances. For some time now, the building has been used only occasionally to host one-off events. We believe that the importance that this building deserves must be restored, and this is what inspires us and gives us the strength to give it a new life and new meaning. This is why we would like to make this building the epicentre of Ri:2020. As we envision it, this 1200 m2 large building located in the centre of the city will play several important roles:

Civic innovations: The great support expressed to the city government notwithstanding, it is necessary to improve the models of management themselves. The aim of this initiative is to stimulate better cooperation between the citizens and the city government, which is a relationship we wish to further detoxify.

In RiHub, we aim to hold presentations (live or via video conference) on the civic initiatives that have been implemented in Europe and worldwide in order to find those ideas that will inspire the people of Rijeka to action.

In order to achieve this, we will relocate 10 representatives from 10 departments of the city government to work in RiHub. The task of the Skunkwork team will be to test existing ideas and to stimulate the submission of new ones. In cooperation with the public at large, concrete projects that aim to solve concrete problems, or to improve the lives of citizens in another manner, will be initiated.

These activities will yield an array of structured guidelines for civic innovation – some of which have already been tested live in Rijeka – which will be of an open character and available to the public online.

Newsroom: We will establish a fully functional production unit that will cover the communication and information related imperatives of the manifold and multilingual characteristics of the citizens and media.

Classroom: Guest lectures (a part of civic innovations), presentations (part of the Learning Programme), round tables (as independent events) or PR campaigns executed by an agency or the producers of the events themselves will be held in the presentation room with 80 seats.

Common space: Invited or self-initiated civic initiative projects will pass through various phases in which they will be discussed and their possible implementation in Rijeka will be considered. The common space has been envisioned as a multi-purpose office for this type of work, and as an open space for interdependent projects with the developmental sector. This place will also serve as a workplace for resident journalists.

Gallery: The premises will provide the possibility for organising smaller civic initiative exhibitions or projects that have been incorporated into the common space in another manner.

Living room: The part of RiHub turned towards its visitors has been envisioned as a stimulating miniature agora for incidental encounters which, we hope, will prove to be enticing enough to attract regular newspaper readers, coffee machine users and other well-intentioned visitors who would simply like to spend some time there.

Agency headquarters: The headquarters of the Ri:2020 agency will have its own modest workspace within RiHub.

Sources for text and photo: Kako ?itati grad: Rijeka ju?er, danas /How to Read the City: Rijeka Yesterday and Today/; Radmila Matej?i?; 2007. | Lokalpatrioti Rijeka