It was designed in 1977 by Frane Grgurević. Originally, it was conceived as the House of Socialist Youth, a large and multi-purpose complex. The construction was started in 1979 to be used in the Mediterranean Games held in the same year. However, after the completion of the shell, in 1984 the works were halted, and the building, only put to use in a small part, was for the next twenty years a major financial, political and even security problem for the city.
In 1994 the Art Squat was organised, a three-day programme of concerts and performances for the purpose of which the premises were partially cleaned. From 1997 to 2005 the Centre was managed by the Youth Culture Centre. The premises also housed the first private TV station in Croatia, TV Marjan. After a six-month media campaign, the Coalition of Youth Associations (abbreviation KUM), made up of six organisations, moved, with the consent of the municipal authority, into the basement. Since 2005 the building has been managed by the Multimedia Culture Centre. As well as these, the other permanent users are: Hram – Youth Culture Alternative; Split Cinema Club; Split Film Festival; the Ballet Studio; Playdrama Theatre. Occasional users are: HULU Split, World Press Photo, Pricigin Festival, Platforma 9.81, Split University Art Academy – Film and Video Department, the Guitar Festival, Split Croatian National Theatre, Split Association of Architects, Dopust – Open Performance Days.
With its own resources, KUM put in order the totally unusable space and opened up the Kocka Club, meant for concerts, performances, workshops and so on. Later a skate park was laid out in the space, and as well as KUM, other youth initiatives moved in. At the initiative of Platforma 9.81, and led by the MCC, an extensive programme was launched for putting the building to rights, its transformation into a multimedia culture centre with a hybrid management and constant engagement linking existing initiatives and the encouragement and reinforcement of other programmes in the spaces of the Centre. This meant that the neglected and unfinished Youth Centre, bypassing the expected institutional frameworks, started to perform a function similar to that originally intended for it, although on premises that were completely different in terms of management, programme and space.
The corpulent building of the Youth Centre is in terms of programme and space precisely defined and its shell was completed. Any radical change of the contents was hardly feasible. The core of the spatial configuration is an interesting stage complex with a two-sided amphitheatric auditoria capable of seating 35 0 and 650, with a stage tower 23.5 m high, which today, in its bareness, is rather impressive. The Youth Centre also contains many other spaces, which are gradually being colonised and used for various regular or ad hoc events. Underway is a gradual adjustment and renovation, rather unusual in that the works are going on in a slow rhythm hand in hand with the use of the space, irrespective of whether it is fully completed or not, and the whole building is already at this moment a potential usable space. The project is aimed at the creation of the basic conditions for the holding of cultural programmes and their constant improvement. All the new elements (save those incorporated into the basic structure), installations, partitions, furnishing, signing, decoration and requisites are put down into the space in such a way as to be moveable, replaceable, extendable and adjustable. Accordingly, the major part of the space can be completely vacated, reorganised or reassigned for new needs in a relatively short period. The aim is to serve the cultural events and life in the building. All the elements installed are subordinated to this aim.
The concept of the project implies the reorganization of space and its usage. The existent, never completed, House of Socialist Youth, built in 1978, was conceived as a centrally organized theatre space with public and staff spaces strictly separated and with a large permanent ensemble area like in The Croatian National Theatre. Our project treats the building as an available space which is fragmented into several smaller areas for current culture events. Despite gradual and small investments, works on the building and its cultural program continues in present conditions. Organizing cultural events often means defining and constructing the space for each particular event. Building transforms from the central theatre space into a cultural complex. Establishment that runs the building is small, but we are trying to make a form of hybrid institution that will bring together various initiatives that can manage and use the building.
“Most of the existing buildings require a new life, reorganisation, adaptation, re-usage. The Youth Centre is an example of large deserted public building, designed on different principle, being transformed into space which is adapted to today’s dynamic cultural needs. The priority is to make the space alive, to form the space which can insure creation of the contemporary urban scene. The building is only the infrastructure for events. We are here, together with users, to constantly upgrade, change and adapt this place. “