Green in green

Kobarid, a village with about 4500 souls in the far east of Slovenia. If you look down into the valley from the local Italian Charnel House, you can spot a structure integrated into the landscape right by the Soča river: a patina green substation that seems to be writing its own story. To find out more about this story, the PREFARENZEN team spoke with the leading architect Damjan Holc of IBE d. d.

Domestic before exotic

“What connects the setting of Ernest Hemingway’s "A Farewell to Arms", a UNESCO World Heritage site and a high-voltage plant?”, we ask Damjan Holc. He could have guessed that the answer is Kobarid, even though he has never held Hemingway’s novel in his hands. For in the Mediterranean-alpine village, nestled right where the Soča and Nadiža valleys meet, is the substation “RTP Kobarid” he built. He still remembers the plot of land in an industrial area right by the Soča river very well, where his skills were needed. “This area belongs to the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, which meant that we were only allowed to use pure Soča crushed gravel an no exotic plant species. We also had to make sure to keep a distance of 5 m between the construction and the surrounding trees as well as the river bank,” Mr. Holc tells us. Another factor was the very narrow building site: Construction had to be carried out right next to the old substation, which stayed there during the entire construction period and for a while afterwards.

To be able to supply not only the residents, but also the influx of tourists with energy, the village needs a corresponding electrical infrastructure, which was no longer possible with the existing, outdated substation. After a building period of two years, Damjan Holc looked back at the project with satisfaction, he was pleased then as he is now that everything went so smoothly. He raves about the aluminium envelope, which he likes best.

Side by side is a thing of the past

While RTP Kobarid has been in operation since September 2020, the old substation was demolished just recently. Freed from this ballast, the new construction with two opposing roof surfaces running past each other stands there in direct relation to its surroundings in a bold shade of green – “patina green is the name of the colour I decided to use after searching for a while. I wanted it to blend in not only formally but also colour-wise, and thanks to PREFA, I was able to make that happen,” the architect explains. Rhythmized with trays of different widths, the slightly slanted façade with narrow overhangs on the ends is more than a protecting envelope: Inhabitants and visitors alike perceive it as a dynamic rounding that emulates the colour of the Soča river flowing by.

Chasing a niche

The area around Kobarid offers more than raw, breathtaking nature and local delicacies: Energy tourism is the name of the niche-oriented trend that has partly inspired the plans for the substation. For the Goriška region lives and nurtures tourism, is actively seeking new models to create interfaces with its (agri)cultural heritage. The aim is to raise people’s awareness of energy production and consumption from a sustainability perspective! It is not far-fetched that this approach will resonate with them. The Fala–Laško Museum is already dedicated to electric power transmission, which shows that those visiting the region are also interested in learning about power supply. If efforts in this direction should take on a more concrete form in Kobarid, it is certainly helpful if architecture already catches your eye and makes you curious from afar.

Less mainstream, please

Architect Damjan Holc does not get bored easily. As part of the 6-member team of architects of the engineer and consulting office IBE d. d. based in Ljubljana, he receives assignments from the industrial and energy sector non-stop. And still: “You have to remain inventive and not only deliver what the customer has commissioned!” He says that this also includes surprising the client in a positive way with ideas that initially unsettled him or had never even occurred to him before. “The goal should always be to exceed expectations. What I’ve noticed among younger architects in Slovenia is that they tend to stick to the mainstream rather than dare to do something new. A little more courage, please!”, the architect proclaims. He is currently discussing new projects with PREFA object consultant Mitja Brencic – but they still have to germinate, he says. We’re curious, so the story continues …

Substation Kobarid - Details



Object, location

substation, Kobarid


new construction


IBE d. d. 


Krov storitve d.o.o.




patina green

further information:

  • Interview: Anneliese Heinisch
  • Text: Anneliese Heinisch
  • Photos: © Iztok Kveder