Croatian Fiasco? No way!


Croatia's floating pavilion suffered structural damage on the way to this year's Venice biennale. (Courtesy Katarina Olujić)

“The biggest fiasco…in the history of Croatian architecture?” Well, not really, but there seem to be some architects in Croatia who are angry that their floating pavilion built for the current Venice biennale was destroyed before it reached its intended mooring at the Giardini.

In a press release just sent to us they claim:

The so-called Croatian floating pavilion designed for this year’s Venice Biennale by the group of architects and professors—Sasa Begovic, Marko Dabrovic, Igor Franic, Tanja Grozdanic, Petar Miskovic, Leo Modrcin, Silvije Novak, Veljko Oluic, Helena Paver Njiric, Lea Pelivan, Toma Plejic, Goran Rako, Sasa Randic, Idis Turato, Pero Vukovic, Tonci Zarnic—who used a huge amount of Croatian taxpayers’ money to build it, was never exhibited there because it has collapsed infamously, like a melted custard pastry, on its way. In spite of the fact that irreparable damage was caused by the structural failure, nobody took responsibility for the biggest fiasco in the history of Croatian architecture.

Poor lashing resulted in the partial collapse of the rebar pavilion on its voyage from Croatia. (Courtesy Katarina Olujić)

Ouch! Adequate stabilization was not possible due to scheduling and cost constraints. (Courtesy Katarina Olujić)

I was at the Venetian Giardini with several other journalists on the day the pavilion was meant to arrive, and we watched as the pavilion appeared in the hazy lagoon but never quite made it to the dockside, so in the spirit of Venice we settled in at the Giardini bar and enjoyed a spritz.

The pavilion in its pristine, pre-Venice condition. (Zelimir Grzancic)

In an email, one of the designers, Leo Modrcin, explained that “the Croatian pavilion was damaged during the transportation from Croatia to Venice. It required additional bracing for longer trips and exposure to the sea’s elements. The recommended removable scaffolding frame was not installed due to time and funding constraints. The lashing of the structure was executed by the towing company, but was obviously inadequate.”

The pavilion sets sail, and into fond biennale memory. (Zelimir Grzancic)

Obviously! But pavilions are by nature temporary and ephemeral, and this one at least looked great! We all know how important media images are to architecture, and it still remains one of my favorite pavilions in Venice.

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