Posts tagged with "Croatia":

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See how a pipe organ played by waves transformed Zadar’s concrete shoreline into a popular public space

During World War II, Allied bombing almost entirely destroyed Zadar, Croatia, 3,000-year-old city on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Redevelopment introduced a long, concrete shoreline—unpopulated and uninviting, until 2005, when Croatian architect Nikola Bašić installed Sea Organ. The installation includes marble steps that descend into the sea, and narrow channels, carved into the steps, which connect to 35 concealed organ pipes. When waves hit the steps, air pushes through the whistle-holes, tuned to play seven chords of five tones. The Sea Organ, known as “Morske Orgulje” in Croatian, opened to the public on April 15, 2005. It soon became a popular spot for locals and attracts many tourists. In 2006, the Sea Organ jointly won the European Prize for Urban Public Space. "Avoiding the abruptness of the common jetty, understood as a rectilinear platform elevated above the water level, the Zadar steps allow the dissolution of the border between land and water and preserve a dilated transit space between the two." commented Public Space, the prize's administrators. "In that way the jetty is no longer an unexpected barrier that protects but distances man from the sea; it summons, like a beach, the coming and going of the waves." Following the Sea Organ, Bašić installed Greeting to the Sun (Pozdrav suncu) on the Zadar Peninsula promenade. At night, the 77 foot diameter circle of solar panels gives a light show of random colors and patterns. Watch the video below to hear sounds from Bašić's Sea Organ.
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A Memorial Disappears: Croatia’s Petrova Gora Dismantled

Petrova Gora, the sculptural memorial to the partisan victims of World War II in Croatia, is being dismantled as we speak. As reported on the AN Blog last year, the memorial was already abandoned and in disrepair, but new photographs taken on July 24th show that Petrova Gora has largely been stripped of its metallic skin. It is not clear yet who ordered or approved such dismantling of the memorial. Nor is it known to what extent or to what purpose this is being done. Maroje Mrduljas, a leading architecture critic from Zagreb, said that parts of the monument's facade notoriously have been stolen by the locals for use as building material on private property. Mrduljas recently spoke to the governor of the municipality about documents related to the security of the memorial as well as legal intentions to protect it. But Mrduljas discovered that Petrova Gora had never any legal documents to begin with. Thus it  became a convenient target for thieves gradually stripping the memorial of its material for personal use. The majority of the population, Mrduljas said, does not consider this edifice as a national memorial at all. For them, the symbolic meaning of the anti-fascist resistance has vanished along with the country of Yugoslavia. Yet cast in heavy concrete, the basic structure of Petrova Gora memorial is virtually indestructible. Marko Sancanin, urbanist and director of Platforma 9.81 from Zagreb, said that he plans to discuss the current state of the Petrova Gora memorial with the Croatian Ministry of Culture. Why is saving Petrova Gora important? Former Yugoslav politicians took a stand against the East Block through commissioning art and architecture inspired by American post-war modernism and the neutral visual force of abstract expressionism. For architecture, this ultimately led to an official policy of commissioning memorials based on American modernism. Petrova Gora is one of the clearest examples of this former Yugoslav policy. This object is not just a monument that belongs to one nation or to the expanded former Yugoslav nationalities--Petrova Gora belongs to a much wider and international public. It needs to be protected as an international symbol of anti-fascist resistance on its own ground.
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Croatian Fiasco? No way!

“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.
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. 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.” 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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Scouting the Magic Mountain of Yugoslav Socialism

The School of Missing Studies and Slought Foundation have recently returned from a “photo safari” to Petrova Gora in Croatia, one of many languishing memorials from the socialist era of the former Yugoslavia. Conceived in 1981 by Vojin Bakić, a Croatian sculptor who won many state-funded commissions, working with the architect Branislav Šerbetić, the project was designed as a 12-story-tall social center, set on the site of a Partisan field hospital used during World War II. Finally completed in 1989 as a monument to Yugoslavia’s resistance fighters, the memorial was used as intended for only a brief period before the Balkan crisis erupted. The wars that ensued scattered refugees around the region, and practically erased the political cause this structure was meant to embody. Today, Petrova Gora stands unused and empty—but not secured with lock and key. Thanks to the neglect of Croatia’s democratic government, which looks away from its socialist past, the memorial is more approachable and free than ever intended. Anyone can come here, enter the site, walk inside the monument, and wander upward through 12 interconnected levels all the way to the roof. The feeling of melancholy inspired by Petrova Gora is overwhelming, but it is irresistible to call it beautiful. Furthermore, an astonishing aspect of this monument is that inside, it is the size of a small Guggenheim museum, positioned on a dramatic hilltop site. It also is significant that the building is the work of an abstract artist, and that the architect played a minor role. Today’s contemporary artists have discovered this inhabitable monument, and are cementing careers by embracing Petrova Gora in their work. Take the video produced by David Maljkovic, which portrays the structure deep in the future as a neglected fiction. Other projects and expeditions to the site have produced similar imagery, evoking “nostalgia for the future.” All of these projects raise awareness about this exceptional work, and about the exceptionality of Yugoslav socialism when compared to the idolatry of the Soviet bloc. However, these artists’ projects fail to ignite strategic thinking and analysis, especially within the context of contemporary practice, about ideologies deploying art in place of design. Moreover, little if no work has been done to relate this monument to American influence upon Yugoslav cultural policies during the Cold War, making Yugoslavia an ally to the West and offsetting the Soviet East. American abstract art, conceptual art, and corporate architecture all play provocative roles in this history. So while artists exhaust the repertoire of visual interventions, the time is ripe for architects to step in. In contrast to socialism, which tended to freeze time and artistic competence, today in the emerging democracies in the Western Balkans the situation is much more open. Paradoxically, perhaps the best aspect of emerging democracy is that being behind may mean being next. Yet time is also limited for further action. Visitors to Petrova Gora have already spotted men with geodesic equipment measuring the site of the memorial and the monument itself. This may mean that we are already late on the scene, and that there is perhaps little time to think of a strategy to put this monument back in the future, either for an authentic use (which few would fund without a neoliberal zeal for profit returns), or preserved as a beautiful ruin. The time of earnestness may be over. This text is part of a forthcoming book created by Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss in collaboration with Berlin-based photographer Armin Linke, which explores the fate of a number of Socialist memorials in the region. The photo safari to Petrova Gora, along with further discussions among the participants in Zagreb, was part of the Slought Foundation’s traveling exhibit at the Croatian Association of Visual Artists and the School of Missing Studies’ workshop “City as a School of Politics,” held in Zagreb with local participants and curated by Katherine Carl.