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Svetlana Kana Radević

Podgorica, Montenegro
1 of 9

Svetlana Kana Radevic (1937-2000) was the first woman architect in Montenegro. She graduated from the Faculty of Architecture Belgrade and reached the final year at the Art History Department at the Faculty of Philosophy, studying at two Faculties at the same time. She obtained a master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania as a Fulbright fellow in the class of Louis I Kahn. Her professional experience was acquired in Paris, Moscow and in Japan at the atelier of Kisho Kurokawa. Her architecture marked the Modern movement in Montenegro and defined a standard in architecture that few can achieve. She is the youngest winner, the only woman and only Montenegrin architect to won the federal Borba award for architecture (1968). She was a regular member of the Doclean Academy of Sciences and Arts and a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Architecture and construction, where she was admitted in 1994, at the same time as Kenzo Tange. She was also a member of the Montenegrin PEN Center and a member of UNESCO (AIA).

Kana's Architectural Language

As the prolific principal designer and proprietor of her own studio, Svetlana Kana Radevic was the rare exception to the norm of women designers who often remained anonymous collaborators. Radevic won the competition for the Hotel Podgorica (1964-67) in the Montenegrin capital. The building follows the undulating bank of the Moraca River along which it stands, enabling a symbiotic relationship between plan and site. Truncated three story walls, impregnated with local river pebbles, frame the residential quarters and the common facilities, and their materiality further reconciles landscape and building. The project underscores how Radevic not only absorbed formal tendencies from contemporary Brutalism but invented an idiosyncratic formal lexicon, which she continued to develop after she won a Fulbright scholarship to study with Louis Kahn at the University of Pennsylvania in 1972. Radevic was one of the many Yugoslav architects to temporarily study or work in the West, in some cases, alongside practitioners such as Kahn and Le Corbusier. After her return to Yugoslavia, she designed a great number of projects, most notably the Hotel Zlatibor (1975-81), a monolithic concrete tower in the western Serbian city of Uzice. An active agent in global architectural networks, she worked with the Metabolist architect Kisho Kurokawa in Tokyo and was elected a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Architecture and Construction in 1994.

Kana's Style

Her style was distinctive for the selection of materials she used, melding the structures with their external environment and the substantial size and power of her designs. Her most noted work was the Hotel Podgorica for which she won the Federal Borba Award for Architecture in 1967. The building typifies her style in that it uses stone, a traditional building material, to play with unique shapes which jut out from the facade, in an nontraditional manner. At the same time, the building fits into the landscape as if its concrete mass were always part of the environment. Other important works are bus station and business center Krusevac in Podgorica, hotel in Zlatibor and Mojkovac. Her Monument to the Fallen Soldiers of Ljesanska nahija in Barutana won a national competition in 1975. In an interview Radevic explains how "the spider is one of the biggest builder on the world. His net is the finest construction which can be made."


Her working life was spent in Podgorica in Invest-engineering enterprise for design, at her own design atelier and as an independent artist. From the very beginning of her career she had notable success at design competitions. Her important works in Montenegro are Hotel Podgorica (1967), Podgorica Bus Terminal(1968), Hotel Mojkovac (1968-1974), Monument to the Fallen Soldiers of Ljesanska nahija (1975), Hotel Zlatibor in Uzice, Serbia (1981)). Many of her works were a result of cooperation with her sister Ljiljana Radevic, also an architect.


Anna Kats writes for the Architectural Review how were "the assembled papers of Svetlana Kana Radevic, one of the few women architects to command a profile of national prominence in socialist Yugoslavia, kept inconspicuously in a cousin's spare bedroom in Petrovac-na-Moru, Montenegro. They are assembled in the loosest sense of the word: no archivists or librarians have ordered their motley contents or developed an organisational logic for the abundance of correspondence, photographs, slides, visa forms, other bureaucratic paperwork, and diverse ephemera that are neatly bundled into sacks and stored in low-light quarters. Marginalised even in retrospective histories of Yugoslav architecture, Radevic has been relegated to near-total obscurity in global architectural history.

Radevic's drawings are grouped by project and representational purpose in rolls of varied dimension, many with the original tape she affixed to keep them closed still semi-intact. More drawings are kept elsewhere: a smaller selection of duplicates in the library of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Montenegro in Podgorica, and the rest in the cousin's country house, where storage space is plentiful. That cousin is herself a practising architect, one with an avowed commitment to preserving as best she can the documentation that Kana personally possessed when she died in 2000. Yet the papers' predicament bespeaks the dearth of institutional architectural archives in Montenegro, and Radevic's global legacy remains almost completely unknown and inaccessible outside her native country."

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Podgorica, Montenegro
bostjan, October 29th, 2023
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