The most important of Kana’s works is Hotel Podgorica in Podgorica, Montenegro, whose design was the winning proposal at the competition. It was also her first important work which placed her at the very top of the architectural scene. The hotel was officially open on July 13th 1967, the Montenegrin National Day. The following year it was awarded first the state, and right after the federal Borba award for architecture.
The Hotel Podgorica is located on the coast of Moraca river. The whole facade of the building provides a captivating view of the river. The building stands out for interesting solution fitting of a hotel in the quite inaccessible terrain. Kana Radević has been playing a particular game of chess with nature; therefore adaption of the building site and not vice versa. She established a special atmosphere of the hotel visitors and those who watch him from the other side. On the facade Radević has used a specific stone to create sort of traditional material ambient. Although this material is characteristic of the old Montenegrin houses and buildings for various purposes.
Hotel Podgorica represents an exquisite mix of modernity and a refined relationship to the natural and historical context. The building is well placed in relation to the topography of the site, the river Morača and the remains of the medieval fortification located on the opposite side of the river. The impression of unity with its surrounding is additionally emphasized by the use of the pebbles from Morača on the facades and in the interior. Through a refined interpretation of the genius loci and the use of a material from the immediate surrounding, Kana brings Montenegrin architecture closer to the most contemporary trends of the time.
The subject location is very sensitive site in terms of natural factors and historical heritage. On the one hand, there is a pristine landscape of the Moraca river and its specific, steep riverbed, and on the other – the remnants of oldest settlement of Podgorica – the Nemanja’s Town. Hotel Podgorica itself adapts remarkably to the river coast and the terrain morphology.
Calm form of hotel wing follows the contour lines and eventually it ends up building a tower, namely a very distinctive set of walls, which tend to flow across the steep terrain. Moreover, the two components of the form reflect the inner, functional zones – calm, intimate room units and more dramatic public spaces like restaurants and bars. Brutalist expression of the form is again a clear reminiscence to Old Town, historical remnant, which is located on the opposite shore of the Moraca. Two-storey building consists of two important levels –upper and lower ground floor, and below – bold cantilever terraces, hovering above the emerald water of the Moraca. The specific feature is usage of authentic local material - pebble stone excavated directly from the riverbed. Unfortunately, the original interior spaces underwent restoration in 2000s, which lead to covering of pebble stone walls with marble.
The Language of Architecture
The talent of first lady of Montenegrin architecture Svetlana Kana Radevic is beyond questionable. At a time when the communist urban planning moves forward in establishing the capital Podgorica, this liberal, open-minded project had provided hope for the future generations. What kind of hope? The same one that we need today – a belief that progressive idea will make a breakthrough and go beyond the standards of everyday culture. Unfortunately, so far, Hotel Podgorica remains one of very few buildings that has showed respect towards the mighty river, natural landscape and historical remnants.
Kana expresses her opinion on tradition and identity in the following text: "The language of architecture is one of the oldest. Certainly it is one of the most expressive elements of identity. Orientation towards the local visual culture of searching through tradition is not just a simple aesthetic choice, but rather part of the fight for the right to an identity. In that process tradition plays an enormous role. But it also carries a risk. The risk is in the relation to the tradition. It is common to have a static relation, accepting the original as something static, something tradition has never been. Thus – tradition is action and it is continuity. That is the difference between tradition and primitivism. Accepting one traditional visual element is acceptable only in its transposition, in the logic of the process, in spirit, and certainly not in the literal translation of the form."