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Memorial Complex for Partisan Hospital No. 7

Drežnica, Croatia
1 of 22Marko Krojac

The first attempts at designing a memorial on the site of Partisan hospital no. 7 on Javornica near Drežnica in the Gorski Kotar area were made in the 1950s. The site featured a stone ossuary decorated with a relief by Croatian sculptor Kosta Angeli Radovani and containing the remains of 300 Partisans who had died in the hospital during World War 2. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a pioneering interdisciplinary survey researching the heritage of the famed Partisan liberated territory's broader area was carried out, which subsequently served as the basis for the memorial area. In the early 1980s, Zagreb-based urban designer and architect Zdenko Kolacio developed a unique architectural project which defined and demarcated the site of the Partisan hospital. With the assistance of local women and children, the hospital was active between 1942 and 1944, when it was torched by the Wehrmacht. Instead of reconstructing the timber huts, the architect designed a more permanent memorial complex using repeating concrete elements. Relying on a wealth of original records - photographs, testimonials, archival documents, and topographical maps - Kolacio determined the sites of each hospital unit and marked them with variations of simple concrete elements, thereby defining the extent and the scenery of the erstwhile hospital community. The concrete elements are placed directly on the karst ground so as to enable the visitors to have a sensory experience and physical communication with the historical area. The entrance to the complex is marked by a bronze memorial plaque containing historical information while each architectural element or group of elements are described with a concrete sign which identifies the structure's function: sentry facility, outpatient clinic, surgery, typhus patient unit, etc. With his work, Kolacio did more than merely present historical facts - he created an intricate cognitive and emotional story which impacts the visitors: the expanse of his concrete structures alludes to endurance and defiance, while the emptiness of the constructions allows free rein to imagination.