Designed by Živorad Janković and Halid Muhasilović, Skederija is a multi-functional cultural and sports centre completed in 1969. It was opened on 29 November 1969 by hosting a première of the film Battle of Neretva. This building was the first of its kind in the former Yugoslavia and in many ways acted as a prototype for many similar complexes that were later built throughout the country. As such, Skenderija played a curial role in the development of not only the local architecture, but also of Yugoslavian modernist architecture as a whole. It was the first hybrid building in the former Yugoslavia that fused together many different functions (sports, performance, entertainment, shopping, food, service, etc.) within a singular multi-storey complex that employed a modernist aesthetics prevalent of the time.
The Complex Structure
The name Skenderija, which means "Skender's place", comes from the famous Bosnian bey Sandžak-beg Skender-paša, who build the first trading-centre with 11 shops and the first Muslim monastery of Bosnia from 1499. Soon the Skenderija was a well known and widely used centre for several cultural events of the former Yugoslavia.
The complex consists of three buildings; a large sports hall in the first, a number of smaller sports halls in the second building and Dom Mladi (House of Youth) with cultural content in the third. The buildings are arranged around an open plateau, a city agora, under which is located a subterranean commercial level with a circulation path that allows access all three buildings. The project was innovative in the complex construction system used that allowed for large spans. It also reflected the modernist ambition of honesty in the material use, with the concrete articulation of all the façades. In many ways, due to its scale and cultural significance, the complex shifted the symbolic gravitation from the old city centre and established an additional point of prominence. In urbanistic terms it expended the city beyond the exiting east-west axis and opened the south bank of the river Miljacka.
The scale of the complex allowed for unprecedented cultural, political, artistic, social, economic and sporting events to take place in Sarajevo that could be paralleled with those that took place in larger cities like Belgrade and Zagreb. In that way Skenderija allowed Sarajevo to take on a new cultural significance that would later be sealed by the Winter Olympics in 1984.
Siege in Sarajevo
During the siege, like the rest of the urban fabric in Sarajevo, Skenderija suffered significant damage. Although different stages of reconstruction have been done, it was never fully resorted to its former glory. The subterranean commercial floor is now a devastated maze of bargain shops while the great sports hall suffered a roof collapse in 2012. In addition, a number of ‘temporary’ make-shift structures have popped up on the open plateau with indiscriminate functions. Their disordered presence and a lack of architectural articulation might be a reflection of a greater issue and of the current state-of-affairs in the Bosnian capital.
In 1999, the city-government of Sarajevo wished to have an exhibition-hall to build up a new economy and trade in Bosnia and Herzegovina. So they started to rebuilt the Skenderija slowly between 2000–06. It was financed by many private companies, so it is under the ownership of these private bodies.
On 12 February 2012 the Ice hall centre's roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow fall. The roof was designed to sustain to 100 kg per square meter, while the weight of snow was about 160 kg per square meter. The damage after this is said to be 'huge' and is yet unknown if that building will be rebuilt.
In 2017, the city was considering selling the complex to foreign developers which would entail the demolition of the original buildings in order to make way for the “New Skenderija”. This caused a vocal backlash form the local architectural community and concerned citizens’ groups and although the project has been put on a standstill for now, the future of Skenderija remains uncertain.