FOMA 44: Forgotten Sarajevo
During our online conversation Lejla texted me that it is difficult to come across reference material in Bosnia in general as libraries and archives have been burnt down and there hasn’t been enough digitisation.
Let’s have a look of five impressive Forgotten Masterpieces in Sarajevo. Designed by Živorad Janković and Halid Muhasilović, Skenderija is a multi-functional cultural and sports centre completed in 1969. 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 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 Communist Party of Yugoslavia started the project of the Sarajevo’s main railway station as an architectural competition with the ultimate goal of physically uniting the country through its railway system. At the beginning of Socialist Yugoslavia, the country’s political views strongly aligned with those of the USSR and the remainder of the communist bloc. As such, Yugoslavian architecture at this time, although modernist in spirit was still heavily influenced by the social realism that was used as a political tool and prevailed in the majority of the eastern bloc countries.
Social realism in Sarajevo brought on a range of contradictions in its architectural articulation. It ranged from architecture for the masses most clearly articulated in the residential settlements for the worker’s housing to that of highly articulated and relatively well executed public buildings, mostly designed through architectural competitions.
Once the initial reconstruction phase after WWII was completed cultural and institutional buildings became the next phase of focus. One of these included the Ministry of Public Health. It is heavily modernist in nature, however, the social realist influence remains visible. It was built only a few years after the main railway station but the break away from the social realism is even more apparent in this case. This shift in architectural expression occurred as a direct result in the political and ideological drift between Yugoslavia and USSR.
The principal focus of the social realism buildings was an exaggerated scale in order to instill the notion of grandness of the state and to inspire deference towards the authorities, which in this case was the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. Since this building was designed and built as a Ministry of Public Heath, Ivanović strived to employ majority of these principles but he broke away from some keys aspect that defied socialist realism at the time.
The Communist party took control of Yugoslavia following the end of WWII in 1945. Like the majority of European cities, a considerable damage was suffered by the urban fabric in Yugoslavia as well. As such, one of the major tasks of the new socialist system was to rebuild as fast and as efficiently as possible. However, both the amount of resources and the number of available architects was limited and as such the initial wave of reconstruction was very utilitarian.
One of the most notable residential projects that dates back to the post-war period is the residential complex on Džidžikovac that resulted from a design competition set forth in 1947 and won by the above-mentioned Kadić brothers. The project was completed in just over a year which resulted in relatively poor construction quality, which was the case with many residential buildings constructed around this timeframe.
The complex contains three linear residential blocks each consisting of a number of three-storey interconnecting buildings that cascade along the existing topography. In addition, the three blocks are surrounded by open green space that integrates the building into the existing site forming a sense of a unified complex. Although the project has been declared as a protected national monument in 2008, the reconstruction done since the end of the siege in the 1995, has been to a large extent insensitive to the initial design principles of the Kadić brothers.
Completed in 1956, six years after the Ministry of Public Health, Residential Building and Šipad Headquarters breaks away from the social realist influence and draws inspiration from Oscar Niemeyer instead, thus creating one of the most prominent modernist buildings in Sarajevo.