Fires were not uncommon in Croatian villages between the two World Wars. They often broke out due to poor fire prevention or poor sanitary, technical, or planning regulations. The well-known examples of the villages which were destroyed by fire and later reconstructed are: Salopek Modruski and Sveti Petar Mreznicki in Gorski Kotar in 1927, Veliki Bukovec near Ludbreg in 1927, Donji Kraljevec near Prelog in 1934, Radici on Zumberak in 1937, Brezovac Zumberacki near Samobor in 1937, Kolarec near Krizevci in 1938- In some cases the whole villages were destroyed (Kolarec); sometimes only some parts of the villages burnt down (Donji Kraljevec, Brezovac Zumberacki). Fighting the fire was sometimes impossible as the supply of water was inadequate (a well or a cistern) and the fire service was far from the fire site. Fires spread rapidly in summer months since the houses and the outbuildings were usually made of timber and covered with straw. Their close proximity only made the fire even more disastrous.
This paper deals with the reconstruction of the village Brezovac Zumberacki which lasted from 1937 until 1938- In 1937 the village was within the municipality of Kalje, the county of Jastrebarsko, the borough of Karlovac. According to the present territorial organization, Brezovac Zumberacki was situated within the area of the town Samobor in the county of Zagreb. The village is situated on the western hills of Samobor in the micro-region called Zumberacko prigorje in Central Croatia. It is 17 km southwest from Samobor, on the southern slopes of Zumberak.
Before the fire broke out, Brezovac Zumberacki could not be reached by road as there was none constructed. Villagers went to fetch water on the spring called Brezovacko vrilo. The village was of a compact type. The houses were built at random so the outbuildings (stables, pigsties etc.) were frequently built in front of the houses where people lived, not behind. The houses were built of local stone, timber and earth, rendered in chaff and covered with straw. The lower storey (basement level) was usually made of stone; it was built into the terrain whereas the upper residential storey was made of timber and earth in combination. Asthevillage is situated on the hills, the building lots are mostly on steep slopes. The houses were cramped to such an extent that the layout of the outbuildings could not be functional at all. Therefore it was impossible to organize an efficient fire protection and good-quality insolation. Sanitary facilities were quite poor.
Lightning strikes caused fire on 25th ofjune in 1937 around 3.30 p.m. The southern part of the village burnt down including 10 houses with entire property, homes for 80 people.
The uneducated and impoverished villagers were helpless; they lost everything they had and every form of assistance was valuable to them.
The reconstruction of Brezovac2umberacki was organized by dr. Viktor Ruzic who was head of the Royal Administrative Department of Savska banovina region between 1937 and 1938.
After clearing up the terrain, a new subdivision of the land was carried out which actually changed the spatial structure of the village. It was transformed from a randomly compact village before the fire into a linear compact village after the fire. According to a new regulation, the building lots were perpendiculartothe road and all the buildings were planned along the new road in front of the outbuildings (stables, pigsties). The houses were lined up along either side of the road. Their building outlines differ as a result of an uneven sloping ground, social and financial status of their owners or the number of family members living in them. The proposal for the subdivision of land was not supported by the villagers. It is clearly evident in the fact that three elements such as fire protection measures, sanitary and technical regulations and property rights could not be integrated in the area of the destroyed village. In order to achieve that, three new building sites were formed outside the village itself. The planning regulation and the designs of houses have never been found; instead, the analysis is based on newspaper articles, interviews with the villagers, geodetic surveys and cadastar plans. The basic building material in reconstruction was local stone. In order to meet fire protection regulations, roofs were covered with tile. The houses differ as to their height and size due to the configuration of the terrain and the size of the families. All houses were rendered. The construction ran parallel with the efforts to improve sanitary conditions, fire prevention service and living conditions. The houses were built for the following owners: Mitos Gvozdanovic, house number 10; Mitos Gvozdanovic (Micko), house number 5; Milan Gvozdanovic, house number 6; Pero Gvozdanovic, house number 7; Vlado Gvozdanovic, house number 9; Pavle Gvozdanovic, house number 12; Ile Gvozdanovic, house number 13; Janko Gvozdanovic Qoza), house number 6 and Mitos Gvozdanovic (judge), house number 11. The opening ceremony was held on 14th August 1938. All families got their houses but not the outbuildings and the cistern.
The village Brezovac Zumberacki was designed as a small modern mountain village. As such it has unique value: it is a unique example of a reconstructed mountain village in Croatia between the two World Wars; it is authentic as it is an example of a planned mountain village; it is attractive as far as its ambience; it is spatially valuable since as an entity it shows a harmony of an organized life in a community as well as certain high-quality features in the structure and visual perception of the village in its surroundings.
The village was designed with recognizable ambient details of the region (Zumberak. Local stone and roof the were used in construction.
The reconstructed village Brezovac Zumberacki is a valuable example of rural settlements in Croatia between the two World Wars regarding the quality and the historical period of its origin.
The reconstruction was based on vernacular tradition and current building principles of the time. The houses were standardized but at the same time individually laid out, adjusted to the needs of their users.
The reconstruction of the village Brezovac Zumberacki is in this paper compared to the well-known examples of the reconstructed villages such as: Donji Kraljevec (1934-1938) and Kolarec (1938-1941). The reconstruction process of the former was carried out by Sanitary Institute whereas the reconstruction of the latter was headed by the Croatian Peasant Party. The fastest reconstruction process took place in Brezovac Zumberacki whereas the largest number of houses was built in Donji Kraljevec. The most thorough and comprehensive reconstruction took place in Kolarec.
The reconstruction of a village is by its nature a complex activity encompassing not only the building reconstruction process itself (including design of houses, road construction, provision and transport of building materials, water supply etc.) but also improvements in the social, housing and medical aspects of life in a village.