The characteristics of the work of Zoja Dumengjic

The outstanding characteristics of the work of architect Zoja Dumengjic has already been recognized during her lifetime, when her work has been, in its entirety, awarded two most prominent professional life achievement prizes; life’s-work award “Viktor Kovacic” by the Association of Croatian Architects in 1975 and the life achievement award in the field of architecture “Vladimir Nazor” by the Parliament of the Republic of Croatia in 1995. The significance of the work of the architect Zoja Dumengjic, which remained unexplored, and specific design endeavours, as well as the personal affinity towards the work of the architect represented the basic impetus to research, analysis and evaluation of her work in the context of modern Croatian architecture. The doctoral thesis has been profiled to present the complete work of the architect Zoja Dumengjic, to notice the particularities of the individual architectural processes, and to evaluate the architect’s work in the context of modern Croatian architecture. The architect Dumengjic realised her comprehensive professional work during the mid-fifties of the twentieth century. Even though her opus developed during the profoundly changed socio-political and economic conditions of her social environment the detailed insight into her work offers us a clear existential and professional striving.

The structure of this dissertation, after the introductory chapter, includes more detailed chapter The Architect Zoja Dumengjic–Her Life, Education and Work followed by chapter Review of modern Croatian architecture and the work of the architect in that context, which are focused on Zoja Dumengjic’s work in the framework of different social and political systems and organisational relations, i.e. the development of modern Croatian architecture in general. Ten selected capital realisations and projects have been presented in detail in the fourth chapter of the dissertation. The fifth chapter of the dissertation presents The Analysis of the typological entities of Zoja Dumengjic’s Work. In the interpretation of the complete opus that includes almost two hundred projects that are presented in detail in dissertation’s appendix, we can recognize several typological entities that were of great interest to the architect. The final, i.e. the sixth, chapter sublimes the basic elements of her work and the architectural procedure of Zoja Dumengjic and presents the outstanding quality of her work in the context of modern Croatian architecture and her contribution. From the appendix of the dissertation should be emphasised the extensive catalogue of complete works of the architect Zoja Dumengjic.

Zoja Dumengjic’s work represents the specific author’s approach, whose particularity can be recognized in several fundamental components. The genesis of the formative expression of architect Dumengjic is synthesis of the project endeavours for humanisation of architecture, and the continuity of deliberation and reinterpretation of the theme make the architect’s opus unique in the framework of our architectural heritage of the twentieth century. The most prominent contribution of the architect Dumengjic had undoubtedly been in the area of public health service architecture. By inventive articulation of section and by stratification of the building’s envelope she had achieved are well-lighted and airy interiors, permanent qualities of her architectural realisations. Inventive functional solutions and masterful management of constructive component of architecture enable specific multilayerness of the building’s envelope. Early formative articulation of tectonic component presents the specific quality of the architect’s expression within the body of modern Croatian architecture. Interventions in urban and in natural environments alike marks the exceptional sensitivity for harmonious and inventive disposal of urban structures. The architectural activities of the architect Zoja Dumengjic which were defined during the thirties in the twentieth century, firmly based on the principles of modern architecture, culminated after the Second World War in specific deliberation of the space, functional, constructive and urbanistic solutions and authentic architectural expression, and, in an extraordinary way, contributed to Croatian architectural heritage.

Defense towers of the Castles

Defense towers were an important element of the castles built between the 13th and 15th c. They were intended not only for defense but also for accommodation and were strategically placed where attacks were expected, more rarely at the entrance to the castle. In the course of time they were modified, modernized, and better fitted for accommodation or defense purposes. In most cases they had square or rectangular plans up to 12/12 m although some plans were different in shape. With the invention of fire-arms they lost their original function.


The nucleus of the castle was a defense-tower, a tall tower with strong walls for defense and safety purposes. The defense tower dealt with in this paper were built from the 13th century until the end of the 15th century. In the early 16th century a new type of defense tower used to be built in Croatia. Circular in plan, built for defense purposes against the Turks, it already formed a part of Renaissance castles.

In the Middle Ages, defense of the castle was organized from top of the walls between the merlons of the battlements whereas the purpose of the defense tower, due to its height, was the successful control of the territory and defense under siege. The aggressor used to build tall mobile wooden towers which were slowly drawn towards the castle in order to demolish the walls with a battering ram and break through to the top of the walls. This element of the medieval siege strategy was the primary reason for raising the defense towers to such heights. They had to be at least as tall as the aggressor’s wooden siege tower or even taller. The top of the defense tower was fitted for actions against the aggressor. Defense towers in continental Croatia (13th-15th c.) fall, according to their purposes, into three groups: defense towers for defense purposes, defense towers for both defense and accommodation purposes, and multi-purpose defense towers intended for defense, entrance to the castle and accommodation. A special type of structure was an “accommodation tower” which is reminiscent of the defense tower in terms of its volume and some organization features. However, it was more a palace-type structure which deserves to be analyzed separately.

The first towers were intended for defense relying on their height as the most important element since their role was the control of the territory. For this reason they had to be taller than the aggressor’s siege-type tower. The most important was the top storey. These defense towers were mostly smaller square-shaped structures oriented by their angle to the expected attack.

The second type of defense towers intended for safe accommodation in addition to their defense purpose soon followed. It was a more elaborate type of tower, bigger in size integrating the two functions: defense and safe accommodation. However, this type of organization does not exclude the construction of a palace nearby. They were accessed from the first floor, usually over a drawbridge or a ladder which, when lifted up, ensured safety overnight as well as during siege. The top of the defense tower was used for defense under siege.

Several examples of multi-purpose defense towers have been preserved. They originated in different historical periods and therefore exhibit considerably distinct features.

Owing to the fact that most towers were demolished or left as archaeological traces, the research work usually concentrates on their plans as these are generally the most easily available. The plan of the “true” defense towers was most commonly square and rectangular whereas the accommodation ones were triangular, polygonal or circular. There was even an example of an octagonal plan. In case of square, triangular and polygonal plans, a typical feature was the orientation of the angular parts towards the direction of enemy attack. Defense towers were normally placed on one end of the castle above a diagonal ditch. The slanting wall was more difficult to break through with a battering ram, also it was more difficult to lower a drawbridge from the top of the wooden siege tower.

Schematic drawings of sections made by some authors show the same features that are also more or less found in our regions: the defense tower comprised the ground-floor, one to three (four) storeys and a defense-purpose loft. There was no basement since the castles were mostly built on rocky terrain. In the accommodation defense towers, the second floor was obviously intended for housing.

The interior arrangement was conceived during the construction stage. It is evident in various elements such as stone benches in window niches, fireplaces, cantilevered toilets, small niches for candles etc. Possible partition walls were made of wood although the defense tower in Poeitelj featured partition walls made of stone.

The defense function of the towers is confirmed by their positions along the ditches and their general relationship to the ground plane outside the castle walls. The height of the defense tower had to match the height of the siege tower. Some defense towers differ as far as their construction is concerned. Each of them was a unique structure, yet they shared a myriad of common features. It seems that the use of siege wooden towers diminished over time due to the invention of fire-arms as well as the new strategies of attack and defense. The fact that the defense towers were no longer an integral part of the north Croatian castles by the mid 15th century, when many of them were partitioned or remodelled by additions, is rather significant (Cesargrad, Kostel, Lobor, Kamengrad near Pozega, Ruzica). The same happened to the first castles in Slavonia. Defense towers reappeared in the period of Turkish invasion; however, their concept was different.

The comparative analysis of those defense towers that can still be researched indicates that there is a correspondence between them and the type of defense towers in central European countries. Architecturally, however, Croatian defense towers from the period between the 13th and 15th centuries were more modest than the central and west European ones. Many castles with their defense towers were demolished in the wars against the Turks during the 16th and 17th centuries. Some of them were demolished intentionally whereas others were partitioned or simply left to decay. Even later no particular effort was ever made to preserve them so that today we are left with nothing more but the “remains of the remains”.

Preservation and revitalization of ancient towns

Nowadays, one of the topical issues in modern societies is the concept of renewal–a term which includes restoration and redevelopment, or, in other words, revitalization of ancient towns. Substantial financial resources are purposefully spent in these countries on the revitalization and renewal of ancient towns. This trend is to a large extent influenced by a rapid industrial and technological development bringing about social, economic, technical and political transformations of the ancient towns. Compared to the Arabian world, highly developed industrialized countries have, undoubtedly, assumed a leading role in the field of revitalization and preservation of the ancient historic nuclei. They make use of the fairly precise standards set for numerous aspects of human activities including urban development. The applied standards are reflected in the fast and efficient redevelopment of the ancient towns. On the contrary, the majority of Arabian countries are faced with the decay process affecting their ancient towns. However, the significance of the cultural and historical heritage has prompted the international community to take the initiative and become actively involved in revitalization processes. Responsibility now rests with the Arabian countries to redefine their past and history for the purpose of protecting the major urban areas and fostering the growing prosperity of the present and future generations. Things seem to be moving in the right direction in many underdeveloped countries despite their generally poor conditions. One of the main bodies that has taken on the leading role in dealing with the revitalization issue is the Organization for Education, Science and Culture of the United Nations–UNESCO. A great number of foreign projects aimed at the rehabilitation and revitalization of the ancient towns have been quite successful, particularly those worked out for Alep in Syria, Fes in Morocco, San’a in Jemen and Nablus in Palestine. This paper focuses on the analysis of the present condition of the ancient Arabian towns with a short reference to the history of Alep, San’a, Fes and Nablus protected by the Organization for Education, Science and Culture of the United Nations–UNESCO.

The ancient town of Nablus in Palestine stands out among other towns. Therefore, special emphasis is placed on its specific revitalization. This paper presents a short review of its architectural and urban character including housing, religious structures and the old marketplace. These areas belong to the fundamental historical and cultural heritage of the town. Its socioeconomic identity is represented by its soap and candy industry as well as its recreational facilities such as public baths, hotels, inns etc. The aim of revitalization is to preserve the valuable parts, demolish the newly-built structures with no historical value in order to create green recreational areas absent from the ancient town of Nablus and to demolish the structures added onto the historic ones. The proposed restoration and conservation program is a priority for the city authorities of Nablus. Renovation and protection of the ancient structures starts with the assessment of their present condition, the extent of the damage, the type and quality of their essential materials taking into consideration their dating, uniqueness as well as their aesthetic and artistic value. The evaluation also refers to the given conceptions and proposals for improving the residential buildings, in particular those with patios. Housing should constitute the essential structure of the ancient town. It should be therefore taken into account in the renewal and conversion, i.e. planned reorganization that may be realized by minimal alterations and new structures with the retention of the external walls and street facades. Dwellers and owners are the only subject that can guarantee the preservation and maintenance of the buildings. If they continue to maintain and renovate their houses, it might become a desirable solution for most of the residential urban fabric of the ancient town. Ownership, social structure, commerce, public and private services and infrastructure are, therefore, central to this proposal.

In order to revitalize the ancient Arabian towns, a range of measures need to be undertaken at various levels including the government, city authorities, the institutions dealing with the protection of historic structures. Redevelopment strategies should be worked out with regard to all historical, natural and socioeconomic relationships, under the supervision and in cooperation with the most important government institutions and foreign experts, individual organizations under the patronage of the Organization for Education, Science and Culture of the United Nations–UNESCO.

Interior design of St Peter’s Concathedral Church

The architect, designer and design theoretician Bernardo Bernardi (1921-1985) created a multidimensional architectural and design oeuvre including theoretical publications between 1951 and 1985. After his graduation from the Architecture Department at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Zagreb in 1948 he started his recognizable and dynamic professional career as a free lance architect and designer. His prolific career encompassed not only architectural design but also a wide range of professional activities including interior design of public, business and private premises, furniture industrial design, and exhibition layout. Moreover, he was involved in the most significant events in the history of Croatian design.

With the aim to offer a revealing insight and a critical evaluation of Bernardi’s outstanding and prolific work, this research has pointed up the unknown and unresearched segments of the author’s liturgical interior design of which his relevant bibliography does not provide sufficient information. This paper presents a research on this segment of the author’s work exemplified by the St Peter’s Concathedral Church in Split. The paper deals also with the context and circumstances of the construction stages with the aim to provide a better insight into the given theme.

The paper looks into the chronological period of the church construction, or in other words, the characteristics of the architectural scene of Split in the 1970s with the aim to illustrate the extent to which the design of St Peter’s Concathedral Church was conditioned by various circumstances. This might contribute to a proper understanding of the architectural expression which was strictly conditioned by a compromising urban planning solution as far as the selection of the site was concerned. Deeply enclosed and introverted design of the church is embodied in a dominant form of a truncated pyramid, quite hermetic in relation to the surrounding area.

In 1984 Bernardo Bernardi was commissioned to work out a conceptual design of the church interior with his collaborators F. Barisc and V. Freund. Its scope encompassed the design of the main part of the church, the presbytery, the choir above the front entrance, the confessional, two sacristies, the front and two side entrances with the wind screens and a spiral staircase to the choir. The contract also stipulated the conceptual design of the altar, the pulpit, the tabernacle, the baptistery, the font, the pews, the seats for the clergy, and wardrobes and counters in the sacristies. Such a task necessarily presupposed a certain gesamtkunstwerk considering the fact that its realization implied a mutual permeation of the inner theological and the artistic hermeneutic paradigms. Bernardi accomplished this task in his own way; his professional career started with the group “Exat 51” as the synthesis of all arts. His treatment of the existing concrete beam structure is architecturally appropriate and is realized by means of an expressive plasticity of the coffered ceiling without an attempt to impose his ideas on the given centrality of space.

It seems appropriate here to consider the issue of a longitudinal and central organization of liturgical space since these layout concepts conditioned certain standards of Christian architecture both in its theological and semantic aspects as well as regarding architectural and technical solutions. As most experts believe, this actually raised the issue of a functional typology.

A specific feature of the interior design is certainly the established symbolic and design link of the new St Peter’s Concathedral Church with the St Duje’s Cathedral in Split by means of a conceptual transposition of an octogonal plan of the former emperor’s mausoleum as a unique expression of the temporal and spatial continuity. Pursuing this concept, Bernardi designed the pedestal of the altar precisely on the basis of an octogonal plan and the corresponding ceiling coffer which reflects the form of the pedestal. Spatial position of the altar is emphasized by intensive artificial light. Symbolism of an archetypal vertical dimension between the altar and the dome where the transcendental is achieved by means of light dematerialization can be clearly recognized in this relationship. Light accentuates the required theological principle of the centrality of space as well as the powerful meaning of a special place. The entire sanctuary is articulated by means of the immersion of the octogonal altar into the space for the congregation and leaving just some kind of a “bridge” as a communication link with the other narrow part of the presbytery whose symmetrically designed ends house the tabernacle on the right and the font on the left side, within two shallowly fluted corner chapels. Owing to the fact that the proposed spatial organization seemed untenable from the liturgical perspective, a set of theologically expert recommendations were given regarding the design of the pulpit, tabernacle and baptistery. This in turn raised further questions of the extension or redesign of the entire church for functional and theological reasons.

St. Peter’s Basilica

A dynamic interrelationship of the presented methods stresses the need for an interdisciplinary dialogue in which various forms of knowledge and sensitivities might be coordinated in order to communicate the same reality. The aim of this paper is to develop a proper understanding of the theological guidelines which could be then viewed as a source of creative inspiration and not creative barriers. Moreover, the idea is to highlight the complexity of an approach to liturgical space understood as a place of cross-fertilization of various forms of arts. Bernardo Bernardi tried to respond to this challenge in an integral way both from an architectural as well as a design perspective. His background in the Exat group helped to develop his sensitivity for the synthesis of plastic arts. The insight gained into this unresearched segment of Bernardi’s work completes his image as a prolific artist but also opens up new dimensions in the research of his work.