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“Croatian House ” by KAMILO TONČIĆ in Split

Sanja Buble ; Konzervatorski odjel Ministarstva kulture u Splitu

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 8.381 Kb

str. 417-441

preuzimanja: 1.016


Puni tekst: engleski pdf 8.381 Kb

str. 417-441

preuzimanja: 1.606



The idea of building a “Croatian House”, in which the Split culture, art and sporting associations connected to National Party would be located Narodna čitaonica (People’s Reading Room), Slavjanski napredak (Slav Progress), Narodna glazba (National Music), the Volunteer Fire-Fighters, Muzikalno društvo „Zvonimir“ (the Zvonimir Musical Association) and Hrvatski sokol (the Croatian Hawk – sporting association) came upon the scene in 1896. At the turn of the century artists who elevated the cultural and artistic life of Split and took it out of the provincial context, placing it shoulder to shoulder with European contemporaries, came together in the National party circles. The design of the building made in the spirit of Art Nouveau architecture by Kamilo Tončić in 1906 was bold and avant-garde for a centre in which up to then Historicist or revival architecture had prevailed; in consequence it aroused diverse public reactions.
But the Croatian House was nevertheless built according to the Tončić design, and opened in 1908. It had an important role in the musical life of Split as a gathering place for musicians, as a stage and concert venue, all the way up to World War I. The most important event in the first year of the existence of the Croatian House was the organisation of the First Dalmatian Art Exhibition at which the foundation of the Medulić Croatian Art Association was mooted, and the idea for founding the Gallery of Fine Art was also put forward. In the changed political circumstances after World War I, the House lost its pre-war role as an essential factor in the creation of the musical and artistic life of the city. When the Sokol association of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was formed in 1929, all activities in the Sokol House unfolded under the aegis of Sokol (Hawk), for it was a state organisation; the art and cultural events did not rise above the average amateur level. The most important event in the working of the amateur sections of Sokol was the foundation of the puppet theatre in 1933, on the foundations of which the Marionette Theatre still in operation today was built in 1945. After WWII, the onetime Croatian and later Sokol House was renamed Youth House, while along with the Split City Puppet Theatre, various sporting organisations were assigned the premises of the House.
The house was remodelled and extended in 1930 and 1939, and thoroughly remodelled in 1942, when all the decorations on the facade and in the interior of the grand hall were destroyed in order to bring out the monumental aspects of the house in the spirit of fascist architecture.
The concept of the building is a simple T-shaped ground floor. In the northern part of the site there is a narrow four-storey building with an attic along the long side placed parallel to the street in which the premises of the societies were located, while at the end of the plot, perpendicularly to it, is a two-storey building with a grand hall on the upstairs. With logical grouping of features and a functional arrangement, the spatial constraints of the plot were made use of to the best extent and complemented with an extensive programme that was supposed to meet the needs of the associations so that all of them should have their own individual quarters while making use in common of the grand hall meant for municipal events, joint events and Sokol members’ athletic exercises. Although the principal facade is symmetrical with the main entrance in the middle, the courtyard part of the house with the hall is not built on its vertical axis, but shifted to the west. At the joint of the street and courtyard part of the house there are the grand stairs. The non-formalist asymmetrical disposition of volumes between the courtyard wing of the Croatian House and the neighbouring house left room for a large exercise space outdoors. Only a photograph of the drawing of the main facade remains of the design of the Croatian House. By rectification of the historical photographs, the drawing of the built facade was reconstructed, and a comparison of the project and the original appearance of the original facade shows that the design really was built, in basic idea and composition, and that alterations were made only to some of the decorative features. The lobby of the auxiliary eastern entrance and the threeflight stone staircase are kept in original form. The rectification of the previously unknown photographs of the interior of the hall has allowed the reconstruction of the original volume, position and repertoire of decoration. The space of the hall that we know of today in denuded form consists of two parts: the grand hall with the stage and the backstage areas. Abstract, linear and almost flat details, floral motifs, female heads with flowers and leaves in their hair and masks – common in the Art Nouveau idiom – were applied in the iconographic programme. In the choice of construction material and the manner of construction Tončić opted for the classic solid masonry construction of roughly worked stone blocks in lime mortar, smoothly rendered. The between-floor constructions were of wood, as was that of the gable roof. The flights of stairs with stone steps were leaned on iron I-section girders clad in rendered moulding. The pilasters alongside the central entrance, the pillars on the facade with an emphasised cornice and the attic are made of concrete, but they are only decorative and not structural elements of the building.
The building of the Croatian House was adapted to the possibilities (i.e. the constraints) of the site and the function, that is, the needs of its users, in the allocation of the fundamental volumes and in the organisation of space. The interior decoration was also adjusted to the contents (the modestly decorated staircase area as against the luxuriant decoration of the grand hall), and a clearly, symmetrically and gracefully designed facade enhanced with Art Nouveau decorations and the characteristic Tončić details reveal its almost classical composition. The representative Art Nouveau building of the Croatian House, designed in the spirit of the Wagner school and its earlier works, is the original work of a mature architect in whom along with an echo of the classicist tradition the architecture of the modern age can also be sensed. But it is not just its Art Nouveau idiom that imparts a particular heritage value to the Croatian House, but also the events and personalities linked with it, whose importance in the history of the city of Split and Croatian art surmounts that of the building itself.

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