Saturday 29 June 2013

Milan Zlokovic's Modernist Bank in Sarajevo

National Bank of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo
In September this year I will visit Serbia and Montenegro. One of the main reasons for my visit is to track down some of the remaining modernist buildings that have survived from the 1920's and 1930's when the former Yugoslavia was one of  Europe's developing democracies and could boast a significant artistic avant-garde movement.

Many of those buildings have been destroyed in the various wars that have been played out in the Balkans or have been damaged beyond recognition by later "renovations" sometimes referred to as "improvements". Whilst the modernist architects of Germany, Austria, France and other European countries are still remembered and celebrated, much less is known about the great Yugoslav architects of this period. Last year I visited Sarajevo, now the capital city of Bosnia-Herzegovina and although I didn't know it at the time, I took a picture of the former National Mortgage Bank of Yugoslavia (pictured above), now the National Bank of Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tito Boulevard.

The bank is an extremely large building taking up a whole block and it has some nice art deco touches - especially the two figures guarding the main entrance and holding up lights to guide the bank's customers up the short staircase to the main door. The facade also features gold lettering over the entrance and sculpted panels over the side doors at each end of the building. Little did I know that this building was designed by the architect Milan Zlokovic, a Serbian born in Trieste in 1898 (now in Italy but then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). 

The bank is one of the few remaining buildings that Zlotkovic designed during this era, the first being his own house, a cubist style villa in Belgrade built between 1927 and 1928. The villa was arranged over several levels with a series of external staircases, balconies and outward balconies giving the otherwise undecorated exterior a striking appearance. A number of photographs of the villa still exist, my favourite being the one of the architects wife looking into the distance from the balcony whilst their little son, Dorde, stands outside the house clutching a hoop and clearly considering what to do with it! I haven't been able to track that particular picture anywhere on the internet, but there is a great book called "Modernism in Serbia: the elusive margins of Belgrade Architecture 1919-1941" where you can see it together with many other photographs from this period. There are also some references to this period on an interesting architectural website called Nothing Against Serbia. Both of these rae proving extremely helpful in planning my trip which will take in Belgrade, Novi Sad and Subotica in Serbia before spending time in Budva and Kotor in Montenegro.

I am planning some more detailed posts on Zlokovic and his contemporaries once I am in Serbia. And I am counting the days...
Villa Zlokovic, 1927-28
Read more about Bosnia-Herzegovina here and here. See more pictures from Sarajevo here.

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