Fitting Abstraction presents Croatian architecture from the period 1914-2014. It explores how architecture, through its disciplinary autonomy, responded to the intense conditions of globally impending modernity.
Reacting to the premise of modernism being detrimental to national architectural features‘In 1914, it made sense to talk about a ‘Chinese’ architecture, a ‘Swiss’ architecture, an ‘Indian’ architecture. One hundred years later, under the influence of wars, diverse political regimes, different states of development, national and international architectural movements, individual talents, friendships, random personal trajectories and technological developments, architectures that were once specific and local have become interchangeable and global. National identity has seemingly been sacrificed to modernity.’
Rem Koolhaas, it offers a different perspective, the one that reveals modernism not as a necessary eliminator of national characteristics, but rather as a possible active and engaged agent in the construction of both cultural and architectural identities. Fitting Abstraction examines and presents specific circumstances, evolution, and effects of such complex processes.
Croatia’s small yet varied territory always spanned
diverse geographiesLošinj Island,
Slavonia Plain and comprised distinct cultural spheresZagreb,
Early 20th Century
Early 20th Century. Throughout history, this dense social, cultural and political quilt persisted without a unified architectural expression. It nevertheless shared a pronounced common proclivity towards abstraction, formal reduction, pragmatism, rationality, and specific design dexterity derived from an Croatian pre-Romanesque Churches enduring scarcity of means. The lack in the material realm, induced by demanding historical circumstances, was regularly compensated by a heightened attention to conceptual spatial thinking.
The period addressed with this exhibition coincides with the crucial hundred years of Croatian history: that of the country’s gradual cultural emancipation and political unification. If 1914 marked the beginning of the dissolution of a strong multinational frame that most of the country had been immersed in for several centuries, that of the Habsburg Empire, 2014 represents the beginning of yet another immersion – of Croatia’s accession to the European Union, a multinational congregation of an entirely different character.
Throughout this turbulent period, Croatia underwent a whole series of frequent and
radical shifts of political, ideological, and socio-economic frames. Yet, where political
field suffered radical changes and instability, architecture demonstrated a convincing
resilience and constancy; where political conversions were abrupt and quick, building was
persistent and slow. The fundaments for effective identity-formation thus greatly resided
in the realm of architecture. Within it, the close overlap of certain formal and procedural
features explains an apparent paradox: the continuity of local architectural culture was
preserved not by defying modernism, but precisely by embracing itZagreb, 1930s
Split, 1930s; with its own abstract forms and autonomous procedural apparatus, modernism overlapped with the inherited local reductive architectural tendencies and therefore served as a genuine common platform for the alignment of disparate architectural vernaculars. Modernism was thus suitably coopted to form a cohesive cultural identity.
Fitting Abstraction exhibits eight fundamental attributes of Croatian architecture culture
that persist as decisive qualities throughout the hundred year period
Sublimating The Regional
Meeting The International
Engaging The Landscape
Interacting With Nature
Reinforcing The City
Generating The Social
Implanting Public Space
Extending Scopes , constructing the platform for the effective identity formation. These thematic lines are presented through selected architectural case studies. Yet the analytical focus is directed not on their particular forms, but rather on their autonomous architectural operations by which they perform and accomplish the targeted values. Assessed in this way, such autonomous operations transcend their immediate formal features and assume wider social and cultural relevance, affirming their potential to actively participate in directing the imminent modernity in a desired way. All eight of these decisive thematic lines rely precisely on modernist conceptual and instrumental apparatus, proving modernism as an effective bearer of national architectural identity. Fitting Abstraction thus demonstrates the ways in which modernism reinforced an existing design culture that extended its historical trajectories up to the present day.
SUBLIMATING THE REGIONAL
GENERATING THE SOCIAL