In the course of a contemporary art seminar in Croatia, I had the chance to participate in a customized architecture tour through Zagreb. As our seminar focus was contemporary art, the tour focused on buildings from the 20th and 21st century and offered us a unique insight far away from the beautiful, romantic but also crowded old town. Boris, our guide, took us to a different Zagreb – the Zagreb of current art, of political movements, of communists and fascists, of the war years and of places causing heated debates among the Zagrebians themselves.
I also managed to take pictures of other buildings we saw during our time in Zagreb and I would like to share my highlights with you below.
The Mestrovic Pavilion hosts exhibitions of contemporary art and is currently the centre of attention due to a construction site in the surrounding park. The park which used to be part of the architectural concept is currently being torn down and replaced by cobblestones. And it seems that nobody really knows neither the reason nor the duration of the renovation project.
The cupola of the pavilion was really impressive.
At about the same time of the Nazi regime in Germany, the Ustasha – a fascist and ultranationalist movement – ruled the country. Their former headquarters are opposite of the Mestrovic Pavilion. Today, most of the building is abandoned. According to our guide Boris, part of it is/was used as a dormitory. But as the building is not accessible anymore, there is not much information available.
We also made our way to the outer part of Zagreb and got the chance to visit the former Communist headquarters. The building is still in use as offices for two ministries. The building is called “Cube” by the locals – for obvious reasons.
The Cube was built in the 1960s and also served as a meeting place for communist leaders. Also high-level visitors from abroad, for example politicians from America, were welcomed at the Cube.
The grim entrance lobby is lightened up by big blue walls made of glass tiles.
The plenary room is still in use. The two side walls are decorated with artworks. We visited the Cube during a thunderstorm which contributed to the grim atmosphere.
As I mentioned in my post about my major learnings from the art seminar in Croatia, the Museum of Contemporary Art is an architectural prestige object. Its pure dimensions are impressive and also the debate about its collection is very interesting. (You can read more about it here.)
Another hidden gem is the building hosting the GMK – Galerie Miroslav Kraljevic, an independent art collective. The building formerly hosted the offices of INA-Industrija nafte, a Croatian oil company. The company offices were moved to a more modern building in the “new parts” of Zagreb. We got the chance to see the office building from the inside – especially looking up is a real highlight.
The Studenski Centar (student centre) of Zagreb University is a cornerstone of contemporary art. Since the 1960s it has served as a fertile ground for up and coming artists. What served as the French pavilion during business fairs was turned into an exhibition space. Around this pavilion, you can explore really cool street art as well. Read more about the murals at the Studenski Centar here.
PS: I am currently trying to find the organization through which our group booked the tour with Boris and will update the post to give you more information. I really recommend Boris’s tours if you want to learn more about Zagreb’s architecture.