After my exciting discoveries in Osijek (Croatia) two years ago, I decided to travel to Sarajevo (Bosnia) this time, and find out if there’s Art Nouveau architecture there too. Preparing my trip, I ordered the book Arhitektura Secesije u Bosni i Hercegovini by Ibrahim Krzovic. I pinned all addresses Krzovic mentions in his book in Galileo, the offline navigation-app that guides me on all my Art Nouveau hunting trips, and wrote down all addresses in a small note-book… just in case.
To understand the city we’re looking at, we first have to understand its history. So let me take us back in time a little. Bosnia and Hercegovina had been part of the Ottoman Empire since 1463 but at the end of the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878) Russia pushed the Ottoman Empire out of the Balkans. And because the European Great Powers wanted to prevent Russia from getting too much power in Central Europe, they organised the Congress of Berlin at which they aimed to reorganize the countries of the Balkans. That’s when they ‘assigned’ Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Just like that. From one oppressor to the next…
The campaign to establish Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina lasted only three months, from 29 July to 20 October 1878, even though the local resistance fighters were supported by the Ottoman Empire. The Austro-Hungarians entered the country in two large movements: one from the north into Bosnia, and another from the south into Herzegovina. Sarajevo fell on August the 19th.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire immediately brought Western urban planning ideals and architectural styles to Sarajevo. They left the Ottoman center of town intact, though its character was changed: traditional separation between commercial and residential zones was ended and the city’s first ground-floor shops with apartment accommodation above appeared in the gradually ‘Europeanized’ center.
The Autro-Hungarians also built a number of Catholic and Orthodox religious structures. At the same time, they made sure the mosques were well taken care of, as they believed religion was a means to control the nationalism that started to emerge in Sarajevo. And not unimportant either, they brought the tramway to Sarajevo, a feature that has been the backbone of its public transportation system ever since.
Along with urban planning, the first professional architects came to the city, most notably Josip Vancaš (22 March 1859 – 15 December 1932). Vancaš would remain in Sarajevo for thirty-seven years, become a leading figure in Sarajevo architecture (he designed more than 200 buildings!) and a member of the first Bosnian Parliament (1910). Eventually he would even become the deputy mayor of Sarajevo.
During the first 20 years of Austro-Hungarian rule, new projects were mostly built in historical styles such as neo-gothic, neo-renaissance and neo-baroque etc. Or they were built in a combination of historical styles which is called eclecticism. However, after 1898 the first elements of the ‘New Art’ began to appear.
Like in the capital Vienna, Secession Style was primarily used for private houses and apartment blocks, seldom for public or institutional buildings. And most of the time, spacially, the buildings were actually the same as the historical ones. Secession was only visible through decorations on the facade. A nice example of such a building can be found at 27 Ferhadija Street, designed by Josip Vancaš for a pharmacist called Heinrich Schlesinger.
But Vancaš also recognised a ‘Bosnian Style’ which can, in a way, be compared with Scandinavian National Romanticism. Besides the fact that it had a roof profile and projecting wooden bay windows reminiscent of Bosnian vernacular architecture, it had functionalist tendencies in its near lack of ornament, a façade organization described as Secessionist in spirit, and an Expressionist depiction of both structure and function (Hrasnisa, 2003). The Bosnian Style was championed by a younger generation of architects, like Czech architect Josip Pospošil, Slovene architect Rudolf Tönnies, and Austrian architect Ernst Lichtblau, who all studied at the Art Academy in Vienna with Karl von Hasenauer and Otto Wagner. The style was, however, named by Sarajevo’s senior architect, Josip Vancaš, for whom many of these younger architects worked.
We had a wonderful day in Sarajevo! Everything was perfect. We found a great parking at a perfect location (which I marked with a P on below map). From there, we walked to the Music Pavilion Atmejdan where we had a coffee. And then we set off on our splendid Sarajevo Art Nouveau tour… A tour we can recommend to all Art Nouveau lovers.
If you intend to see all the houses we saw, ánd the ones we missed, I suggest you stay a little longer though. Seeing all addresses on the list is simply not possible in one day. And don’t forget that, when in Sarajevo, you also have to do the regular touristy things! You simply MUST visit the Baščaršija, eat Ćevapčići at Željo, feed the pigeons at the fountain in Sebilj square and so on…
I tried to mark our route and the location of the most beautiful buildings on below map for you (please be aware this map dates from 1929, and street names have changed since then). A list with the addresses I extracted from Ibrahim Krzovic’s book can be downloaded here.
In due course, I intend to show you more detailed photo’s, and tell you a little bit more about each building. Hopefully, this introductory story will whet your appetite for Sarajevo.
The Development of Austro-Hungarian Sarajevo, 1878-1918: An Urban History by Mary Sparks
Sarajevo, biografija grada – Robert J. Donia
Sarajevo, a biography – Robert J. Donia
Phoenix or Phantom: Residents and Sarajevo’s Post-War Changes
Sarajevo – from Capital cities in the Aftermath of Empires – Emily Gunzburger Makaš
Sarajevo u periodu austrougarske vladavine
Wikipage Josip Vancaš
Gems Of 20th Century Architecture in BiH
Sarajevo in your pocket – Guidebook