Nikola Bašic and the Adriatic landscape - Architecture - Domus
Nikola Bašic and the Adriatic landscape
 

Nikola Bašic and the Adriatic landscape

To celebrate this year's French Cultural season dedicated to Croatia, a small and discreet exhibition at the Cité de l'Architecture elegantly explores the work of the Croatian architect, who uses "the landscape of the Adriatic as a matrix".

 

Architecture / Léa-Catherine Szacka

"I naturally went back to the Dalmatian stone. The only one, in my opinion, that could express the holy character of the place because it contains the essence of Mediterranean Croatia in it." — Nikola Bašic

For Croatian architect Nikola Bašic, material takes precedent over form, an attitude that perhaps could partially explain why the architect's body of work almost melts into the Adriatic landscape. Three of his recent realizations, all linked to some kind of ritual, are now on display at the Cité de l'Architecture in Paris to celebrate this year's French Cultural season dedicated to Croatia.

Croatia, a country of 4,7 millions inhabitants that only gained independence roughly 20 years ago, will become part of the EU in July 2013. Yet, as the exhibition's curators, Isabelle Delage and Seadeta Midzic, remind us, strong ties, both historical and of an elective nature, have long existed between Croatia and France. It is to celebrate these inter-national links between the two countries that Chaillot's Cité de l'Architecture imagined a small exhibition that, despite being very discreet, elegantly explores "the landscape of the Adriatic as a matrix". Hopefully some slight technical difficulties — the documentary films not working and only half of the back-lit panels were properly lit — are amended by the time you visit.

Born in 1946 in Murter Island, Nikola Bašic is an important figure in the contemporary Croatian architecture scene. Self-described as standing "apart from trends and fashion", Bašic trained in Sarajevo and is now living and working in Zadar, a small town of 75,000 inhabitants and the historical centre of Dalmatia, a historical region of Croatia on the Eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. Here, Bašic opened his own office in 1991. Giving tremendous importance to the context of the Dalmatian archipelago, he mainly builds in stone, which is no doubt his favourite material. Minimal and sculptural, Bašic's work can be summarized by the architect's own words: "…the act of building can start from a simple pile of stones, or pieces of wood…" Indeed, for Bašic the choice of material is not only technical, but also symbolic, without being anachronistic.

Top and above: Nikola Bašic, <em>Field of Crosses</em>, Fallen Firemen Memorial, Kornati National Park, Kornat island, 2010

Top and above: Nikola Bašic, Field of Crosses, Fallen Firemen Memorial, Kornati National Park, Kornat island, 2010

Forming a coherent body of work around rituals — nightfall, celebration and of the holy — only three projects have been selected to represent Bašic's architecture in the Cité's exhibition. Each project is shown through a schematic panel containing text, low-tech representation drawings and a map. These are complemented by beautiful photographs that clearly illustrate Bašic's attachment to the spirit of places.

Nikola Bašic, model for Votive chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Okit, Vodice, 1993 - 1998

Nikola Bašic, model for Votive chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Okit, Vodice, 1993 - 1998

The first project is the Field of crosses, a memorial to the fire-fighters completed in 2010 in the Kornat Island. A competition winner, this project commemorates a terrible 2007 accident in which twelve firefighters died under mysterious circumstances. As stipulated by the competition's program, only materials from the protected area of National Park Kornat could be used for this project. More land art than architecture, Bašic's memorial is formed of twelve 25 x 14,45 metres crosses built in dry stone super-imposed and assembled according to local tradition. The crosses are scattered on the sloped site, the entrance of which is marked by a 15,45 metre circle, also cut from dry stone. For this project, the architect had to mobilize the neighbouring population to build the crosses by hand.

 
Forming a coherent body of work around rituals — nightfall, celebration and of the holy — only three projects have been selected to represent Bašic's architecture in the Cité's exhibition
 
Nikola Bašic, Votive chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Okit, Vodice, 1993 - 1998

Nikola Bašic, Votive chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Okit, Vodice, 1993 - 1998

The second project is Our Lady of Carmel Chapel in Okit, Vodice, built between 1993 and 1998. Replacing two previously built chapel (the first destroyed during World War II and the second during the Bosnian war), Our Lady of Carmel is both sensitive to the site while respecting Croatian religious architecture tradition. Modest in size and simple in terms of form — a spatial movement of organic origin — and building material — stone —, the chapel comprises an all white spiral shape volume respecting the golden ratio law. Vaguely recalling Le Corbusier's Ronchamp, the church sits on the summit of a mountain and can be seen from a distance.

Nikola Bašic, <em>Field of Crosses</em>, Fallen Firemen Memorial, Kornati National Park, Kornat island, 2010

Nikola Bašic, Field of Crosses, Fallen Firemen Memorial, Kornati National Park, Kornat island, 2010

The third project presented in the exhibition is probably Bašic's most famous and has become a modern icon for the city of Zadar: the Sea organ and Greeting to the sun built between 2005 and 2008. Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, who once declared that Zadar's sunset was the most beautiful in the world, Bašic imagined a series of seven flights of 10-metre-wide stone stairs that extend to the sea. The Sea organ also includes polyethylene pipes that, under the pressure of water, create a natural music that resonates over the public space. In 2008, Bašic added a second installation on the same site. A 22-metre-diameter glass circle diffusing lights of various intensity and colors produced thanks to a photovoltaic system.

Nikola Bašic, Votive chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Okit, Vodice, 1993 - 1998

Nikola Bašic, Votive chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Okit, Vodice, 1993 - 1998

Located in one of the vaulted hallways of the Cité leading to some major exhibitions, Nikola Bašic: Adriatic Landscapes is a small display that, despite the simplicity of its exhibiting apparatus, seems to fit perfectly in the space. Each exhibition panel embedded in between two of the Cité's stone pillars, the content here fits the container. Léa-Catherine Szacka

Nikola Bašic, Votive chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Okit, Vodice, 1993 - 1998

Nikola Bašic, Votive chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Okit, Vodice, 1993 - 1998

Through 3 February 2012
Nikola Bašic: Adriatic Landscapes
Cité de l'Architecture
1 Place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre, Paris

Nikola Bašic, <em>Field of Crosses</em>, Fallen Firemen Memorial, Kornati National Park, Kornat island, 2010

Nikola Bašic, Field of Crosses, Fallen Firemen Memorial, Kornati National Park, Kornat island, 2010

Nikola Bašic, <em>Field of Crosses</em>, Fallen Firemen Memorial, Kornati National Park, Kornat island, 2010

Nikola Bašic, Field of Crosses, Fallen Firemen Memorial, Kornati National Park, Kornat island, 2010