Zdravko Bregovac – Architect of Tourism, Part 2

Architect Zdravko Bregovac’s thirty-five constructed hotels – collected and displayed in Ivana Nikšić Olujić’s recently published book – clearly illustrate a fascinating and unrepeatable architectural opus. His unrelentingly consistent quality and conceptual cohesion, as well as a yet unseen boldness in combining the neo-avantgarde aesthetics of the EXAT 51 group with tourist desiderata, have since remained a continuous source of inspiration. Analyzing and designing different typologies, dimensions and structural organizations – regardless of whether he was building a coastline resort or a lodge embedded in Lika’s dense forests – Bregovac created yet unseen tourist constructs, spaces that transformed mere vacations into unforgettable experiences.

Bregovac proceeded to skillfully apply the pavilion typology – already described in the previous article and exemplified by the Rabac Hotel –  to his mid 60s projects of the Bellevue Hotel and the Plitvice Lakes Hotel. Supplementary two-story pavilions with hotel rooms were appended to a central pavilion with an entrance hall and various catering facilities. Bregovac located his pavilions in forest coves and areas less abundant with trees, avoiding excessive divergence between existing natural features and the architectural volumes of his hotels. These buildings are characterized by ample and skillful usage of wood in interior decoration, while large double roofs suspended on simplistic white cubes finalize the desired cozy ambient.

In a letter to Professor Strižić – Bregovac’s university professor and one of the most gregarious supporters of establishing the Plitvice National Park, who was then exiled from Yugoslavia – Zdravko Bregovac wrote: “You mentioned Plitvice. I know that you had always liked them and still feel the respect towards this area, and its beauty, that you had instilled in us. I hope that what I did there didn’t disappoint you. I built a Bellevue hotel, a pavilion, with wooden exteriors and interiors, and this building was awarded the Federal Award for Architecture in 1963, as the best project and realization.”

Plitvice had gotten yet another Lake Hotel at the beginning of the 70’s, an exceptional amalgam of pavilion and atrium typologies. It provided accommodation in two pavilions that subtly led to the larger, central building with restaurants and utilities. Various facilities were located below the ground level and incorporated in a natural garden. The conference hall, an indoor pool and a car park were thus constructed to overlook the atrium, making good use of the terrain and preventing additional forest devastation.

In 1967, Bregovac designed and implemented the Golf hotel in Bled. At that time, it was the most luxurious hotel in Slovenia and the entire former state, having deserved the title in the virtue of its rich interiors. It soon became the inevitable site of social gatherings, public presentations and large political summits. According to Ivana Nikšić Olujić‘s book, the hotel strayed from Bregovac’s usual style – his interior furnishings, previously made from imported materials, became larger and more comfortable. Rough textiles and local craftsmanship that had just begun to meet heightened tourist standards morphed into luxurious plush coatings and quality leather. Curtains became finer and more translucent, and carpets were now larger and more durable. Not only did the surrounding winter garden ensure a special ambient, but the interiors were just as abundant with greenery. Like the Ambassador hotel in Opatija, Golf was seamlessly blended with the existing environment – its central hall now encompassing cafes, restaurants and pools. Accommodation was parallel to the central building and encircled its core.

During the period when tourist resorts were mass constructed in the 70s – when large hotels were erected everywhere from the Piran Bay and Istria, over Zadar and Makarska, and up to Dubrovnik and the Montenegrian coast – Bregovac began collaborating with Anton Turin on the Maslinica complex in Rabac. This project was even more sensible to existing natural features. The complex consisted of the Mimoza, Hedera and Narcis hotels, with cascades of hotel rooms and striking horizontal terraces. Hotels were built in a western cove adjacent to the oldest olive groves in the area. With their terraces and loggias, the hotels mirrored mountain slopes and spread out from the beach without obstructing the bay, supporting the growth of local public facilities and a campsite with accompanying amenities.

During the 1970s, Bregovac and Ivan Filipić introduced an entirely novel hotel concept to the Borik settlement on the outskirts of Zadar. This new project enabled them to directly juxtapose and simultaneously develop two different and well-known hotel typologies – the recognizable atriums of the Park Hotel and the new, structural forms of the Barbara hotel – thus exploring innovative ways of organizing hotels and testing more efficient building practices. The complex was built by covering reinforced concrete walls with large panels. Floors and ceilings became gargantuan mounting elements, allowing Bregovac to avoid any additional plastering that would prolong the building’s planned construction. Finished in just seven months, the Barbara Hotel has remained one of the most rapidly constructed hotels in the history of the Adriatic coast. Bregovac will later implement and develop this new typology on the Karolina and Eva hotels on Rab – built in collaboration with Darko Turato – as well as on the Apollo and Fortuna hotels in Rabac.

Radovan Ivančević dubbed the last two hotels an antithetic couple – they represented Bregovac’s final departure from traditional midcentury functionalism and his conversion to new typologies. The tourist market was rapidly increasing in its demands and architects now had access to new materials and building solutions. In her textual analyses of Bregovac’s hotels, Željka Čorak considers these specific and recognizable façades his greatest successes, characterized by a refined play of light and shadows. She pays special tribute to the Apollo Hotel in Rabac – whose proportions and rhythmical loggia-balconies achieve perfect harmony with small surrounding buildings, its consistent asymmetry creating the impression of sheer spontaneity.

In 1970, Zdravko Bregovac decided to convey his experience to upcoming generations of tourist workers and became an associate professor at the Hotel Faculty of the Vladimir Bakarić University in Rijeka. He remained there until his retirement, teaching a course aptly named Tourist objects – Bregovac lamented about planning, constructing and equipping tourist facilities. His knowledge and designer experience unexpectedly conjoined architecture, art, tourism and economics in an almost perfect whole, embodied in buildings that continue to inspire those interested in tourist architecture.

I must thank colleague Ivana Nikšić Olujić and the crew of the Trikultura show – editor Ana Marija Habijan, organizer Kristina Burdelj and scriptwriter Tamara Bjažić Klarin.

Zdravko Bregovac – Architect of Tourism, Part 1

A successful implementation of thirty-five hotels and over twenty-five different tourist resorts in just 25 years of intense labor make the architectural opus of Zdravko Bregovac both fascinating and difficult to reproduce. Bregovac’s quality, conceptual consistency and innovativeness in unifying neo-avant-garde architecture and tourist desiderata – using different hotel typologies to explore a surging and yet unarticulated branch of the new global economy – have completely altered the rules and habits of the local architectural climate. His pioneering experiments in composing and articulating hotel functions, his mathematical precision in organizing buildings, the conceptual consistency of each hotel and the apparent unbearable lightness of designing and making decisions render Zdravko Bregovac’s architecture a timeless source of inspiration.

The Museum of Architecture is currently displaying the entire architectural opus of this architect whose hotels and tourist resorts had defined the Adriatic vista of the 1960s and 70s. We can further acquaint ourselves with his numerous works by studying the photographs and drawings thoroughly presented in Ivana Niksić Olujić‘s new book. Below, you can also see certain parts of the Trikultura program broadcasted on HRT3, a show edited by Ana Marija Habijan, organized by Kristina Burdelj and written by Tamara Bjažić Klarin.



Zdravko Bregovac was born on 4 March 1924 in the Dinjevac village near Đurđevac. Once Bregovac had finished the first grade of his secondary education, his entirely family left Bjelovar to cater to his father’s new post of an inspector at the Ministry of Education in Zagreb. After graduating at the Third Male Gymnasium in 1942, Bregovac took up Electrical engineering at the Engineering Department of the Faculty of Engineering in Zagreb. Immediately following the first semester he had sought permission from Dean Franko Bošnjaković and transferred to the Department of Architecture. Although Professor Juraj Denzler was initially opposed to accepting a new student, he later gladly acknowledged that he had been wrong. Bregovac graduated at the Zagreb Technical University on February 15, 1949 as the peer of Vjenceslav Richter, Josip Vidaković, Vladimir Zarahovic and Srdjan Baldasar.

The beginnings of his architectural career are related to Zagreb, where him and colleagues Božidar Rašić, Bernard Bernardij, Zvonimir Radić, Vladimir Zarahović and Vlada Kristl joined the core of EXAT 51 – an experimental atelier comprised of Vjenceslav Richter, Ivan Picelj and Aleksandar Srnec – by writing a joint manifest in 1951. After seven years of experimental research in Zagreb, Bregovac moved to Opatija and found a job at the Construction Bureau in Rijeka. In 1961 he founded his own architectural bureau Opatija Project, which will later become one of the leading Croatian promoters of tourist architecture

During the 1960s, Rijeka and Opatija hosted numerous Croatian architect who specialized, among other things, in tourist architecture: lgor Emili, Ninoslav Kučan, Boris Magaš, Zdenko Sila, Andrija Čičin-Šain and Darko Turato. As an exceptionally sociable and communicative person with a strong managerial drive, Bregovac selected a profession best suited to his temperament and worldview, and delimited his professional to the field of tourist architecture.

Bregovac’s intense architectural activity during the 60s and the 70s coincided with the decades when Croatian architecture was most notably dominated by tourist infrastructure. After post-war reconstructions and subsequent erection of residential buildings, social housing, educational and healthcare facilities had finally ended, tourist architecture was a relatively new area that had to hastily catch up with a continually surging influx of visitors. Hotels were being built for foreign tourists, borders were being opened and the Adriatic highway was finally put into construction, reaching Zadar in 1959. The monumental scope of tourist architecture is best illustrated by the fact that the highway was supposed to be accompanied by 24 models with 2000 beds by 1961.

In 1960, Bregovac designed hotels in Lovran, Mošćenička Draga, Opatija and Mali Lošinj, and built tourist resorts in Poreč, Medveja and Mošćenička Draga. He proposed to build seven different types of bungalows for 440 people in the Molindrio tourist resort in Poreč. Apart from these projects, Bregovac was invited to an internal competition for the Lipovica hotel in the eponymous Opatija bay (a predecessor of the Ambassador and the Golf Hotels, and of roughly equal dimensions). By the end of 1960, he had also completed the Helios hotel in Mali Lošinj, a low pavilion surrounded by nature and pine forests, whose numerous coves, pergolas and passages seamlessly melded with the local terrain.

Although he had tirelessly worked and constructed for twelve years after receiving his diploma, Bregovac finally passed his professional exam on June 3, 1961 and could officially become the major architectural competitor for tourist resorts in Medveja and Mošćenička Draga. He had also sent a draft of the Ambassador hotel in Opatija. Having won the first prize, Bregovac realized the most representative and largest hotel on the Adriatic coast – a building that will irreversibly mark his career and later become a symbol of Yugoslav tourism.


First tourist buildings – including Bregovac’s early works – mostly adhered to the typology of hotel pavilions. These pavilions only provided accommodation and could be endlessly multiplied at different, minutely planned locations. Restaurants and entertainment facilities were usually delegated to separate pavilions. After applying, analyzing and exploring this model, Bregovac designed the Sant Andrea pavilion settlement in Rabac, comprising it of four three-story pavilions – a dormitory and a separate pavilion with restaurants and entertainment programs available to all guests.

The Lanterna hotel – built in Rabac in 1965 and famous for being Bregovac’s favorite project – was the first to include a central courtyard and the interior gardens which will heavily feature in Bregovac’s later projects. Lanterna’s ground floor included various social facilities (shops, restaurants, swimming pools) that led to two upper floors of hotel rooms. Smaller rooms faced the inner garden and larger ones overlooked the hotel surroundings. This new typology of atriums and abundant greenery is perhaps most evident in his 1966 construction of the Bellevue hotel in Lošinj. At the First Zagreb Salon in 1966, Bregovac presented his recently opened project of the Ičići Motel, a lungo-mare pendant whose rooms faultlessly gazed towards the sea. This example actually elucidates the extent to which the standards and rules of hotel construction have changed – the hotel’s double bedroom could now barely suffice as a single room. It was also the first of Bregovac’s five motels.


To be continued…

Three Kilometers of Welds for the Apoxyomenos Museum

Whilst the statue of Apoxyomenos is currently in the Paul Getty Museum Exhibition Hall in Los Angeles as part of the Power and Pathos – Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World exhibition (delivered directly from London, where it was previously displayed at the British Museum), work on the Mali Lošinj museum is finally coming to a close. Everything will soon be ready for the sculpture’s return to its homeland and its permanent stay at the Apoxyomenos Museum. This long anticipated moment has been heralded by almost four years of hard work on reconstructing the Kvarner Palace, building the Museum and organizing its permanent display.

Besides the sculpture of the nude athlete Apoxyomenos as the main and only original element of the early Apoxyomenos Museum’s archeological display, the Museum consists of a series of highly specific and individually designed spatial-programmatic units. While all individual units exist within the framework of the wider Museum narrative, rooms of various materials and shapes represent a spatial sequence that can only be correctly experienced in a strictly defined order. The Apoxyomenon exhibition represents a spatial materialization of the displayed narrative, embodied in a specific architectural construct of steel rods coated in reinforced welded metal.

The Museum’s body and facade were constructed on the spot, connected and welded during 90 days of meticulous and painstaking labor. Three kilometers of welds connected several thousand freely cut plates of thin steel. These irregular square panels were slightly manipulated by a dozen welders who used them to carefully coat the Museum facade. Being given nothing more than highly abstract instructions, each worker was free to customize, stack, fasten, and weld each steel sheet according to his own preferences. During the work process, our original team of engineers was joined by local welders from the Mali Lošinj shipyard. Their experience in constructing and welding vessels proved essential to the successful paneling of the Apoxyomenos Museum.


The exhibition – stretched throughout all four floors of the Palace – was constructed as a complex grid composed of numerous steel rods and troughs organized in a compact steel cage supported by the Palace walls, reinforced with sprayed concrete. The precision and simplicity of the steel structure joined the irregular and almost organic shape of the old Palace – created during numerous reconstructions and transformations of the old building – to enrich the Museum’s architecture with an unexpected relationship. It is a specific spatial contrast of elements and materials as the basic components of the Museum’s architectural narrative.


This specifically designed steel cage was embedded within the existing building and grounded on three points, three supporting structures – one on the floor and two on the opposite walls of the palace. The entire construct is continually suspended on the building’s crown, hovering within the spatial framework of old Palace walls. Like a large ship in the bottle, the “trapped” Museum construct enters a specific spatial relationship with the surrounding Palace by creating a pulsating open space. The spatial dialogue of architectural elements merges and dissolves within a narrow gap and a wider perspective on individual display rooms.

The Museum is essentially composed of the permanent exhibition and the remaining – largely public – urban area of the building. The Apoxyomenos Museum and its supporting narrative shape a distinct volume, simultaneously defining the remaining free public space and accompanying cultural offerings. The ground floor, public balcony, curatorial gallery, office spaces, guest hall and lounge gazebo are part of a spatial narrative open to all citizens and visitors who did not arrive with the sole aim of experiencing the strictly controlled Museum display.

The steel construct of the Museum was inserted through the roof of the building – which was later closed – and finished after three months of steel paneling. As cleaned and roughly slit sheets were arranged across the building, welders began to dress the Museum body in steel plates. Guided by simple instructions about basic dimensions and work methods, they applied the plates by welding them at equal distances and thus defined the Museum’s distinct volume. This meticulously controlled collaboration of our engineers with local welders led to the current amorphous, irregular and highly distinctive Museum body.

Following minor alterations to the somewhat bent edges of the Museum construct, panels were fused into specific wholes respectful of their spatial dynamics. After each individual sheet had been fixed to the construct, workers began to accurately weld them together. It took two months to produce three kilometers of welds out of over three hundred kilograms of rods and welding materials. Our hard-working welders immediately understood that they were creating a specific and very unusual spatial construct. The desire to participate in the team responsible for such an unusual project attracted local welders from Lošinj, men who yearned to contribute to this uncommon initiative and collective effort.