Concrete Was Once Stone

author Davor Mateković
project Concrete Houses Holiday Residence, Lukovo Šugarje, Croatia
written by Ante Nikša Bilić


The architectural heritage of the sub-Velebit littoral zone results from the geometry of dry stone walls, whether it involves agriculture, livestock farming needs, or house construction with a single material. Stone was once the only building material in the area. Rocks and low-growing macchia are the prevailing landscapes in this area dominated by the bora wind. The eternal juxtaposition of the grey colouring of Velebit and Pag Island is underlined by blue shades of the sea and sky, depending on the season. With the construction of the Adriatic Highway in the late 1950s, in some milder form, this area, uninhabited for centuries, saw the influx of mass tourism. It was primarily due to the building of holiday homes whose architecture and utilitarian triviality were echoing socialist times. But times are changing. And the attitude toward leisure, communication, infrastructure, and place is changing as well.

The group of houses in Lukovo Šugarje questions the meaning of place, the importance of vernacular architecture – which some consider modest, yet significant – and the reinterpretation of our traditional language through contemporary vocabulary. The trapezoidal floor plan of these three houses results from the spatial orientation and the adjustment to the existing terrain. The sea-facing side of the trapezoid is perforated by openings that are graduated in size, from the basement up to the ground and first floors. The northern, longer façade is anonymous and reminiscent of ramparts, with only an indication of the front door. The vertical division into the basement, ground and first floors is the result of the spatial dynamics of the intervention on the site. The basement space, which houses the kitchen and the wine cellar, is maximally open to the walled courtyard with a swimming pool and offers the comfort of Mediterranean hedonism. When it comes to holiday homes, I think that the living room on the ground floor, overlooking the island of Pag, would be better described as a space for those laid-back afternoons on vacation; one develops a completely different dynamics of spatial use from the dynamics present in family homes or apartment buildings in an urban tissue.