What People Have to Say: Andrew Ayers, Hubert Klumpner, Matevž Čelik, Jurtin Hajro, and Oliver Elser

July 21, 2014

Andrew Ayers Andrew Ayers

“The Montenegrin Pavilion has a wonderful feeling of being a ‘fringe’ or ‘off’ event, not only because of its location far from the official hubbub of the Giardini, but also because of the fresh approach that this ‘marginal’ location has allowed. First one must find the pavilion, a process akin to a treasure hunt, as one negotiates a maze of silent Venetian alleys in a scenario straight out of Invisible Cities. The ancient ground-floor spaces, disposed around a classic Venetian courtyard, are splendidly atmospheric. In their cramped, domestic-scale confines (a far cry from the lofty halls of the Giardini) is a highly theatrical mise en scène, in which four decaying buildings of Yugoslavian late Modernism are recreated through large sectional models into which visitors can peer, squeezed claustrophobically into the confined space. The result is a gorgeously intimate peepshow of ruin porn, a dolls’-house dissection of decay, where the ghosts of what was and what might have been haunt us with their lost possibilities.

The Montenegrin Pavilion is also interesting in the way it deals with Rem Koolhaas’s theme of ‘absorbing modernity.’ As Jean Prouvé tells us in the French Pavilion, ‘modern’ is a problematic term that is perhaps best avoided. Many of the national pavilions get round it by interpreting modernity as Modernism, and at first glance the Montenegrin Pavilion appears to do the same. But if one considers the original meaning of modern—late Latin modernus, from modo, ‘just now’—one can see the implication that to be truly modern one must reject the past, as Montenegro seems to be doing in its neglect of these ideologically charged relics of a defunct country and regime (socialist Yugoslavia). As presented in the models, these buildings are sites of memory, places of Proustian poignancy where nostalgia is summoned up even for those who never knew that time or those localities. To be truly ‘modern,’ it seems, one must lose something, and it is this loss that is so intelligently and atmospherically evoked in the Montenegrin Pavilion.”

Andrew Ayers studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture and Planning, University College London, and now lives in Paris, where he is a freelance writer, lecturer, and journalist, as well as a docent at the Maison de Verre.

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 11.11.10 AMHubert Klumpner

“I thought the Montenegro Pavilion displayed a lot of sensitivity to place. It presents an alternative way of using post-Socialist resources—opportunities to reuse existing structures and transform them without significant investment. Not erasing them, but incorporating them into the evolving logic of the city. The socialist Hotel Fjord, for instance, has probably already entered the vocabulary of Kotor. It’s not this strange, Modernist intrusion. It has already been appropriated in its absurdity. Somehow it fits. It’s so strange it fits.

The exhibition is actually a beautiful way of reflecting, in this old backyard of a Venetian house—a little bit too small, a little bit too dark, a little bit too tight, a little bit hidden—the challenges facing Montenegro. It was a very interesting, well-executed, well‑communicated exhibit, operating at a large scale in a small space. It was extremely successful. In retrospect, one of the most exciting pavilion openings I attended.”

Hubert Klumpner is Dean of the Department of Architecture at ETH Zürich and a co-principal, together with Alfredo Brillembourg, of the interdisciplinary design firm Urban-Think Tank. Urban-Think Tank was part of the Golden Lion-winning team at the 13th International Exhibition of Architecture – la Bienale di Venezia for the installation “Torre David/Gran Horizonte.”

mc_maoMatevž Čelik

“Montenegro is a nigh-mythical territory for architecture. Le Corbusier missed it on his trip to the East—and he should be sorry for that. However, this is a part of Europe that, even today, many are just discovering. I believe that the Montenegrin Pavilion at this year’s Biennale will be a real discovery for a lot of people, too.

I followed the development of the pavilion a little, but I was still pleasantly surprised at the opening. Encountering these photorealistic models of run-down buildings on the ground floor of a small Venetian house is one of the truest experiences of architecture at this year’s Biennale. I like that you could see all the brutal transformations of architecture caused by nature and time. The Montenegrin presentation occurs at a time when a new kind of fascination with ruins and the civilizations that built them has been awakened in Western society. In this case, of course, it’s a fascination with modern civilizations. The exhibition reminds us immediately of the problems with the architecture of socialist Yugoslavia—its phantasms and its megalomania. However, the decaying architecture, in this case, is not presented as a sign of collapse, destruction, or decadence. The visitor’s experience of the architectural ruins in the exhibition is extremely positive—as a basis for discussion about the future and sign of hope that we can build something new. Looking at the models raises the questions of whether and how these buildings can be reused. However, I find it most interesting to ask what we can learn about architecture from these ruins. This is the real ‘treasure’ that one should try to discover at this exhibition.

It seems that, in Montenegro, nature is still more powerful than architecture and that it will always dominate. Perhaps this is where we need to travel today in order to rediscover the true elements of architecture.”

Matevž Čelik is an architect, architecture researcher, and writer. In 2002, Čelik co-founded Trajekt, Institute for Spatial Culture in Ljubljana and since 2010, he has been the director of the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO) in Ljubljana and Ljubljana’s Biennial of Design, BIO 50.


_MG_6932Jurtin Hajro

“For me, the four abandoned late-Modernist buildings displayed at the Montenegro Pavilion reflect a thematic ‘territoriality as a primary geographical expression of power.’ It seems like an architectural amnesia at the intersection of space and society. In these terms, not only are society and space related, but the changing function of ideology shifts that relationship with time, which becomes a new variable. The disregard for architecture as the basic expression of influence and power supplies an essential bond among society, space, and time. Its usage may find place in capitalist as well as in socialist societies.

Geographical context allows people to construct and maintain spatial organization. For the Balkan countries, territoriality is not an instinct or a drive, but rather a complex strategy to influence and control access to people, things, and relationships. Its geographical alternative is a non-territorial spatial behavior. Territories are socially constructed forms of spatial relations and their effects depend on who is controlling whom and for what purpose. It may achieve dangerous levels if it is used successfully for certain political reasons.

Whether the Balkan countries had that destiny because of external Western forces or its internal bureaucratic and political failures is a difficult question. Whether the Iron Curtain was a useless invention of the socialist bloc is also another topic in and of itself. Whether building 750,000 bunkers in Albania (a neighbor of Montenegro) is the right thing to do when you lead a friendless country is also a difficult question to answer without more details. Or whether it is right for highly Modernist buildings that once reflected enthusiasm and confidence to be destined, after four to five decades, to decay and demolition. But the answer to one thing is clear: territoriality and the careless disregard of society have found their operating mechanisms in architecture at each age, and they surely will not stop now!

The issue raised by the Montenegro Pavilion’s curators is that of facing space in time, through social variables under ideological shifts.”

Jurtin Hajro is the director of CoRDA (Center of Research and Design in Architecture) and a professor of architectural design at Epoka University in Tirana, Albania. He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s from the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, and has worked as an assistant researcher, fellow, and senior architect in several Istanbul-based architecture studios.

OliverElserOliver Elser

“Imperfect models are typically a no-go in architecture. But in ‘Treasures in Disguise’ they fit perfectly: they create the impression of decay, which is unusual for an architecture exhibition, and allow the objects on display to shift between space, site, history, and image. The models are large enough to draw you, the visitor, into the space. That was a super nice experience.”

Oliver Elser is a curator at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in Frankfurt. His projects on architecture models include the “Sondermodelle” exhibition at the Venice Art Biennale in 2013, with artist Oliver Croy; the show “The Architectural Model—Tool, Fetish, Small Utopia” at the DAM in 2012; and the “Wohnmodelle” exhibition on housing experiments, shown in Vienna, Sofia, and Belgrade.




What People Have to Say: Bora Baboci, Freek Persyn, Jana Kocbek and Davor Katušić, Jesse Seegers, Joni Baboci, and Stefan Jauslin

June 27, 2014

Bora_BabociBora Baboçi

“What struck me the most about the Montenegro Pavilion was the way it focused on the interior as the visual perspective for building a discourse. Especially for strong objects with a clear identity, such as the four buildings treated in the pavilion, this strategy encourages new, refreshing interpretations. The interior of Dom Revolucije, was reminiscent of a similar Albanian interior space—that of the Pyramid, the former museum of the dictator Enver Hoxha, a building also in a state of neglect. The models of Spomen Dom, Kayak Club Galeb, and Hotel Fjord were similarly suggestive and they all brought to mind scenography, a stage made for storytelling. By modelling only fragments of the buildings in their current states, the pavilion generalized the discourse and made it applicable to a wider range of interior spaces. Rather than showing a singular building, the models were prototypes of interiors filled with many potentials. The malleability of the buildings’ identities, their transitory states, and possible futures, are much better observed from the interior than through exterior images of a propagandized iconic object that we have learned to see. This focus on the interior resulted in a very exciting setting for re-interpretation.“

Bora Baboçi is an architect and artist based in Tirana. She is currently working on the perception of informal neighborhoods and urban/coastal identities in the fields of visual arts and cinema.


freek_persynFreek Persyn

“The Biennale this year claims to be about architecture, not architects. That simple statement has changed the atmosphere completely: whereas the content of previous architecture biennales was often festive and, even more often, naively optimistic, this edition is surprisingly retrospective and reflective.

A few pavilions have dared to go beyond the reflective, without stepping into the pitfall of celebrating design solutions. The Chilean pavilion shows an overview of an international prefab construction system, which resonates strongly with the Korean pavilion’s observation that housing production in both North and South Korea is based on that same system. How to work with that inevitability? The Swiss pavilion shows the legacy of Lucius Burckhardt and Cedric Price, which is all about opening up architecture to society and reactivating the existing. How to pick up on their thoughts? The Montenegro Pavilion shows existing buildings that are stunning in their combination of grand design intentions and lack of use. How to reactivate these structures and use them as a resource?

Together, these pavilions reveal the capacity of designers to go beyond what a historian can (or dares to) do: to look at history and present it as a potent question. They show that architecture is political, about making choices and producing answers. But before producing answers, you need good questions. Although these pavilions step away from contemporary architecture, they still offer a sharp view of what architecture’s design questions could be. The fact that the questions are left unanswered makes them resonate even more strongly—they are open for all to imagine an answer.“

Freek Persyn is an architect and a partner at the award-winning Brussels-based practice 51N4E. He studied architecture at the Sint Lucas School of Architecture in Brussels and the Dublin Institute of Technology, and has taught at University of Gent, the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio, and at the Berlage Institute, Delft.


stefan_jauslin_architekt_zuerichStefan Jauslin

“The Montenegrin pavilion is certainly among the highlights of this year’s Biennale! We came back to the pavilion and brought friends along and they all were enthusiastic about it as well. To discover these superb buildings, which exude great charm even in—or maybe because of—their state of decay, is one thing. But to me the exhibition is also a treasure in disguise: the large models of the buildings let you really dive into the architecture. Their honest imperfections match very well the work that’s exhibited and you can feel the authors’ enthusiasm. The exhibition design of Treasures in Disguise is a truly persuasive way of presenting architecture, as opposed to the many over-designed or over-intellectualized exhibitions I’ve seen at the Biennale.”

Stefan Jauslin is the co-founder and co-principal of the Zürich-based practice Vehovar & Jauslin Architektur. He has taught at ETH Zürich and the Bern University of Applied Sciences, and his firm was the subject of the book Emotional Landscapes: Die Architektur von Mateja Vehovar und Stefan Jauslin (Birkhäuser, 2003).


Jesse Seegers portrait_June 2014Jesse Seegers

“Treasures in Disguise at the Montenegro Pavilion embodies the political potential that an architecture exhibition should aspire to—and does so while being beautifully designed, a bit quirky, and most importantly, thought provoking. The exhibition practically transports the visitor across the Adriatic and back in time to a hopeful moment in which architecture was tasked with the responsibility of being an active agent of societal change. In addition to the unique and haunting deserted buildings exhibited, the combination of typography and exhibition design make the most of the Venetian hole-in-the-wall gallery space. The four buildings in the exhibition are reminiscent of other utopian moments such as SAAL in Porto in the mid 1970s, but the critique is taken a step further by evaluating modernism’s discontents and the lessons that can be gleaned from failure. As art collective Slavs and Tatars cheekily admonishes: ‘It is of the utmost importance that we repeat our mistakes as a reminder to future generations of the depths of our stupidity,’ and Treasures in Disguise cleverly reminds us that our work is not yet done.”

Jesse Seegers is currently the Power Corporation of Canada Curatorial Intern at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. Prior to receiving his Masters in Architecture from Princeton University, Seegers was Chief Editor of AGENDA: Can we Sustain Our Ability to Crisis? (Actar, 2009) while at JDS/Julien De Smedt Architects.


Joni Baboci Joni Baboçi

“The Montenegro Pavilion echoed the Treasures in Disguise concept not only in its content, but even in its organization and location. Finding the pavilion was like a treasure hunt, with a big X on a map marking the location of the prize. The exhibition deals with an issue encountered in all post-communist countries. Politics and architecture usually potentiate one another, yet when the two collide the results can be tragic. The reuse, regeneration, and transformation of these structures are paramount. But in countries like Montenegro (or Albania), you first need to change the public perception of these buildings, which are currently lost in transitional limbo or, even worse, already demolished. They represent something that they are not. They have no chance to speak for themselves through the value and function of their architecture, but are instead ascribed superficial descriptors; they are the only objects that still bear the burden of a hard transition from isolated, ideological islands to free market, global capitalism. The size of the models stuck in the small spaces of the pavilion reflects the hidden potential waiting to burst out of the “Soviet modern.“ The pictures of the majestic Hotel Fjord juxtaposed with a large-scale model of its current condition create a space inhabited by possibility in the narrow corridor that separates them. I had seen pictures of the venue on Facebook a couple of days before the opening and could not help but notice what looked like one of the famous sealed wells of Venice in the middle of the pavilion’s small interior courtyard. These objects are iconic manifestations of transformation and the importance of continuity in design, architecture and urbanity; they are a symbol not only of Venice, but also of all the successful Mediterranean communities that have learned to cope with their long and rich history by continually changing and adapting to new contexts. It is examples like these that post-communist countries should learn from and it is about time that the unexplored Balkans get the attention they deserve on the international stage.“

Joni Baboçi is an architect based in Tirana, Albania, where he practices out of Studio A with his father and sister. Baboçi is currently working at Atelier Albania to identify and implement experimental planning tools and processes to help the country leapfrog its slow pace of development.

 Katusic Kocbek Arhitekti BWJana Kocbek and Davor Katušić, photo by Kontrastika

“Visiting the Montenegro Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia was a super nice experience. By taking the advantage of the small pavilion, you managed to make a powerful exhibition: powerful in presentation and, more importantly, in content. The selected buildings on display are truly impressive treasures. We hope that you’ll manage to rescue some of them!”

Jana Kocbek and Davor Katušić run the architecture firm Katušić Kocbek Arhitekti. Based both in Zagreb and Ljubljana, the firm won a Golden Pencil award in 2014 for their design of the Dojmi pavilion in Kotor, Montenegro


What People Have to Say: Brendan MacFarlane, Jan Edler, Lena Kleinheinz and Martin Ostermann, Lisa Corva, Mateja Vehovar, and Wilfried Hackenbroich

June 23, 2014

JAKOB + MACFARLANE - Foto Alexandre TabasteBrendan MacFarlane and Dominique Jakob, photo by Alexandre Tabaste

“The Montenegro Pavilion was really a great pavilion; I didn’t stop talking about it with other people. It was the anti-heroic aspect of the exhibition that I liked so much. Lost or empty buildings are so much more powerful than those that are lived in—they represent a lost utopia. I suspect that it is not the restoration of these pieces that is the imminent subject; it is their empty presence.”

Brendan MacFarlane is one half of Jakob + MacFarlane, an architecture firm based in Paris. Together with Dominique Jakob, he’s designed and built a number of buildings, including the Orange Cube in Lyon, the FRAC Center in Orléans, and Docks, City of Fashion and Design, in Paris.


Jan Edler_Portrait_Phote_Adeline_SeidelJan Edler, photo by Adeline Seidel

“The Montenegro Pavilion, with its exhibition “Treasures in Disguise,” was one of the hidden jewels among the national contributions at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale.

This was due not only to the simple yet tactile exhibition design, with beautiful large scale models of four late-modernist structures built in Montenegro, but especially to the surprising selection of buildings. Rejecting the common practice of showcasing a country’s “best-practice,” the curators presented buildings—Hotel Fjord, Kayak Club Galeb, Spomen Dom, and Dom Revolucije—that failed and have mostly been abandoned. Instead of following the reflex to “discard” them as intrinsically being tied to the failure of a society and a political system, the exhibition dissects the buildings’ beauty and hidden spatial potential, hopefully opening up the horizon for possible second lives. Montenegro deserves recognition not only for the courage to present itself at the Biennale in such an unconventional way, but also for providing an important spark to the ongoing discussion on sustainability in the building sector. These structures represent a huge amount of potential energy and deserve a thorough evaluation of their future possibilities—this seems more intelligent than the erasure of all unwanted reminders of the country’s political past.“

Jan Edler, an artist and architect, founded realities:united with his brother Tim Edler in Berlin. Flussbad, their urban plan to turn a stretch of  the River Spree in Berlin into a 745-meter-long public “swimming pool,” was awarded the Global Holcim Awards Bronze in 2012 and recently received 110,000 Euros from the German Lottery Foundation to further develop the project.


Kleinheinz_Ostermann_Foto Jan KopetzkyMartin Ostermann and Lena Kleinheinz, photo by Jan Kopetzky

“For those of us who are looking out for what is to come in architecture, this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale was a challenge. Retreating into an archive of artifacts from the past, the main exhibition stops short of suggesting any position, outlook, or inspiration. The national pavilions largely adopted this same approach to the past, often leaving in the mist what the possible connection to contemporary issues could be. Reducing architecture to building elements and detaching walls, floors, and ceilings from one another robs the visitor of any sense of space. The Montenegro Pavilion addresses these deficiencies in two ways. Entering the pavilion, one encounters space: that of the gallery occupied by oversized spatial installations. Too big to be perceived as architectural models but too small to walk in, the installations embrace the visitors, who can almost sense the smells inside the original buildings that they represent. The chosen buildings are ruins—one was never finished, almost all are left abandoned. Their uses and designations as physical representations of the state have been outmoded over time. They are clearly from yesterday and thereby continue the Biennale thread of looking back. But their prominent locations, in combination with their redundancies, immediately trigger questions about their futures. The mind oscillates between the past, a different and forever lost political and economic condition; the present, structures void of use and meaning; and a future yet to be shaped. The Venice Biennale, at its best, is a place to investigate, discuss, discover, question, and imagine the past and future of architecture—the Montenegro Pavilion has the full spectrum.”

Lena Kleinheinz and Martin Ostermann are the founders and principals of Berlin-based magma architecture. The interdisciplinary firm won numerous awards for the design and construction of the Olympic and Paralympic Shooting Arenas at the 2012 London Olympics.

 Lisa_CorvaLisa Corva

“Yugo Reloaded. That was for me the Montenegro Pavilion, for me as a non-architect, a ‘glam cheap’ journalist and writer. The hidden force of the four beautiful, forgotten, decadent works of architecture chosen for the pavilion; and the stories they hide, glimpses of another era and other visionary, maybe more utopian times. I liked the wallpaper on the models reproducing graffiti, moss, and urban decay—a contemporary archi-wallpaper. And I like the fact that architecture, even if rotten and on the verge of crumbling, can still speak to us, whatever our nationality, profession, or passions. Stories whispering to my ear: and yes, I do listen.”

Lisa Corva is an Italian journalist and writer. She’s the author of many books, including Glam Cheap and Ultimamente mi sveglio felice, and blogs here.


mateja_vehovar_architektin_zuerichMateja Vehovar

“As a native of Yugoslavia and today a dual citizen of Slovenia and Switzerland, I am impressed by the extensive history of my native country. To see a generation building objects so bold and ambitious with such a strikingly natural relationship to their communities is very inspiring. The playful presentation of these treasures in disguise by a group of contemporary architects and curators gives me hope that there is still room for emotions in architecture today and in the future. The Montenegrin contribution is a must-see for every visitor to this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale.”

Mateja Vehovar is the co-founder and co-principal of the Zürich-based architecture firm Vehovar & Jauslin. They recently earned praise for their cloud-like canopy for a bus station in Aarau in Switzerland.


Wilfried_HackenbroichWilfried Hackenbroich

“Treasures in Disguise—the Montenegro Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale—was a great architectural experience. It has drawn attention to four modernist projects from the former Yugoslav era, which are today unused and might disappear soon. This exhibition might help save these projects, but it also shows in an intriguing way their architectural qualities.

The scale of the models is unusually large; the models seem to burst through the exhibition space. The visitor is drawn into the buildings and is immersed in their spaces. Without much further explanation, the qualities of each building become an experience for the visitors. This excellent exhibition design effectively argued for the value of these unique modernist buildings.”

Wilfried Hackenbroich is the co-principal of Hackenbroich Architekten, a firm focusing on architecture and urbanism in Berlin. He is the author of UN-Urbanism and Transit Spaces, and has taught at the University of Art in Berlin, the AA in London, and the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation.

What People Have to Say: Jürgen Mayer H.

June 20, 2014

Portrait_JMAYERH_Photo_PaulGreen01Photo by Paul Green

“Arriving in Venice is a journey of circling into an increasingly dense city fabric. From the open sky on the boat from the airport to the city and the large open space of San Marco, to the pedestrian shopping streets into alleys where few people walk: your body gets more and more compressed the longer you search for the Montenegro Pavilion at this year’s architecture biennale. After a couple of turns, you end up in front of a small door. You walk in and instead of a room, there are even narrower passages and corridors in which models have, like you, been squeezed into the space. This narrowness forces you to look into the interior of the large section models that make you feel the uncanny potential of an architecture that was meant to celebrate communal life. A view onto a wallpapered picture in the back of the model simulates the view onto the sea from a hotel on the bay of Kotor, Montenegro, and provides relief and an escape from this tight atmosphere. It’s a view of nice scenery, not only literally, but also as the possibly revitalized future of a forgotten period in Montenegro’s recent history.“

Jürgen Mayer H. is the founder and principal of the interdisciplinary Berlin-based architecture firm J. MAYER H. With his firm, he has realized architecture projects across Europe, including the award-winning Stadthaus Ostfildern in Germany and the Metropol Parasol in Seville, Spain.


Exhibition Photographs

June 17, 2014

The exhibition “Treasures in Disguise” centers on four communist-era buildings that are, with one exception, not in use today. Large-scale section models, combined with wallpapered photographs, brings to the fore the impressive interiors and spatial qualities of these buildings, drawing attention to both their unfortunate condition and great potential. In a blog post below, we’ve described in greater depth the strategy behind the exhibition’s scenography; here are some photos of the exhibition on display at the Montenegro Pavilion in Venice! 


IMG_9172_Hotel Fjord_JTThe display of Hotel Fjord in the first room at the Montenegro Pavilion, photo by Jacopo Tiso 
IMG_4455_Hotel Fjord_PPHotel Fjord model, looking from the entrance of the Montenegro Pavilion, photo by Patricia Parinejad 
IMG_4509domrevolucijeHotel Fjord model, with a large-scale photograph of the picturesque Bay of Kotor in the background, model photo by Patricia Parinejad 
IMG_4463_Hotel Fjord_PPDetail of the Hotel Fjord model, photo by Patricia Parinejad 
IMG_9383_Hotel Fjord_JT_2Hotel Fjord, looking toward the entrance of the Montenegro Pavilion, photo by Jacopo Tiso 
IMG_9305_Dom Revolucije_JTVisitors checking out the model of Dom Revolucije on the evening of the opening, photo by Jacopo Tiso
IMG_9304_Dom Revolucije_JTModel of Dom Revolucije, which occupies the second room of the exhibition, photo by Jacopo Tiso
IMG_4500_Dom Revolucije_PPDetail of the Dom Revolucije model, photo by Patricia Parinejad 
IMG_4516domrevolucijeDetail of the Dom Revolucije model, photo by Patricia Parinejad 
IMG_4569domrevolucijeThe model of Dom Revolucije is approximately two meters deep, photo by Patricia Parinejad 
IMG_4507domrevolucijeModel of Dom Revolucije, looking toward the third room and Spomen Dom model, photo by Patricia Parinejad 
IMG_4579spomendomModel of Spomen Dom, photo by Patricia Parinejad 
IMG_4597spomendomModel of Spomen Dom, photo by Patricia Parinejad 
IMG_4598spomendomDetail of the interior of the Spomen Dom model, depicting the currently unused hall, photo by Patricia Parinejad 
IMG_4601spomendomPanels providing additional visual and textual information on Spomen Dom, photo by Patricia Parinejad 
IMG_4587spomendomLooking from the third room to the final room of the exhibition, photo by Patricia Parinejad 
IMG_9376_Kayak Club Galeb_JTThe fourth and last room was filled with a large model of Kayak Club Galeb, photo by Jacopo Tiso
IMG_4604Model of Kayak Club Galeb, with a large-scale photograph of River Morača in the background, model photo by  Patricia Parinejad
IMG_4611klubgalebDetail of the Kayak Club Galeb model, photo by Patricia Parinejad
IMG_4609klubgalebPanels describing the architecture and context of Kayak Club Galeb, photo by Patricia Parinejad

The Montenegro Pavilion is Now Open!

June 6, 2014

Yesterday, Treasures in Disguise opened to a packed audience at the Montenegro Pavilion at the Palazzo Malipiero.  Present in the crowd were Branislav Mićunović, the Montenegrin Minister of Culture, Branimir Gvozdenović, the Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism, the commissioners of the pavilion, and members of the press.

Gvozdenović, the Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism, kicked off the opening with a speech in Montenegrin. His speech asked Montenegrins and all present to reject a black-and-white interpretation of the past, to avoid pigeon-holing buildings built during the Yugoslavian period as the product of a “wrong time.” For him, Treasures in Disguise shows that Montenegro is ready to reevaluate its ignored architectural legacy and to rehabilitate buildings that are currently unused and decaying.  Andreas Ruby, one of the commissioners, concluded the opening by reminding us that architecture has the ability to live through different historical periods and that the Hotel Fjord, Kayak Club Galeb, Spomen Dom, and Dom Revolucije could develop trajectories as rich and sustainable as those of Hagia Sophia or Diocletian’s Palace, which have over time been reappropriated to serve different needs. For this to happen, Montenegrin civil society needs to discover the hidden values of these buildings, which are tainted with the failure of the society that produced them; by highlighting their architecture, Treasures in Disguise hopes to initiate a conversation about their future.

We’d like to thank everyone who came to the opening; if you couldn’t make it yesterday, you missed out on delicious home-made Bellinis, but the Montenegrin Pavilion still awaits your presence!


IMG_2109Gvozdenović, the Minister of Sustainable Development and Tourism, giving a speech in Montenegrin, which was translated into English by commissioner Dijana Vučinić. Also pictured are commissioners Boštjan Vuga and Ilka Ruby.
IMG_2110Commissioner Andreas Ruby giving a speech, standing next to him are commissioners Simon Hartmann, Nebojša Adžić, and Ilka Ruby
IMG_2117The crowd at the opening of Treasures in Disguise—the Montenegro Pavilion
IMG_2123The party spilled outside into the streets.

How To Get Here

June 4, 2014

We’re looking forward to welcoming you all at the Montenegro Pavilion cocktail opening tomorrow at 18:00! Finding the pavilion is easy, but here are some tips to make finding it even easier.
Water transportation to the Montenegro Pavilion is very convenient—the pavilion is located between the Campo San Samuele and the Accademia vaporetto stops. If you’re traveling from the Giardini, line 2 will take you to Campo San Samuele and Accademia in around 15 minutes. From the Arsenale, you can take line 1 to Accademia or Campo San Samuele. You can also Google map the location by clicking here.



Map showing how to get to the Montenegro Pavilion by vaporetto. If you prefer walking, follow the directions to Accademia. Before you reach the Accademia bridge, take the first turn to the right and follow the directions showed in the map above.
10338286_10204037632009116_8817174642899707850_nIf you’re alighting at Campo San Samuele, look out for this totem pole pointing you in the right direction.
IMG_2089And you’ll know you’ve arrived at the Montenegro Pavilion when you see this flag flying above.

Why did Nikšić stop building the Dom Revolucije?

June 4, 2014

The construction of Dom Revolucije, designed by architect Marko Mušič, started in 1979 and ended in 1989. The reason for closing the construction site is bound to the political situation at the end of the 80s; the gradual dissolution of Yugoslavia put the cost of constructing the building solely on the shoulders of the small city of Nikšić. Here’s an excerpt from the exhibition catalogue, penned by Borislav Vukićević, describing the situation:

“In the years after Josip Broz Tito’s death—the 1980s—it was no longer possible to rely on financial aid from other parts of Yugoslavia, and not even on other cities in Montenegro. For one very simple reason: in the previous period there were immoderate expenses and the debts had piled up, and since nobody thought seriously about the financial sustainability of initiated projects or of the paying back of the loans, i.e. the debt—the crash was inevitable. The design for the Home of the Revolution in Nikšić was too ambitious, and as such it depended on external assistance. When it turned out that this assistance was no longer there, everything landed on the shoulders of the Nikšić economy, which used to be strong, but not strong enough to realize the Home of the Revolution project.”


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Construction work on the Dom Revolucije ended in 1989. Image courtesy of Marko Mušič’s archive.

Countdown to Venice—3 days!

June 2, 2014
Three more days left until the opening of the Montenegro Pavilion, and our team in Venice is making great progress building the Treasures in Disguise exhibition. Here’s a visual update from Venice!


IMG_8746Alban Bislimi, Jovana Miljanić, Jure Sadar, Laura Sattin, Chiara Paone, Jacopo Tiso, Nina Vuga, and Elena Zadra are working together on the models and the exhibition
IMG_8700The section model of Dom Revolucije, with the building’s indoor amphitheater clearly in view
IMG_8772Images of Dom Revolucije’s existing condition are glued on the model, showing some of the graffiti in the unfinished and abandoned building
IMG_8949Working on the section model of Spomen Dom, both from within and outside the model
IMG_8957The model of Spomen Dom is large enough to fill up one of the rooms at the Montenegro Pavilion and provides ample views of the building’s interior
IMG_8846Working in the sunny courtyard of the Palazzo Malipiero; come join us for the pavilion opening here!

Click here for more images of the team’s progress!


Treasures in Disguise Flag

June 2, 2014

The screen-printed Treasures in Disguise flags for the Montenegro Pavilion have been produced in Berlin and are on their way to Venice! The flags, which were designed by Berlin-based designers Belgrad, play on not only the name Montenegro, the “black mountain,” but also the lasting legacy of the Venetian rule of the area. The Republic of Venice was a nation of seafarers; sailing across the Adriatic from their island capital, they dominated the current coast of Montenegro and traded with Kotor, then an independent nation state, for four centuries starting from 1420. Venetian culture had a great influence on the Adriatic as a whole and Montenegro in particular; that legacy is perhaps most evident in the country’s name, Montenegro, which is a Venetian calque of Crna Gora (click here to learn about the name’s origin). Today, too, Montenegro is known for its picturesque coastal area, 295 kilometers long, and dramatic mountain range that plunges into the Adriatic Sea.






IMG_4507domrevolucijeTreasures in Disguise at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, photo by Patricia Parinejad 

The Montenegro Pavilion at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale presents four examples of late-modernist architecture that were built in Montenegro between 1960 and 1986. When these buildings were first constructed, they radiated their builders’ enthusiasm and confidence about the new society they were building. Only a few decades later, these buildings embody the complete opposite: poorly used (if at all) and maintained (if ever completed), they are a testament to the failure of modernism. Nobody seems to be able to recognize any value in them; hence, their fate seems sealed: decay and demolition.

But how can something that was born out of such collective optimism lose its promise in such a short period of time? Is the demise of these buildings really due to an intrinsic lack of quality, or have we been unable to treat them with enough empathy to find the dormant potential that might be hidden underneath the patina of our own ideological disenchantment with modernism?

It is heart-rending that most of these buildings today do little more than monumentalize the failure of past ideologies. People are partly fascinated by and partly abhor the allure of these modern-day ruins. But the challenge presented by these buildings is more than just esthetic: it’s a question of use. These buildings can and should be reused. That the political narratives that motivated their construction originally have disappeared does not make these buildings irrelevant. On the contrary: the visionary surplus of this architecture, still tangible even in its ruinous state, should make us ask ourselves what visions we might have today for these structures.

There should be no inhibitions, especially no fear of the past and its ideological charges, to discourage contemporary attempts to work with these projects, which may be just as unfinished as the project of modernity itself. Architectural history is filled with examples of buildings that have led multiple lives in different historical periods: the Parthenon, Hagia Sophia, or Diocletian’s Palace, for example. The four buildlings presented here—and the many more they stand for as exemplary projects—could develop similarly exciting trajectories if the people of Montenegro were to engage in a public debate over how this architecture can become an incubator for the continued evolution of the cultural, political, and economic landscape of this young country.


Dom Revolucije

Architect: Marko Mušić
Location: Nikšić, Montenegro
Years of construction: 1979-1989, unfinished
Area (built): 20,468 square meters

Photograph courtesy of Marko Mušič’s archiveImage courtesy of Marko Mušič’s archive
IMG_4602Image courtesy of Luka Bošković

View more images of Dom Revolucije during construction and in its present condition

The original design brief for the Dom Revolucije (“Revolution Home” in English) stipulated that the building’s surface area should measure 7,230 square meters. However, during the design process, the surface area tripled to 21,738 square meters. Dom Revolucije was built as a memorial to those who died during the Second World War and as a landmark and cultural center for the city of Nikšić. At the time, Nikšić was one of the industrial centers of Yugoslavia. Construction work on the building stopped in 1989.

Hotel Fjord

Architect: Zlatko Ugljen
Location: Kotor, Montenegro
Year of construction: 1986
Area: 13,360 square meters

Hotel Fjord

hotel fjord interior_RubyView more images of the Hotel Fjord in its original and present condition

Hotel Fjord stands in a prime location, at the very end of Boka Kotorska Bay and close to Kotor’s historic center, a UNESCO-protected site. The design by Zlatko Ugljen, a Yugoslavian architect of Bosnian origin, was selected through an open architecture competition. When it was completed in 1986, the hotel had 155 rooms, four suites, and many amenities, including restaurants, bars, tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a conference center. After nineteen years operating as a hotel, the building was privatized and sold. In 2005, it was closed down and slated for demolition. Today, it is empty and unused.


Kayak Club “Galeb”

Architect: Vukota Tupa Vukotić
Location: Podgorica, Montenegro
Year of construction: 1960
Area: 411.50 square meters

Photograph courtesy of the National Archive of MontenegroImage courtesy of the National Archive of Montenegro

IMG_4377Image courtesy of Luka Bošković

View more images of Kayak Club “Galeb” in 1963 and in its present condition

Kayak Club “Galeb” is located in Podgorica, on the left bank of the Morača river, just above Labud beach. Initially, the building included a restaurant, beach café, and kayaking club. Galeb was abandoned after several attempts to maintain the beach bar; the original kayaking club did not last longer than one summer. The building is currently used by the kayaking club Morača, but it is in very poor condition and closed to the public.


Spomen Dom

Architect: Marko Mušić
Location: Kolašin, Montenegro
Year of construction: 1976
Area: 3,220 square meters


Image courtesy of Marko Mušič’s archive


Image courtesy of Luka Bošković

View more images of Spomen Dom in its original condition and present condition

Spomen Dom (“Memorial Home” in English) was built in 1976. It is located in the city center of Kolašin, in the northern part of Montengro. It was built to commemorate the first assembly of the National Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Montenegro and Boka (the southern region of Montenegro). In the following years, Spomen Dom was used as a cultural and administrative center for Kolašin and the surrounding area. Up until the early nineties, local authorities were in charge of the building’s maintenance. Now that its maintenance has been removed from the region’s budget, Spomen Dom is no longer looked after and has fallen into disrepair. A few years ago, the local authorities considered demolishing it in order to build a new tourist complex on the site. However, the plan to demolish Spomen Dom has been stalled by the economic crisis. The building is still used today for municipal administration and by local political parties. It is also considered one of Montenegro’s most beautiful examples of post-war architecture.



A symposium will take place aboard a boat on the Adriatic and at Hotel Fjord in Kotor. More details and information to follow.


The exhibition design for Treasures in Disguise consists of four large, atmospheric section models of the four buildings on display: Hotel Fjord, Dom Revolucije, Spomen Dom, and Kayak Club Galeb. At a scale of 1:10, these models will fill up approximately half of each of the four rooms of the Montenegro Pavilion at the Palazzo Malipiero. They are large enough for visitors to stick their heads in them, providing an opportunity to explore the spatial qualities of these buildings and of late-modernist architecture in former Yugoslavia. Glued on the models are photographic details depicting the current material textures, colors and decay of the buildings. The walls behind the models are wallpapered with atmospheric, large-scale photographs of the interiors or surroundings of the buildings. By fusing together the three-dimensional models and two-dimensional photographs into an almost seamless environment, the exhibition not only celebrates the architectural qualities of these buildings, but also exposes the deplorable condition that they’re in today. Panels with short texts introducing the buildings, old and new photographs, and architectural drawings on the opposite walls provide the essential information about each of the projects.

The exhibition scenography wants to provide visitors the opportunity for a close encounter with the  projects in order to emphasize their spatial qualities and potential as buildings, to introduce a different way of looking at this architecture. In the recent past, these structures have predominantly been studied through the lens of their ideological origin and programming. But given that these ideologies are no longer dominant in Montenegro today, this architecture risks being branded as a concrete necropolis of the failure and breakup of Yugoslavia, irreconcilable with Montenegro’s transition to a market economy. This haunting legacy makes it difficult to repurpose these buildings. With this exhibition, we’d like to add to the discourse of late-modernist architecture in Yugoslavia by exploring them primarily as buildings; we want to make them present as tangible spatial structures, so that you can imagine what it’s like to be in them and what they might offer Montenegro in the future.

Overall layout of the Montenegro Pavilion

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Model and plan of the Montenegro Pavilion, showing how the models occupy its four rooms: Hotel Fjord is displayed in room 1, Dom Revolucije in room 2, Spomen Dom in room 3, and Kayak Club Galeb in room 4

Model of Hotel Fjord

01 hOTEL 01 view 1
01 hOTEL 01 view 2

IMG_4455_Hotel Fjord_PP

IMG_4463_Hotel Fjord_PPPhotos by Patricia Parinejad 

Model of Dom Revolucije

01 Dom 01 view 1
01 Dom 01 view 2

IMG_9304_Dom Revolucije_JT

IMG_4500_Dom Revolucije_PPTop photo by Jacopo Tiso and lower photo by Patricia Parinejad 

Model of Spomen Dom

01 Spomen 01 view 3
01 Galeb 01 view 2


IMG_4597spomendomPhotos by Patricia Parinejad

Model of Kayak Club Galeb 

01 Galeb 01 view 4
01 Galeb 01 view 2


IMG_4609klubgalebModel and panels of Kayak Club Galeb, photos by Patricia Parinejad


Curators: Boštjan Vuga (SADAR+VUGA), Dijana Vučinić (DVARP), Simon Hartmann (HHF Architects), Ilka & Andreas Ruby (Ruby Press), and Nebojša Adžić.

Bostjan Vuga

Boštjan Vuga graduated from the Faculty of Architecture, Ljubljana, in 1992 and received a master’s degree from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. In 1996, Vuga and Jurij Sadar co-founded the architectural office SADAR+VUGA, which focuses on open, innovative, and integral architectural design and urban planning and has received numerous awards for its work.  The office is driven by a quest for quality and its conviction that pioneering architecture contributes to our well-­being and encourages the sensitive and responsive development of a physical environment that both broadens our imagination and stimulates our senses. Vuga regularly lectures at architectural schools, conferences, and symposia in Slovenia and at institutions abroad, including the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam, the Architectural Association, and the Architecture Design Innovation program at the Technische Universität Berlin. He is currently a guest professor at the University of Applied Sciences, Münster. Vuga guest edited two issues of the Architects’ Bulletin (ab) and has written about current events in architecture and urban planning for diverse publications.

Dijana Vucinic

Dijana Vučinić is a practicing architect. She recently founded DVARP, an interdisciplinary architectural and design practice with projects that range from urban design and residential buildings to stage design. Her work is based on research about the urban conditions of developing tourism areas on the coast and mountains of Montenegro. She is also the founder of the Kotor Architectural Prison Summer School (APSS), a platform in Kotor, Montenegro, for further research and development of urban structures. Since 2012, APSS has been investigating ways to redefine the relationship between the architectural and the urban scales in Montenegrin coastal cities and to improve the urban context through new approaches to urban planning and design. Vučinić writes for several periodicals and scholarly publications in Montenegro and is also a co-founder and member of the Urbanism and Architecture Association of Montenegro.


Simon Hartmann was born in Bern, Switzerland, in 1974.  Between 1994 and 2000, he studied at the ETH Lausanne, Technische Universität Berlin, and ETH Zürich. After graduating, Hartmann collaborated with Rolf Furrer Architekten and in 2002, he became a teaching assistant at the ETH Studio Basel, an institute for urban research. In 2003, he co-founded HHF Architects with Simon Frommenwiler and Tilo Herlach. Between 2009 and 2011, Hartmann taught as a professor at the Hochschule für Technik und Architektur Freiburg, where he now teaches the Joint Master of Architecture program. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Innsbruck in 2011. Since 2010, Hartmann has been a member of the Federation of Swiss Architects.

Andreas and Ilka Ruby

Ilka & Andreas Ruby publish, curate, teach, and consult on issues around architecture and urbanism. Trained as an architect and an architectural historian, respectively, Ilka Ruby and Andreas Ruby are the founders of textbild, an office for architectural communication, and Ruby Press, an award-winning publishing house. With Ruby Press, they have produced books such as Reasons for Walling a House, Building Brazil!, and City of God—Cidade de Deus!, all of which have been awarded the DAM Architecture Book Award. In 2012 they curated the exhibition Druot, Lacaton & Vassal—Tour Bois le Prêtre for the German Architecture Museum in Frankfurt, which ARTFORUM named one of the best exhibitions in 2013. They have organized several international symposia on architecture and design, such as the “Min to Max” symposium on affordable housing, and have taught at many universities, including Cornell University, University of the Arts Berlin, and École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture Paris Malaquais.  Ilka & Andreas Ruby are the founders of the German architecture debate platform

Nebojsa Adzic

Nebojša Adžić graduated from the University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Architecture in 1999. From 2003 and 2008, he worked as an assistant during the development of the University of Montenegro’s Faculty of Architecture in Podgorica. In 2011, the house that Adžić designed for his own family was selected to represent Montenegro for the Mies van der Roche Award. He is the current president of the Union of Architects of Montenegro and the founder of the first Montenegrin salon of architecture. He is one of the first architects in Montenegro to promote and apply sustainable, ecological, and energy efficient design. Adžić is currently involved in an urban renewal project in his hometown of Niksic and is also the editor of Architecture magazine and several books.


Collaborators: ​​Ivana Barišić, Alban Bislimi, Marija Ičević, Nathalie Janson, Zdenek Liška, Jovana Miljanić, Chiara Paone, Jure Sadar, Laura Sattin, Jelena Šćepanović, Jacopo Tiso, Jelena Vučić, Nina Vuga, Elena Zadra, Borislav Vukićević

Identity, graphic, and web design: Belgrad (Julian Schubert, Elena Schütz, Leonard Streich, Pieterjan Gandry)

Photographs: Luka Bosković , Ivan Čojbašić, Ana Crnić, Jelena Đurđic, Jovana Miljanić


Please join us for the opening of the Montenegro Pavilion on Thursday June 5 at 6 PM.

Opening: Thursday June 5, 2014, 6 PM
Press conference: Thursday June 5, 2014, 5 PM
Exhibition: June 7 to November 23, 2014, 10 AM to 6 PM, closed Mondays



Click here for a Google map of the Montenegro Pavilion

The Montenegro Pavilion can easily be reached by vaporetto, with either line 1 (stop: Campo San Samuele) or line 2 (stops: Campo San Samuele and Accademia). It’s approximately 15 minutes away from the Giardini with the express vaporetto line 2.

Montenegro Pavilion, Palazzo Malipiero, San Marco 3079




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“The Venice Biennale, at its best, is a place to investigate, discuss, discover, question, and imagine the past and future of architecture—the Montenegro Pavilion has the full spectrum.” – Lena Kleinheinz and Martin Ostermann (magma architecture, Berlin)


“Treasures in Disguise at the Montenegro Pavilion embodies the political potential that an architecture exhibition should aspire to—and does so while being beautifully designed, a bit quirky, and most importantly, thought provoking.” – Jesse Seegers (CCA, Montreal)


“Together, [the Montenegrin, Swiss, Korean, and Chilean] pavilions reveal the capacity of designers to go beyond what a historian can (or dares to) do: to look at history and present it as a potent question”  – Freek Persyn (51N4E, Brussels)


“The exhibition design of Treasures in Disguise is a truly persuasive way of presenting architecture, as opposed to the many over-designed or over-intellectualized exhibitions I’ve seen at the Biennale.” – Stefan Jauslin (Vehovar & Jauslin Architektur, Zürich)


“… it is about time that the unexplored Balkans get the attention they deserve on the international stage” – Joni Baboçi (Atelier Albania, Tirana)


“By taking the advantage of the small pavilion, you managed to make a powerful exhibition: powerful in presentation and, more importantly, in content” – Jana Kocbek and Davor Katušić (Katušić Kocbek Arhitekti, Zagreb and Ljubljana)


“It was the anti-heroic aspect of the exhibition that I liked so much. Lost or empty buildings are so much more powerful than those that are lived in—they represent a lost utopia.” – Brendan MacFarlane (Jakob + MacFarlane, Paris)


“… architecture, even if rotten and on the verge of crumbling, can still speak to us, whatever our nationality, profession, or passions.” – Lisa Corva (journalist, Italy)


“Montenegro deserves recognition not only for the courage to present itself at the Biennale in such an unconventional way, but also for providing an important spark to the ongoing discussion on sustainability in the building sector.” – Jan Edler (realities:united, Berlin)


“[The exhibition’s] focus on the interior resulted in a very exciting setting for re-interpretation.“ – Bora Baboçi (artist/architect, Tirana)


“The playful presentation of these treasures in disguise by a group of contemporary architects and curators gives me hope that there is still room for emotions in architecture today and in the future.” – Mateja Vehovar (Vehovar & Jauslin Architektur, Zürich)


 This excellent exhibition design effectively argued for the value of these unique modernist buildings.” – Wilfried Hackenbroich (Hackenbroich Architekten, Berlin)


 … a view of nice scenery, not only literally, but also as the possibly revitalized future of a forgotten period in Montenegro’s recent history.“ – Jürgen Mayer H (J. MAYER H., Berlin)


For press and media inquiries, please contact:

Schönholzer Str. 13/14
10115 Berlin

Tel. +49 – 30 – 30 34 99 31
Fax +49 – 30 – 30 34 99 32


Download the official press release of the opening of the Montenegro Pavilion:








Download the official press release of the Montenegro Pavilion:


Please click here to download high-resolution images. Images should be credited, but can be used free of charge.











Art Direction and Website: Belgrad Creative