Croatian Fiasco? No way!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Croatia's floating pavilion suffered structural damage on the way to this year's Venice biennale. (Courtesy Katarina Olujić)

“The biggest fiasco…in the history of Croatian architecture?” Well, not really, but there seem to be some architects in Croatia who are angry that their floating pavilion built for the current Venice biennale was destroyed before it reached its intended mooring at the Giardini.

In a press release just sent to us they claim:

The so-called Croatian floating pavilion designed for this year’s Venice Biennale by the group of architects and professors—Sasa Begovic, Marko Dabrovic, Igor Franic, Tanja Grozdanic, Petar Miskovic, Leo Modrcin, Silvije Novak, Veljko Oluic, Helena Paver Njiric, Lea Pelivan, Toma Plejic, Goran Rako, Sasa Randic, Idis Turato, Pero Vukovic, Tonci Zarnic—who used a huge amount of Croatian taxpayers’ money to build it, was never exhibited there because it has collapsed infamously, like a melted custard pastry, on its way. In spite of the fact that irreparable damage was caused by the structural failure, nobody took responsibility for the biggest fiasco in the history of Croatian architecture.

Poor lashing resulted in the partial collapse of the rebar pavilion on its voyage from Croatia. (Courtesy Katarina Olujić)

Ouch! Adequate stabilization was not possible due to scheduling and cost constraints. (Courtesy Katarina Olujić)

I was at the Venetian Giardini with several other journalists on the day the pavilion was meant to arrive, and we watched as the pavilion appeared in the hazy lagoon but never quite made it to the dockside, so in the spirit of Venice we settled in at the Giardini bar and enjoyed a spritz.

The pavilion in its pristine, pre-Venice condition. (Zelimir Grzancic)

In an email, one of the designers, Leo Modrcin, explained that “the Croatian pavilion was damaged during the transportation from Croatia to Venice. It required additional bracing for longer trips and exposure to the sea’s elements. The recommended removable scaffolding frame was not installed due to time and funding constraints. The lashing of the structure was executed by the towing company, but was obviously inadequate.”

The pavilion sets sail, and into fond biennale memory. (Zelimir Grzancic)

Obviously! But pavilions are by nature temporary and ephemeral, and this one at least looked great! We all know how important media images are to architecture, and it still remains one of my favorite pavilions in Venice.

22 Responses to “Croatian Fiasco? No way!”

  1. leslie says:

    My goodness what is this?! There are no “time and funding constraints” excuses in architecture, because habitable structures should be safe for people. These are basics, even Bob the Builder ( knows that !!!

  2. jenny says:

    Excellent footage of rhe crippled pavilion you can find at

  3. ann boub says:

    it was divine intervention that it collapsed in transit

  4. iq says:

    Heavens, this terrible rusted mesh-mash could have been a guillotine for some innocent child or granny, or both!

  5. rich says:

    This is the proof that architecture is not purely aesthetical represention but technical skill as well. Professors, professors, what are you teaching your poor students about?!

  6. Kaplan says:

    It is major scandal in Croatia because Ministry of Culrure gave the huge amount of taxpayers’ money for construction of the pavilion which was never exhibited at the Biennale. For the public money wasted by this bombastic failure several devastated schools or hospitals could have been renovated in the troubled and anguished country like Croatia!

  7. tabor says:

    my god, what a waste. such a phony just shouldn’t happen to serious architects.

  8. Hrvoje Horvat says:

    Because of their interrelated manipulations, mostly in getting public jobs with no competitions, or even through mimic ones, in Croatia authors of the Collapsed Pavilion are commonly known as the Architect Mob.

  9. jim says:

    i like the collapsed structure much more than the intended one.
    the failure state seems much more beautiful than the desired purity, and structure seemed to “settle” exactly to the way “it wanted”.
    on the second thought this pavilion could have been presented as a failure, a little bit like a dream project of the legendary lebbeus woods.
    architectural pavilions are temporary anyways and the best ones are experimental like this one.

  10. mart says:

    At first the authors of the crushed pavilion tried to cover it up, but after huge public and media pressure they were forced to hold the press conference ( where they attempted to mystify its collaps unsuccessfully and answered awkwardly to the journalists’ questions (

  11. fany says:

    Croatian Association of Architects and Chamber of Architects released the communique signed by presidents in order to inform general public that architectural community in Croatia has nothing to do with this disgraceful incident because Ministry of Culture and the authors didn’t take any responsibility for the collapse and waste of taxpayers’ money. The original document please find at

  12. Croatian Architect says:

    @jim: I appreciate that you like it. Because I like it too. But not for my money. I suggest that you personally finance their next “experiment”!

  13. mare says:

    @fany – they are about to be expelled from this vital institutions…

  14. Bill says:

    Does anyone doubt that the recommended transit bracing was not possible for budget reasons? What’s wrong with experimenting in a pavilion as they are meant to be temporary? This was more temporary than most and at the least was a spectacular “failure.” I saw several Venice pavilions that should have been sent out to sea!

  15. andrea says:

    I don’t see the clue. What is this “experiment” about? Shapes of collapse? Structural endurance without valid engineer’s calculations? Unsafeness in built structures? Architectural misconceptions? It seems that there are several cheaper ways to do that, especially in the middle of the economic crisis…

  16. yori says:

    Even art pieces have to be processed through structural calculations, not only because of the safety reasons. Imagine for example Anish Kapoor’s (public) installations collapsing. Absolutely unimaginable!!!

  17. jim says:

    back @croatian architect
    if i had the money i would invest in the next similar croatian experiment, whether failure or success; whatever may be the difference between the two.
    i like bill’s comment and his title of this blog because the potential of failure can have a larger impact than the supposed “success”.

  18. Bill says:

    Jim-Thank you and it was beautiful … I do understand some of the concerns people have for architecture that it be structurally sound but this was, I suppose a heroic failure on some levels… the designers tried to do something wonderous on a tiny budget and succeeded to create an ephemeral mirage on the Adriatic!

  19. Rob says:

    Reminds me if my first built structure, age 7: snow walls with a rebar roof. Result: collapsed due to weight 3 hours later (fortunately with no one inside). Lesson: In and of itself, rebar is a poor building material and requires stabilization (i.e., concrete) to be of use. Basic stuff that every architect should know.

  20. Lateral resistance says:

    Croatia and Italy both have earthquakes, so to them all of this must be obvious:

    Structures resist lateral stress by one of three ways: a rigid joint, a panel/diaphragm, or diagonal bracing. Those straps were diagonal, but the expectation was that they could rely on a rigid plane (diaphragm) integrated within the structure, they did not have. When the barge turned or rolled, this structure was unable to resist such forces.

    It is actually remarkable the thing got so close to Venice! But then, it would be interesting to know how far it had traveled to be within hailing distance.

  21. Zuckerwasser says:

    I agree with Jim and Bill. The pavilion is incredibly astonishing monument to the state of Croatian State: done by mafia with taxpayers’ money, gamble with people’s safeness, rusty and sinking, candy floss to the outside…

  22. jim says:

    to @zuckerwasser: :)

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