History of O

architect Nenad Fabijanić
project O House, Silba, Croatia
written by Nikola Polak


The midnight train to Rijeka, overcrowded with people and heat, endless rocking half asleep on the smoky deck of one of the ferries named after poets, the whiteness of the brand new steamboat that still smells of the Pula shipyard, past midday, anchored in complete July silence, the fragrant green island at last: Silba, the first sea of a seven-year-old back in 1956, the sea in which I learned to swim. The black scorpion, a trophy in alcohol, which my mother found behind the wall mounted porcelain salt cellar in the rented old house, stood enthroned in my room in Zagreb until my student days, next to the cave bear’s tooth that I happily dug up deep down in an Istrian cave with my father and the academician Malez only the following summer. I kept coming back to Istria, but I only sailed past Silba. Its wrinkled, pearly, sandy bottoms from which one cannot discern the sea, the darkness of tender July nights, unveiled by a kerosene lamp, the cold rainwater from the cistern, the intoxication of plants whose scents seem as though they were coming out of Lucija’s — the old Silbian medicine woman — bag, and, above all, the silence — the genius loci that hasn’t faded in all these sixty years.