Silent Longing

author Ante Mardešić
project Mala Mara House, Vis, Croatia
written by Nenad Kondža


Then you look at me, as you sit beside me, Smiling mildly, asking what’s with me. On your balcony, at the crack of dawn, I’m light as a feather and doing well. Arsen Dedić: On Your Balcony

Designing a house in an olive grove, in Kut, on the island of Vis, overlooking a stunning bay with a number of space planning constraints, is a task that is only a pure delight at first.
And then reality kicks in, as the urban determinants of our cities – that is, what we would gladly like to call urbanism, which in fact is actually non-existent – consist of proprietary parcels registered in the cadastre and the determinants of spatial plans concerning maximum lot coverage. Thus, houses emerge as a sum of parameters, the most important of which is the size of the parcel, which only has to exceed the minimum size imposed by the plan, and which determines the size of the house, as well as its location in space. And that is where the story of urbanism ends, and the story of architecture begins. It is, therefore, clear that the architect’s skill is of utmost importance for today’s image of cities, because for a historical part of a settlement, clear and contextual in urban terms, an individual house of a better or worse quality is not crucial. And so, today’s new parts of cities are remembered more by the houses than by the spatial couplexes. Unfortunately, there are not many that we remember. When designing the Mala Mara (Little Mara) house, Mardešić utilized and upgraded all the location’s characteristics, using the planned maximum length of the house of fourteen meters as an advantage, as an opportunity for additional quality. Obviously, it was only logical that a house had to be drawn linearly, in which all living spaces would use the most valuable thing of the context, and that was the view. And how to design a single storey house where all the rooms have a terrace on the plot, within the constraints imposed by the plan and the self-imposed restrictions that say that all important spaces must have a view and a terrace within the plot? So, one designs one room as a separate pavilion (calling it the auxiliary building) and connects it with a full canopy to the rest of the house. It is important to know that Mardešić’s living spaces are common spaces and people live them outside and inside. The private and the public come dangerously close, but do not threaten to blend, but rather show the emergence of a new drive that promises life without pomp and glamour, sufficiently hedonistic and ascetic at the same time. Senko Karuza: Nine Houses
Putting the value of the view before the orientation (the primary spaces are oriented towards the bay, with northern exposure) and letting the southern light in, through smaller openings with a high parapet also suits the context because his houses are all well placed, really locally contextual, created out of the needs of the user and the place of origin, drawn together with the ground, with the courtyard, which is the determinant of the house in the beginning of designing, and which becomes the focus of the living space in the end, where the house, the terraces, and the courtyard all merge into an indivisible whole, with the walls disappearing and becoming part of some self-contained cartography.