Almost half a century ago, in her extensive essay on tourism architecture in Croatia, Željka Čorak dreamed of vast tourist complexes as summer schools on engaging with nature, history and true urban life. The 1970s were still a period of belief in the possibility of balancing tourism and sustaining local social and urban authenticity. And not only that! According to Čorak, and other critics as well, tourism architecture should act as a mediator, encouraging the interaction between a guest and a host, communicating values of local culture and extending the local urbanity with a new layer that follows the logic of organically created historical places and picturesque landscapes. Significant efforts were invested, texts were written, studies and urban plans made. Concrete measures were taken on the ground so Jakša Miličić, the mayor of Split, during whose mandate Split 3 was built, claimed that the building inspectors equipped with dynamite and Zastava 750 cars (the so-called Fićo) patrolled the edges of the city, blowing something up every now and then. However, neither the urban plan nor the critical text or the dynamite intimidation could protect the east Adriatic coast from the expansion of deregulated conurbations.
The creation of the model examples of planned apartment complexes for the market, such as the pioneering ČevrarPorat or Mareda and Gajac, had all been in vain, much like the small and harmoniously planned weekend complexe like Jadrija near Šibenik and Grabar near Cres Town, to name a few. Even if hotel architecture was somewhat restrained and planned, the poorly regulated zimmer-frei economy, combined with illegal construction, proved to be a toxic mix. Zimmer-frei is one of the least demanding businesses; it requires no knowledge, and anyone can engage with it, provided they own a piece of land and build something on it, whatever that may be. An older research project by Platforma 9.81 showed that the expectations of tourists regarding accommodation were prosaic: a parking spot, a grill, air conditioning, a satellite TV and the proximity of a biergarten. Today, the list should be complemented with a wi-fi network and preferably a state subsidized swimming pool. All sophisticated reflection on the forms of architectural and urban planning regionalism fell through faced with the simple law of supply and demand, and the political buying of social order that was finalized with the Building Legalization Act. The curse of the easy accessibility of the warm Adriatic Sea from central Europe by car seems so powerful that even the post-corona world and further complications regarding the flights’ regulation potentially go in its favour.