Feathers on the Bora

architect Rikard Marasović
project Children's Health Resort, Krvavica, Croatia
written by Miranda Veljačić

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A ruin of a ‘draught’ condition may also be found in Krvavica, a small picturesque village three kilometres west of Makarska. The facility used to be a military hotel, and I think that today it is owned by Club Adriatic. This former hotel, architecturally circular as a flying saucer, is situated in a small forest on the beach. I found a reception desk table in one of the rooms, and I shall remember the facility by the fact that it was full of feathers. Feathers all over the place.


The village of Krvavica under the Biokovo massif became the ‘host’ of a very valuable architectural achievement in the 1960s: the Children’s Maritime Health Resort of Military Insured Persons by architect Rikard Marasović.


The facility is situated in the immediate vicinity of a pebble beach, in a large protected wooded area. With its arrangement it exploits the advantages of the terrain and it is positioned according to its features. The areas of the ‘children’s world’ against the spaces of the ‘world of adults’ form the basic structure of the building, they make a web of relations, overlapping and surprises.


A complex of ‘children’s world’ is developed toward the sea. Its organization is quite unexpected, inventive and ingenious with refined spaces, experiences and scale.


A levitating circular volume raised high above the ground floor creates the dominant feature of the children’s block, in which the rooms of the children’s in-patient clinic are situated.


The hovering ring is placed on the ground floor volume of the L-shape layout which unites social premises, a canteen, living rooms, playrooms and a TV room. All spaces may be mutually connected and additionally extended to the outer space by the system of large multi-winged doors. The arrangement of this volume divides the ground floor into the western entrance area and the eastern terrace with a garden in a simple but spatially impressive way. Its roof serves as a terrace at the level of the in-patient clinic, so that small children under special control could freely spend time in the open.


The division of the ground floor area under the circular volume is the key element of the project. It divides the area of movement, circulation, entrance and contact from the area of sojourn, playing, park, beach and oriented views. A two-arm ramp dominates the entrance area, which dynamically connects the ground floor with the first floor in the circular layout segment. This dimension of airy inter-space creates a representative character of the institution. The ramp, which continues to the circular corridor – gallery of rooms, brings a new dimension with its geometrically precise line, as a particular attraction for children, the playing area and the area for keeping company. The areas formed by the elevated volume and the park encircling it create a distinctive shady atmosphere which is pleasant for children, erasing the borders of the natural and artificial atmosphere of the forest in which it is situated.


Rooms are organized in 12-bed units in two separate rooms with a room for the staff on duty, lavatories and a fore-room in between. Each set has its own terrace at tree-top level. All areas are directly ventilated, while the bedrooms are lighted and ventilated from two sides. Such intersection of bedrooms enables ‘that each unit catches the light no matter on which part of the ring it is situated and may be protected from the gusts of wind no matter from which direction it is blowing’. A second important requirement solved by the intersection is getting the facility closer to the scale of the ambience through the play of roof surfaces and by harmonizing the heights and sizes of particular elements of the health resort. The crown of playful roof volumes from the lower side is calmed by a homogeneous rounded surface carried by centrally placed pillars of conical intersection. Thus the entire volume stands like a console on both sides emphasizing the impression of ‘hovering’.


The northern part of the complex is partly dug into the terrain which is inclined, and an access park is formed passing over its roofs. All service facilities, technical, medicinal and storage premises, outbuildings and staff apartments are situated in this part. Two low blocks of service premises form the outbuildings street, connected by a bridge.


A low dug-in block ends in a four-storey building for the hospital staff.


The administration and management part of the facility on the opposite side includes the admissions department, a clinic, the management and a kitchen block. The staff has its own communications within the facility, its own entrance with a roofed porch and separate movement lines. The structure and scale of the outbuildings, the treatment and articulation of their spaces, in the architectural and functional sense, represent a familiar and expected area of a health resort and ‘the world of adults’.


All the mentioned spatial qualities have been synthesized into a unique journey through supreme architecture. A decent arrangement on the coast, slightly shifted away from the beach and hidden in the forest, a dynamic loop of movement which makes all spaces active, a ‘levitated’ structure with an open space in the middle which opens the volume gradually enabling its connection with nature, an inventive construction and above all a subtle response to the imagination of a child’s world, make this building an exceptional example of a harmonious and organic relationship between architecture, landscape and the content housed by the building.


For a long time the health resort was strictly controlled by the military and inaccessible to villagers and tourists of Krvavica. It was also hidden and out of the focus of architectural interest. Numerous other military facilities had a similar destiny, which appeared in the public only after the demilitarization of military structures. Thus the military ceded an opus of extraordinary architectural achievements to local communities, privatization funds and public institutions. During the transitional period and rejection of the heritage of the socialist society, these exceptional works were devastated. The same thing happened to Vitić’s military culture centres, also to military hotels, summer resorts and administration buildings by other architects.


The former Children’s Maritime Health Resort with its destroyed inventory, scattered beds, and a devastated glass shell was left to deteriorate and it is waiting to be demolished. Devastated pieces of furniture from terraces, the beach equipment and canoes speak of the time of luxury which belonged to the youngest and the sick.


Carried by the famous Makarska bora, released feathers from children’s pillows travel today across circular ramps and corridors, while the building of the former children’s health resort is waiting for its uncertain destiny testifying of a time when social sensibility and architectural ambition represented self-explanatory synonyms. 


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