EU Young Architects Award for TU Graz graduate

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How Dinko Jelecevic developed a space for a shared vision of the future from a p
How Dinko Jelecevic developed a space for a shared vision of the future from a place of destruction earned him one of Europe’s most prestigious young architects’ awards. (Image source: Dinko Jelecevic)

By Ute Wiedner

With the revitalisation of the Vraca monument, Dinko Jelecevic wanted to give an unwanted historical legacy in Sarajevo a new place in society. His Master’s thesis was awarded the Young Talent EUmies Award 2023.

Only five kilometres from the old town of Sarajevo, Vraca Castle is located in the extensive memorial park of the same name on the slopes of Mount Trebevic. In four different periods of the 20th century, the site was a fortress, execution site, memorial and military base. Built as an Austro-Hungarian fortress, Vraca functioned as an execution site and collection point for deportations during the Second World War. Converted into a museum and memorial park of the anti-fascist resistance during the Yugoslav era, the 78,000-square-metre site was used as a base for the siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War of the 1990s and was largely destroyed in the process. The post-war government of the new state of Bosnia and Herzegovina declared the park a national monument in 2005 and partially restored it. The unloved national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been the target of deliberate destruction time and again since the end of the Bosnian war in 1995 and is today - largely abandoned to decay - closed to the public.

Model of the historical fortress in the Vraca project with the memorial park of the anti-fascist resistance; the monument to national heroes and heroines can be seen in the foreground. Image source: Dinko Jelecevic

Playground in the midst of destruction

This difficult legacy is the starting point and at the same time the motivation for Dinko Jelecevic’s Master’s thesis entitled VALTER - Vraca Forum Sarajevo, which was recently awarded the Young Talent mies Award 2023. For Jelecevic, the derelict site is a setting of his childhood. "This place was a playground of my childhood and youth. Because of this personal connection, it was important to me to present a concept in my Master’s thesis on how the fortress and the memorial park could be revived - even though there are currently no concrete implementation plans on the part of the city administration," explains the TU Graz graduate.

View of a space of encounter in the new design by Dinko Jelecevic.
Image source: Dinko Jelecevic

It is precisely the complex history of Vraca and its precarious geostrategic position on the borderline between the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska that Jelecevic sees as a spatial potential and an opportunity for emancipation from the past. How he developed a space for a shared vision of the future from a place of destruction earned him one of Europe’s most prestigious young architects’ awards. In its minutes, the award jury emphasises that the VALTER project excellently demonstrates the potential of architecture as an instrument of mediation between the past and the present - and at the same time points the way to the future.

The mies Awards in honour of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe are awarded for outstanding contemporary architecture. Every two years, alternating with this, there are prizes for young graduates in the fields of architecture, urban planning and landscape architecture. Dinko Jelecevic’s winning project, as well as the projects of all the finalists, will be on display at Palazzo Mora until November 2023 as part of the exhibition programme of the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Integration of the past

In his design of VALTER, Jelecevic explores the historical layers and relates the spatial elements to the events of the past. From this, based on the concept of palimpsest, i.e. overwriting, he develops a new layer: the forum. "The forum typology provides a platform for collaborative understanding of the contested past and enables the creation of a participatory society of the future," says Jelecevic, explaining his holistic approach. Architecturally, the forum is enclosed in a new body, which clearly stands out from the historical building through the material used. This body floats above the complex and forms an architectural bracket that brings together what has been and what is to come.

Dinko Jelecevic first studied in Sarajevo and Barcelona and completed his Bachelor’s degree at the Faculty of Architecture at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz). He completed his Master’s degree in Architecture there in 2022. His final thesis VALTER - Vraca Forum Sarajevo was supervised by Petra Petersson at the Institute of Construction and Design Principles (KoeN) . Currently Jelecevic works freelance in the field of 3D visualisation in an architectural office in Graz and on various projects with his partner Ena Kukic.

This axonometry shows the existing elements of Vraca fortress in grey and the elements added in the VALTER project in red. Image source: Dinko Jelecevic

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