September 21, 2012

Interesting Architecture in Majdanpek

The first time I wrote about Majdanpek I had never been there. But when I found out about this town made from scratch I was so fascinated that I made it a stop during my last travel through Eastern Serbia. Here my entire collection of pictures of Majdanpek:

Majdanpek boomed because of the the copper mine. This is the administration building.

Majdanpek is really a big surprise when arriving from the Djerdap National Park: after a 20 minutes ride through a lush forrest in a hilly surrounding you enter the town from the top where a bunch of highrise buildings are revealed. Townplanning on a big scale!

interesting facade compositions

the youth club
very urban architecture in the middle of the mountains

The main square with the hotel and and youth club

Former Hotel Kasina (now Golden Inn)
Swanky Interiors
A consistently color scheme
Wide empty roads in the city center

The first reserves of copper ore in in the South district of  the Majdanpek mine, were found at the end of the 1953 and at that time amounted to 85 million tonnes of ore with an average copper content of 0.83 percent. Based on that, and assuming further research, the Federal Executive Council of the then Yugoslavia made on 16 April, 1954 a decision on the establishment of the "Copper Mine Majdanpek“.
The 70's style concrete constructions are present in the entire city
Mix of modern architecture with mountain pines

After founding the coppermines the numer of inhabitants increased constantly and went from 2'000 in 1948 up to 12'000 in 1991. When United Nations imposed sanctions against FR Yugoslavia in 1992 the economic situation became difficult. Since then the population is in constant diminuition.

Colored house row in the city center
Majdanpek Tourist Map
The Hospital
The Post office

September 17, 2012

"Gastarbajterske Kuce" in Eastern Serbia

Long time ago I wrote about this phenomenon on Balkan Crew: it was a post about the "Gastarbeiter"-Houses built by migrant workers (Gastarbeiter is the German word for guest-worker and referred specially to migrant worker from the Balkans who went to work in Former West Germany in the 1960's and 70's).

A row of a modest version of the Gastarbajterske Kuce

It didn't change much since then, what concerns the building of prestigious Villas and enormous Houses in the Home Country: the effort to make money in the West (under arduous circumstances) has to be showed off back home as a reward for the hassle! It's easy to impress the local people with a house that blasts in size and decorations.
Flamboyant details
 I made a tour through Eastern Serbia and collected pictures of all pure traditional and modern socialist architecture. But as ridiculous and grotesque this "Gastarbejterske Kuce" (Migrant Worker Houses) look, I thought it's worth to make a little collection also of those!
Crazy details: a Eiffel Tower in the garden
To understand this phenomenon there are a few facts that needs to be explained: Eastern Serbia is the most economically challenged region of Serbia and has one of the biggest amount of migrants. Almost all migrants have a modest school background and work as unskilled workers in West European Countries (mostly Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria). Rearly one of them has a understanding of Serbian vernacular architecture or bothers about it. Main goal of the house is to impress the surrounding. The functional aspect is much less important, not rarely the house doesn't correspont to the needs of the families at all.
enormous size and many exaggerated details
 Almost all those houses are in little villages far from urban vicinity, for some of them there is not even a paved road to reach them. The houses itself are made with expensive materials and fittings, the land where they stay is usually worth just a couple of dinars. The biggest part of them are occupied only for a month during the summer.
Hollywood Style in Eastern Serbia
 I don't want to mention in which villages I took the pictures to respect the privacy of the owners. For me those houses are a bit of an attraction even if they're far away to fit into the surrounding and look a little bit helpless with its mix of random styles.
no limit architecture
Almost like in a fairy tale

September 13, 2012

Modern Pirot Buildings

Highrises in Pirot
Pirot is a really interesting town regarding architecture. You can find well kept precious traditional buildings in a typical South-Eastern Serbian style (like I show in my last post). But there are plenty of good modern buildings as well, in fact the very center is a modern cluster of interesting 70'/80's- building.

TV Pirot Building on the main sqare: concrete structure and geometrical shapes
More peculiar buildings on the main sqare

A few years ago, Pirot underwent again remodelling of the city center. The main square was given a new look: green isles, some new planted trees, fountains, light and a lot of concrete should spruce up the city center.
a city square in a modern manner
Only after sundown people start to visit the square, in summer the hot stones and big concrete surfaces do not invite for a stay
The Square feels empty due to lack of shade and cozy corners. Also an atmosphere killer is the huge empty "Hotel Pirot" on the head of the square. The beautiful building is unfortunately closed and needs renovation works.
Beautiful but not in use: Hotel Pirot
Spooky exposure on the mains Square
The empty building is on a fantastic location: Full City Center!
Behind the empty building there is a extension of the main square......
....the extension looks like this: a "modern" pedestrian zone (from the 70's)
boardwalk behind the main square
the older modern buildings are being complemented with newer pieces
the residential buildings in the same style

September 9, 2012

Traditional Pirot: Ponisavlje Museum

The birth-house of Hristic Family was earlier called Konak malog Riste and represents the best preserved cultural monument of Pirot's traditional architecture from the middle of 19th century. Since 1968 it's used as National Museum (Address: Nikole Pasica 49, Pirot) and desplays ethnografic items.
The building was built in 1848 by Pirot trader Hristo Jovanovic, as the most prestigous building in town. The edifice itself by its architecture and details has all characteristics of Balkan-oriental style.

This style was was typical for the period of Turkish domination throughout 19th century and usually buildings were made of a half-timbered construction, the so called bondruka construction (see here) and had typical outlets: verandas, porches, gazebos and wooden bow windows.
The interior were layed out with rugs (pirot cilims) covering the floors, walls and seats.
It's basically a type of symmetrical buildings almost a square floor plan with a cross hall. It consists of a basement, ground floor and first floor.  

On the bright white facades there are main decorative elements: wooden window frames and enhanced angles of the walls, covered with boards decorated with molded bars.

The museum shows oriental Balkan interiors and old hand-crafts of the region. Pirot is known for its artsy rugs the Cilim.
The beginning of Pirot rug weaving tradition dates back to the 16th century, followed by the sheep-breeding expansion and farming development. Ornaments, their shape and colors make Pirot's rug recognizable everywhere in the world. They are full of symbolism and have Byzantine, Greek, Chinese and Turkish elements modified by Pirot's spinners' imagination and skills. On Pirot's rug geometric motifs are dominating and one of the most often is a rhombus - ornament with pre-historic tradition that also appears on ceramics, metal and bronze. Stylized form of branched tree in many varieties could be found on all oriental rugs and it is familiar to all Eastern nations.

The most important thing when it comes to the rug quality is the wool. For Pirot Cilim the wool of the Stara Planina Mountain's sheep is used in the manufactures of Pirot.

Spinning is done by a spindle and a distaff. Thicker fibers are used for rug base and they are not colored, unlike the thinner ones which are used for woof. Spun wool from the spindle is rewound on winder for straightening and after that it is winded into spools, which are later painted and whitened. Women from villages used to paint wool by themselves in nut's and ash's barks, as well as in onion scales. It's been painted with natural colors for a long time, but recently aniline colors appeared. Old herbal colors were bright red (cinnabar), livid (indigo), bright blue and dark green, green, black, coffee-brown and yellow.(exerpts quoted from