13 Unfinished Architectural Relics of the Yugoslav-era
Updated: Apr 4
The 1980s era in Yugoslavia could be characterized by its substantial amount of economic crisis and turmoil. During the first five years of the decade, the value of the Yugoslav dinar compared to the dollar plunged from 15 to 1,370 and hyperinflation ran wild. Then, as the 1990s approached, Socialist Yugoslavia was dismantled, new states were created, political situations change and a long series of wars began. On top of all that, the eager eyes of privatization loomed over all state-owned assets in the post-socialist era. It was within this tumultuous economic, political and social atmosphere that dozens of large-scale construction projects going on across Yugoslavia were forced to reckon and keep their heads above water. While most of such building projects were eventually able to pull through and complete their projects in some shape or form, there were some, however, that were so not so lucky. Some of these large-scale construction project, only partially completed, were stricken and struck down by some or all of the above-mentioned afflictions, leaving their huge unfinished forms (sometimes decayed, sometimes destroyed) haunting the landscape for decades, standing as bitter reminders of the past, reminders of war, reminders of corruption, reminders of promises unkept or simply a reminder of what was lost. It is these such sites that we will examine and investigate in this article.
In each entry in this article, we will examine the history of the building in question, investigating the impetus of the building’s creation, who built, why was it built, who funded it, what circumstances led to its demise and what has been its ultimate fate. Furthermore, we will look at how these derelict idle buildings affected the communities in which they reside and what might be in store for their futures. Many of these locations are sparsely written about (as some would rather have them be forgotten) and they all are rarely, if ever, compared side-by-side, so, this article will most certainly be the first exercise in all of them being grouped and examined as a whole. As such, I hope the stories and trajectories of these ruined sites all brought together and collectively evaluated might impart some level of historical insight or clarity that might not have existed when looking at them individually. Meanwhile, some of these sites are so old and have been sitting neglected, abandoned and forgotten for so many decades that many young people who live amongst them and see them every day may have absolutely no concept whatsoever of what they are, why they are there, why they sit forgotten or what they were ever supposed to be in the fist place. Perhaps some of these young people will find this article and learn their stories. Lastly, this is a collection of the few sites of this nature of which I am aware. If any readers of this article are aware of further sites that fit into this category, please reach out to me so I can continue to add to this list into the future.
Staklena Banka, Mostar, BiH
Name: Staklena Banka (The Glass Bank)
Location: Mostar, BiH
Architect: Dragan Bijedić
Year started: around 1987
Coordinates: 43°20'38.8"N, 17°48'22.4"E
In 1987, construction work began on a new business tower and banking center for the Slovene financial company “Ljubljanska banka” in the heart of Mostar, BiH, right next to the popular HIT Department Store. Designed by Sarajevo architect Dragan Bijedić (who is also known for designing the colorfully famous “Papagajka” in Sarajevo with Mladen Gvozden), this tower came to be known as the “Staklena Banka” or “The Glass Bank”, referring to the buildings unique sheer glass facade, which was to be the first building in Mostar to have such a flashy contemporary styling. In addition to a bank, this facility was also intended to eventually house the administrative offices for the regional Sokol Association and the local aluminum plant. The building had reached its final height (about 30m tall) and its last stages of completion by 1992, thus becoming the tallest building in Mostar for that period. At that point, the sharp angular structure was adorned with its blue glass facade installed within an aluminum framework across all of its 10 floors, while its 8,400 sq m of office space was being prepared for office tenants. However, the Bosnian War which began that year indefinitely delayed the opening of the Glass Bank. Through the course of that war, the tower’s high vantage point led to it being used as a sniper’s nest by soldiers, which, as a result, led to the the structure being targeted by artillery fire. Subsequently, the entire building was devastated to such a degree that, by the end of the war, all that was left was the tower’s concrete skeleton.
After the Bosnian War, the Glass Bank building was left in ruins and remained that way for many decades. The decaying tower still retained the aluminum lattice on its facade until about 2009 (which still even held on to a few original blue glass panes), however, by 2010 the lattice was remove from the exterior. Its derelict remains became an attraction for homeless people, drug users, graffiti artists and curious urban explorers. Many of the “alternative” local tourist guides even began to bring eager foreigners there who were looking to relish in the region’s ruins of war, with the popular American travel website Atlas Obscura even having a profile page dedicated to the site. Though, while it has been a popular tourist site for Mostar, this destroyed concrete hulk has hung as a burden around the neck of the city for decades now, with legal and administrative roadblocks preventing any progress on the site.
However, in 2017, the government of FBiH bought the tower for 3 million euros with the intention to rehabilitate it, setting aside another 6.5 million euros for its restoration. As of 2021, efforts are clearly in motion towards that goal. Though, even these efforts could be hampered, as the tower’s architect, Dragan Bijedić, is suing the FBiH government for copyright issues in relation to the changes being made to the structure. A more detailed examination of the state of the building, its condition and plans for restoring it can be found in THIS government document. Lastly, the Glass Bank was featured on the Viasat History channel show “Forsaken Places” in episode 4 (titled “Broken Brotherhood”), which can be watched at THIS YouTube link.
The Blue Hospital, Bugojno, BiH
Name: The Blue Hospital (“Plava bolnica”)
Location: Bugojno, BiH
Architect: “Biro 71”
Year started: 1986
Coordinates: 44°03'24.2"N, 17°26'35.5"E
There was great excitement in the air in Bugojno, BiH in March of 1986 as ground was broken on the construction of a new grand hospital complex for the community. With work on the facility funded by the community itself (with 5% taken out of every local workers’ paycheck during the hospital’s construction phase), everyone in Bugojno was looking forward to this project getting underway. Positioned atop a hillside near the town center called “Obješenica”, the “Bugojno Medical Center”, as it was officially known, was to serve not just Bugojno, but also the surrounding communities of Donji Vakuf, Gornji Vakuf and Kupres (who were also contributing towards its funding). As construction progressed with the completion of the facility’s concrete skeleton, in 1988, a charismatic modern blue facade began to be installed around these bones of the building. It was from this dynamic facade that the building gained its nickname “The Blue Hospital” or “Plava bolnica”. The authors of this project were the Slovene architectural group “Biro 71”, made up of Štefan Kacin, Radisav Popović, Jurij Princes & Bogdan Spindler, who also created additional “Blue Hospital” projects during the Yugoslav-era in Zagreb, Croatia and in Zrenjanin, Serbia.
Work slowed on the hospital’s construction during the beginning of the 1990s as the nation’s economy worsened, then, as the Bosnian War started in 1992, work on the facility was halted entirely. However, the construction efforts of the Blue Hospital were not affected by the war and by its conclusion, the work site of the facility was still largely intact. Yet, despite the war being over, construction at the hospital did not resume. It was at this point of inactivity and inattention that local vandals and thieves began looting the construction site of valuables and its building materials. It even reached the point where the hospital’s expensive blue facade panels were being ripped from the concrete skeleton of the unfinished building. In just a few years, all that was left of the site was a heap of empty hollow derelict remains. Since the 1990s, the Blue Hospital has continued to stand in this abandoned and derelict condition. As such, a building that was initially undertaken to be the pride of Bugojno, funded by its own citizenry, has today turned into an object of disappointment and a symbol of promises unfulfilled. As one newspaper notes, it stands “as a sort of mockery of the city”. I found no articles or sources indicating that there are any efforts planned by the municipal government of Bugojno, who own the site, to restore, refurbish or complete the abandoned ruins of the never-completed Blue Hospital. In April of 2022, the news outlet “Srednja Bosna Danas” posted a +40 minute long video on YouTube the local Bugojno citizen, Adil Ramčić, voicing his anger and frustration with this decades-old problem.