The Lost Legacy of Zlatko Ugljen's Exquisite Hotel Architecture

Updated: Jan 21

As one of the most significant and influential architects of the Yugoslav-era, Zlatko Ugljen was among the figures who blazed a trail in cultivating a unique architectural identity not only for himself, but also for Yugoslavia. While his corpus of work in sacral architecture often receives the most attention, his efforts in grand socially-minded hotel architecture are just as ambitious and distinguished. However, in recent decades, destruction, demolition and disfigurement have left his rich legacy of remarkable hotels nearly stricken from the landscape.

While many designers and creators pushed Yugoslav architecture in ambitious and innovative directions during the middle of the 20th century, only a handful of them can claim to have had a cultural impact equal to that which was achieved by Mostar-born architect Zlatko Ugljen [see THIS link for profile page]. Many Yugoslav architects were exploring the evolving style of modernism during this time period and were consistently innovating new ways of constructing increasingly futuristic and ever more exuberant building designs, which, as a consequence, often found themselves divorced from the local tradition architecture and landscape in which they were situated. Ugljen, on the other hand, never lost sight of the architectural roots he cultivated and was surrounded by during his youth in the historic town of Mostar. The idea of how the architectural heritage and tradition of a particular place can be expressed through contemporary visuals, materials and design was a concept which Ugljen explored throughout his entire career. In analyzing his work, the boundaries between tradition and contemporary blend together, so much so that a wholly new and distinct architectural language is created. With this new language, Ugljen blazes a trail across what is now the former Yugoslav region, but his most distinct impact was upon the region of Bosnia & Herzegovina, where he authored dozens of projects of all types, from monuments, to hotels, to restaurants, to sacral buildings and so on. In recent years, Ugljen has been greatly celebrated particularly in relation to the sacral architecture he has created over his long career. For instance, his most widely recognized architectural achievement was the White Mosque (Bijela džamija) in Visoko, BiH, for which he not only won the 1983 international Aga Khan Award for Architecture, but also had this work featured at New York City's Museum of Modern Art exhibition on Yugoslav architecture in 2018.


However, the exceptional hotel architecture which Ugljen created during the Yugoslav-era is a much less examined component of his creative work. Each distinct and groundbreaking in its own way, these hotels and lodgings that Ugljen crafted were singular efforts and are remarkable in the sense that they often came to reshape and define the landscapes and communities in which they were placed. One reason that Ugljen's hotel architecture is often less noticed and highlighted compared to his sacral architecture is because, unlike his sacral works, the majority of his hotel works have been either destroyed or highly disfigured in contemporary times. So, in this article, we will closely examine the quickly vanishing legacy of Ugljen's many Yugoslav-era hotel and lodging complexes, doing the best we can to examine their creation, their form, their impact, their fate and, in many cases, their unfortunate destruction. While this article will not be able to explore every single hotel project Ugljen was involved in, this list examines his most significant projects and/or the projects in which Ugljen was most closely involved.

Hotel Orijent, Travnik, BiH

A vintage Yugoslav-era postcard showing Hotel Orijent in Travnik.
A vintage Yugoslav-era postcard showing the two tombs in Travnik's Leipzig Square in front of Hotel Orijent.

Name: Hotel Orijent

Location: Travnik, FBIH, BiH

Years of creation: 1973

Current status: Hotel closed, awaiting demolition as of 2020/2021

Coordinates: 44°13'37.2"N, 17°39'39.5"E

Description: Sitting within the green hills of the Lašva Valley resides the historical town of Travnik, BiH. At the center of the town within Leipzig Square, Zlatko Ugljen, along with Sarajevo architect Smilja Janjušević, created Hotel Orijent in 1973 on the former site of the Travnik Bazaar. The fact that this hotel was built on the site of a former bazaar was no doubt the idea behind the name for the hotel, as a way of invoking the cultural tropes of the "Far East". While exhibiting some modernist flairs and accents, the hotel largely worked to reflect the local architectural vernacular of the area, with the low pitched roof, upper-floor bump-outs, use of bare wood and white plaster facade. Unfortunately, I found few photos of the original interior of the hotel, which would be particularly interesting to see in its full splendor as this was the aspect of the hotel that Ugljen had the most involvement in developing and designing. In addition to the hotel, next to it was constructed a modest shopping center right along Leipzig Square crafted in a similar architectural style. Upon their completion in 1973, this hotel and shopping center instantly became iconic local symbols and operated as the centerpiece of the community, doing so positioned right next to the most culturally significant historical site in the town "Turbeta pod lipom" or "Türbe under the Linden Tree", which are a pair of ancient tombs containing 18th century Ottoman Grand Viziers who lived in Travnik. Furthermore, even Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito himself was a frequent visitor to Hotel Orijent, as it was along his regular route from Belgrade to Bugojno, where his favorite mountain hunting lodges were [see article HERE on Tito's residences].

A recent photo showing the now derelict hotel after it had changed its name to "Hotel Lipa". Credit: GoogleMaps

As Yugoslavia began its process of dismantlement in the early 1990s, this, paired with the start of the Bosnian War during the same time period, lead to the Hotel Orijent quickly falling into decline and disrepair. After the end of the war, the hotel was privatized and changed its name to "Hotel Lipa". However, it was not long after the new management took over this deteriorating complex that they too permanently closed the hotel premises (as well as the shopping center). After sitting closed and neglected for many years, developers bought the hotel site in 2017 and are planning on tearing down the old hotel structure in order to build a new hotel and shopping center complex styled in a contemporary fashion. Local opinions are divided about the planned demolition of Janjušević & Ugljen's Yugoslav-era hotel. Concept art for what this new hotel will look like can be see in the above images. From looking at news articles online as of January 2021 in respect to this project, it appears as though demolition and new construction at this site may have already begun or is soon to begin.

Hotel Visoko, Visoko, BiH

Various views of Hotel Visoko which is located at the center of Visoko, BiH.
A vintage Yugoslav-era postcard showing various scenes from Hotel Visoko in Visoko, BiH.
A vintage Yugoslav-era image of a terrace at Hotel Visoko located in Visoko, BiH. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen

Name: Hotel Visoko

Location: Visoko, FBiH, BiH

Years of creation: 1971-1974

Current status: Closed down, for sale

Coordinates: 43°59'30.9"N, 18°10'55.3"E

Description: Situated between the two major cities of Sarajevo and Zenica along the Bosna River, Visoko is a vibrant community made famous in recent years as the result of claims it is home to the world's largest ancient pyramid. However, it was many decades earlier in the late 1960s that architect Zlatko Ugljen initially came to Visoko to exhibit his unique style. Firstly, after Ugljen successfully created a new central post office for Visoko, he was awarded the commission to construct a showpiece high rise hotel complex for this quickly modernizing town. Situated right on the banks of the Bosna River, Ugljen's tower was completed in 1974 and named in honor of the town itself, "Hotel Visoko". It was ceremoniously opened in 1976. The complex was designed in two parts, a horizontal segment and a vertical segment. Firstly, it was within the vertical segment functioned as the hotel segment where its 72 rooms were located, meanwhile, within the horizontal segment was originally housed a night club, a pizzeria, a cafe, terraces overlooking the river and so on.


Though these two distinct parts of the hotel differed as far as their spatial orientation, they were united in their sense of stylistic cohesiveness, borrowing greatly from the local vernacular architecture. For instance, the hotel's facade is dominated by smooth white concrete, a nod to the white plaster typical in regional abodes. Meanwhile, the hotel's tower bumping out in a series of overhangs is yet another typical feature seen in many buildings across the region. Ugljen even states in his monograph that his initial sketches of what would become the hotel were inspired during his walks through Visoko's Old Town. He then took these traditional elements, paired with his local inspirations, and cleverly combined them all with decidedly modern forms such as elegantly curving surfaces flanked by sharp abrupt geometry. It all beautifully comes together to develop an altogether unique architectural experience. Yet, even though the complex is dominated by its white tower, Ugljen's hotel is not lofty or elitist... it openly engages with its community, stretching out into the town with its horizontal arms, where it operated during its hey-day as one of the supreme cultural and social hubs of Visoko. A local news outlet in Visoko hosts on its website a photo gallery of dozens of Yugoslav-era photos from the hotel's lounge, restaurant and ball room testifying to the extent which local residents enjoyed Hotel Visoko. Ugljen was so pleased with his hotel and time he spent in Visoko, he came back just a few years later to construct the town's new Šerefudin mosque [1980], a project in which he would borrow numerous elements from his design of the Visoko Hotel. The Šerefudin White Mosque went on to earn Ugljen global fame and is considered one of the world's most significant modernist buildings of the 20th century.

A vintage Yugoslav-era postcard which includes a view of Hotel Visoko in Visoko, BiH.
A contemporary view of the condition of Hotel Visoko in Visoko, BiH. Credit: Stefano Perego

While this hotel operated as a central meeting spot and social hub for the town during the Yugoslav-era, the hotel was not able to function sustainably within the era of privatization. As such, by the end of the 2000s, the hotel closed its doors to the public and then found itself up for sale in the early 2010s. However, despite the hotel's closure, some of the cafes and businesses within the ground floor of the complex still operate, while the hotel's ball room and event center are still utilized by the local community. While recent photos show the complex to still be in a reasonable condition and state of repair, the years of disuse have no doubt had a negative effect on the hotel. It has remained for sale on the open market now for many years at the price of 3.5 million euro.

Hotel Ruža, Mostar, BiH

A vintage Yugoslav-era view of the exterior of Hotel Ruža in Mostar, BiH. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen
A series of vintage Yugoslav-era view of Hotel Ruža's interiors and exteriors. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen/Oris.hr
A vintage Yugoslav-era view of the exterior of Hotel Ruža in Mostar, BiH. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen

Name: Hotel Ruža

Location: Mostar, FBIH, BiH

Years of creation: 1974-1977

Current status: Demolished

Former coordinates: 43°20'16.6"N, 17°48'43.5"E

Description: The town of Mostar, BiH is picturesque community nestled within the valley of the Neretva River and is home to the famous UNESCO-protected Old Bridge historical district. It was here in Mostar that Zlatko Ugljen was born in 1929. Ugljen fondly recounts in interviews playing along the Neretva, particularly at a site near the banks where the tributary steam Radobolja flows into the river, just 200m west of the Old Bridge. It was here that stream broken into a series of rivulets that fed an orchard and was home to a popular summer cafe named "Ruža" or "Rose". In his adulthood, Ugljen was commissioned to build a hotel complex at this site to serve the ever growing tourist industry of Mostar. In planning this project, Ugljen set upon making priorities of not only respecting the natural site upon which he was building the hotel, but also respecting the town's local architectural tradition as well. Competed around 1977, what Ugljen created in "Hotel Ruža" (named after the old cafe) was a bold unification of both nature and tradition cast through the lens of modernist architecture.


Firstly, in preserving the environmental landscape of the setting, Ugljen integrated the rivulets of the Radobolja stream directly into the hotel itself, with segments of the hotel built on both sides of the stream connected by a series of small bridges. Smaller branches of the babbling stream were even allowed to penetrate into the interior of the hotel's main atrium, achieving a harmonious melding of indoor and outdoor spaces. Meanwhile, the design of the building itself was made on a modest human-scale (not exceeding three floors) in order not only to allow for greater personal interface with the structure, but also to preserve the atmosphere and aesthetic qualities of the historic landscape it was situated within. As with other hotels that Ugljen had crafted up until this project, for Ruža, he also opted for a pure white facade in order to keep attuned to the local architectural vernacular. Further reflecting local features were the hotel's exposed wooden beams, expansive balconies, protruding shop windows and the intricate play between dark shadows against white walls. As one source says "the games of white surfaces and warm shadows are a legacy of traditional architecture". As a visitor explored this play of light through the interior and exterior spaces of the hotel, they could find a myriad of tucked away rooms, playful arrangements of bright geometric forms, luscious gardens, water features, and light-filled surroundings of intimate warmth which Ugljen effortlessly crafted to feel more like a "living-room of the city" rather than the standard antiseptic impersonal hotel. Furthermore, despite being of the modernist style, the hotel still integrated in comfortably and seamlessly with the traditional architectural vernacular of the adjacent Old Town district.

A 1997 view of Hotel Ruža in Mostar, BiH after enduring the Bosnian War. Credit: UNESCO
A recent photo of the newly built "Marriot" Hotel that replaced Ugljen's demolished Hotel Ruža. Credit: Florian Rimml/GoogleMaps

Hotel Ruža stood as a landmark and modernist architectural icon in the city of Mostar during the Yugoslav-era, however, the hotel was completely ruined and devastated after the Bosnian War of the 1990s. In 2001, the ruined hotel site was privatized and sold to developers, at which point the remains of Hotel Ruža were demolished. After demolition, work immediately began on a new hotel complex, which would expand to over four-times of that of Ugljen's original hotel, growing in both its footprint and in height. However, as Mostar's Old City was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, questions immediately began to be asked about Ugljen's architecturally and historically significant demolished hotel. In a 2006 joint report authored by UNESCO and ICOMOS in reference to Ugljen's hotel, it was categorically stated that "we formally deplore the complete destruction of it by the investor of the new hotel, who, following the prescriptions, was obliged to restore it", while further attesting that "the original Hotel Ruža of architect Ugljen was an integral part of the morphology and townscape of Mostar". This conflict between the new developers and UNESCO resulted in a years long negotiation set upon finding a middle ground between the new hotel's design and the concerns UNESCO had about such extensive construction occurring within the zone of the World Heritage Site. The disagreements became so contentious at points that UNESCO even threatened de-listing Mostar's Old City as a heritage site. However, agreements and concessions eventually were made and the hotel's construction was given the green light by all agencies and groups. As of early 2021, this long-delayed hotel seems to be in the final stages of completion and is set to be operated as a "Marriot" hotel franchise.

Motel Vukosavci, Vukosavci, BiH

A vintage Yugoslav-era photo showing Motel Vukosavci right after completion. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen
A model of Ugljen's full concept for Vukosavci, showing both the realized and unrealized sections. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen

Name: Motel Vukosavci

Location: Vukosavci, RS, BiH

Years of creation: 1974-1976

Current status: Abandoned, derelict

Coordinates: 44°38'08.7"N, 18°52'47.4"E

Description: Situated in the low rolling mountains of the Majevica region and the Gnjica River Valley is the small village of Vukosavci. It was here in this village during WWII that on Feburary 20th of 1942, a battle between the Majevica Partisan Unit and Axis forces left 30 Partisan fighters dead. After the war, the battle site at Vukosavci was turned into a cemetery and memorial park dedicated to the battle and its fallen fighters. In the early 1970s, local authorities organized a plan to construct a motel and youth campus on the property of the memorial park in order to better service the growing number of tourists and youth work volunteers visiting the area. As planning for this project progressed, Zlatko Ugljen was subsequently awarded the commission to create the motel complex. His plan envisioned a series of long narrow buildings centered around the theme of the triangle shape, with the buildings integrating themselves into the slope of the hillside upon which they would reside. In this project, Ugljen worked to make his design architecturally bold, yet also subdued and discreet at the same time (as not to overshadow the memorial site the motel was to be built within). The first phase of the project, the motel facility, was completed in 1976 and contained 25 beds spread across three parallel but slightly offset buildings.


Rendered with a high degree of consideration for both landscape and functionality, Ugljen's architectural solution effortlessly and discreetly integrates itself in with the surroundings yet still stands out as a cleverly conceived celebration of geometry and modular design. The broad triangles and steeply pitched roofs of the motel not only playfully interact with the distant view of the rolling mountains of Majevica, but they also imbue the structure with a strong sense of natural pattern and unity. Meanwhile, the offset parallel line shape and configuration of the motel's buildings are asserted to be, according to Ugljen's monographer Stane Bernik, a local historical reference to the art and architecture of the Khanate, which had a history in this region during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Finally, a paved plaza built in front of the motel was meant to offer a view of the landscape of the memorial zone, which hosted an impressive bronze monument by Slovene sculptor Drago Tršar [see photo HERE].


While the "1st Phase" motel component of this project was fully realized in 1976, the 'youth campus' portion of Ugljen's concept was never completed (likely because of budgetary constraints). However, with the amount of this project that was completed, one can clearly see the forward-thinking ingenuity of Ugljen trying to blaze an unique visual typology in Yugoslav motel architecture.

A 1990s view of the deserted and derelict Motel Vukosavci in Vukosavci, BiH. Credit: priboj-majevica.com
A series of 2010s photos of the abandoned and derelict Motel Vukosavci in Vukosavci, BiH. Credit: Mapio.net

Motel Vukosavci flourished as a tourism site during the Yugoslav-era, however, as the conflicts of the Bosnian War began to affect this region during the 1990s, tourism all-together ceased in this region. This lead to the motel's closure to the public and use as a command center by Russian peacekeeping units. The complex proceeded to sit derelict and unused for many years after the war's end. Sources indicate that some efforts were made in 2006 and 2018 to clean and rehabilitate the structure, but even despite such initiatives, the motel's idle state, neglect and degradation by vandals have left the complex in a continued non-operational ruined state up to the present day. A slideshow of several dozen images showing the interior's decay and damage can be seen at THIS link. In 2018, overtures were made to visiting Russian investors for assistance in restoring and renovating the motel.

Hotel Bregava, Stolac, BiH

A vintage Yugoslav-era view of the exterior of Hotel Bregava in Stolac, BiH. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen
A vintage Yugoslav-era view of the interior of Hotel Bregava in Stolac, BiH. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen
A vintage Yugoslav-era view of the exterior of Hotel Bregava in Stolac, BiH. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen

Name: Hotel Bregava

Location: Stolac, FBiH, BiH

Years of creation: 1975-1977

Current status: Destroyed, in ruins, abandoned

Coordinates: 43°05'01.1"N, 17°57'21.9"E

Description: The small town of Stolac, BiH is a showcase of the Herzegovina region's dramatic karst topography, with the community dominated by crystal clear waterfalls along the scenic Bregava River. It was along this beautiful river that regional authorities in the 1970s made plans to construct an expansive hotel complex in hopes of drawing more visitors to this picturesque community. In 1975, Sarajevo architect Zlatko Ugljen was selected to helm this hotel project. With Stolac being such a small community that was thoroughly steeped in its architectural heritage and rich historical past, Ugljen was the natural fit for the project, as he had cultivated a reputation for formulating architectural solutions that deeply respected the location's traditional culture and building aesthetics.


Completed and unveiled in 1977 (with other sources saying 1979), the complex which Ugljen designed was named after the river in which it elegantly sat on the banks of: "Hotel Bregava". Holding modestly low to the ground, the hotel only rises one level above ground floor, an attribute keeping the space on a human level and preventing the complex from disturbing the town's landscape and existing urbanscape. Meanwhile, as with his previous project, he made this hotel a celebration of the merging of modern and traditional, with its intimate rooms and spaces adorned with white wall surfaces, exposed wooden beams, and dry stone walls flanked by bold horizontal lines, exaggerated triangle geometry, dramatically oversized eaves and a deliberate design that worked to seamlessly bring the outdoors inside. The hotel's four suites and 56 beds, like Hotel Ruža in Mostar, become more akin to open-air porches than the stuffy cramped hotel rooms one might find in other high rise towers of the time period. In the creation of Hotel Bregava, Ugljen exercised his philosophy of "total design", wherein he personally crafted not only the hotel's exterior, but also the hotel's interior, its furniture, its fixtures, and even its rugs (among other things). Hotel Bregava was so successful in its endeavor to fold together modern and traditional that architecture writer Lejla Bušatlić went so far as to call the complex "the most representative example of critical regionalism in contemporary Bosnian architecture".

A view of the present-day ruins of the Hotel Bregava in Stolac, BiH. Credit: Ahmed Mehmedbašić

While Hotel Bregava was an iconic establishment that stood at the heart of Stolac's town life during the Yugoslav-era, the hotel was not spared the destruction which spread across this region during the Bosnian War. Sources report that the hotel was destroyed and burned in July of 1992. All that remained of the structure by the end of the war was the burnt and gutted concrete ruins of the hotel's skeleton. In the era of privatization, the property has changed hands several times, always with promises of its redevelopment and reconstruction. However, recent articles from local news outlets recount how the ghostly charred remains of Hotel Bregava continue to linger on the banks of the Bregava River with little hope in sight for restoration. As of the present day, the future of the ruined hotel site still remains in question.

Hotel Kalin, Bugojno, BiH

A vintage Yugoslav-era view of the exterior of Hotel Kalin in Bugojno, BiH. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen
A vintage Yugoslav-era view of the interior of Hotel Kalin in Bugojno, BiH. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen
A vintage Yugoslav-era view of the interior of Hotel Kalin in Bugojno, BiH. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen

Name: Hotel Kalin

Location: Bugojno, FBiH, BiH

Years of creation: 1977-1983

Current status: Hotel closed in early 1990s, currently used at private apartments

Coordinates: 44°03'23.6"N, 17°26'50.1"E

Description: The town of Bugojno, BiH is a scenic community resting in the Vrbas River valley on the edge of numerous forested mountains such as Kalin and Stozer. The pristine wilderness of these mountains was once Yugoslav President Tito's favorite hunting playground and, as such, he spent a great deal of time in Bugojno. Architect Zlatko Ugljen even built Tito a hunting retreat villa here in Bugojno in 1974 [more of which can be read about at THIS link in my article on Tito's villas]. A few years after building Tito's Bugojno villa, Ugljen returned after being commissioned by local authorities to build a grand hotel in the center of the town. After Ugljen's proposal was accepted in 1977, work on the hotel began in 1979 and was completed in 1983. Named "Hotel Kalin" after the town's nearby mountain peak, this complex was a significant visual departure from Ugljen's previous hotel designs.


Firstly, the modernist elements of this structure are presented front and center, with few aspects of traditional architecture or local vernacular evident in the hotel's interior or exterior. Instead of a facade of pure white plaster that had been a staple of his previous works, here Ugljen employed the modern material of polished aluminum sheets as the cladding for the bulk of the hotel's facade, a material which gave the structure a gleaming, almost futuristic, appearance. Additional accents around the hotel's boxy exterior-base and balcony bump-outs were made with panels of black polished stone. The front facade's only splash of color was an electric yellow awning leading visitors towards the main entrance. As for the interior, it was decorated with smooth white walls and ceilings, while the floor was adorned with tiles of white marble. Floor to ceiling windows illuminated this white space with a bright atmosphere of radiance and energy. In describing this expression of the hotel's optimistic and vivid design, the author of Ugljen's 2002 monograph, Stane Bernik, writes that it derives from the "universal architectural vocabulary".

The present day appearance of the Hotel Kalin in Bugojno, BiH. Credit: Mapio.net

Hotel Kalin operated less than ten years before it closed its doors as a result of regional conflicts associated with the Bosnian War during the 1990s. For a time during the war, the hotel acted as a shelter for refugees displaced by violence, as well as a military base for HVO soldiers. By the war's end, the hotel had survived with only a marginal amount of damage, with the worst incidents occurring during a series of shellings in 1992. In the era of privatization in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the hotel's exterior and interior were changed dramatically, with all of the facade's valuable aluminum sheets removed and interior completely reworked, leaving the hotel totally unrecognizable from its original appearance. As of the present day, the complex is no longer operational as a hotel (even though it is still widely referred to as "Hotel Kalin") and is instead used as private apartments and commercial space.

Hotel Vučko, Jahorina Mountain, Sarajevo, BiH

A vintage Yugoslav-era view of Hotel Vučko at Jahorina Mountain near Sarajevo. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen
A vintage Yugoslav-era view of Hotel Vučko at Jahorina Mountain near Sarajevo. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam 94/95
A vintage Yugoslav-era view of the interior of Hotel Vučko at Jahorina Mountain near Sarajevo. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam 94/95
A vintage Yugoslav-era view of the interior of Hotel Vučko at Jahorina Mountain near Sarajevo. Credit: Arhitektura i Urbanizam 94/95

Name: Hotel Vučko (aka: The "Feroelektro" Resort)

Location: Jahorina Mountain, Sarajevo, RS, BiH

Years of creation: 1983

Current status: Demolished in late 1990s

Former coordinates: 43°44'08.6"N, 18°34'06.3"E

Description: In the lead up to the 1984 Winter Olympic Games which were set to be hosted by the city of Sarajevo, the country of Yugoslavia put forward incredible effort towards preparing for this historic event by initiating a massive infrastructure project to construct new Olympic-level facilities [more about the architecture of this Olympic infrastructure can be read at my article on the subject at THIS link]. This construction project included not only sports facilities, but also numerous hotels for housing the hundreds of thousands of visitors who would descend upon the city during the games. One Olympic venue that received significant development was the area around Mount Jahorina, which would host a multitude of skiing events. At the base of the mountain near the Poljice ski lifts, a lodging complex was commissioned that would operate in part as resort accommodations for workers of the "Feroelektro" company, as well as serving luxury rooms for high profile guests. Ultimately named "Hotel Vučko" after the mascot of the Sarajevo Olympic Games, this hotel was designed by Sarajevo architect Zlatko Ugljen, who at this point in his career had earned a solid reputation in the arena of hotel design.


Completed the year before the start of the Sarajevo Winter Games in 1983, Ugljen's 25-bed hotel consisted of a rustic-feeling ski-lodge-influenced complex which brought him back to his signature style of blending together the three elements of landscape, tradition and modernity. Firstly, Hotel Vučko is designed with steeply pitched roof lines that reach nearly to the ground, which not only operate to effectively shed the winter's heavy snow, but they also serve to make the hotel appear to merge with the terrain as if the forest landscape and the hotel are one (an effect particularly noticeable when the ground is heavy with snow). This roof rested upon a framed structure dominated by bare unpainted yellow pine wood (from floor, to ceiling, to furniture), itself serving as a testament to the pine forest within which the hotel snugly rested. In addition to these bold thick pine beams supporting the sharp roof, this warm wood was complemented by elegantly cooling white plaster walls that would not only hearken back to traditional regional architecture, but would also bring in the brightness of reflected snow even on the most dreary of winter days. It bears noting that in crafting Hotel Vučko, Ugljen exercised his architectural philosophy of "total design", where he not only had his hand in creating the structure of the building, but also its interior design, its furniture, its ornamentation and much more. In a 2001 interview Ugljen made with Oris Magazine, he explained this approach in his design towards Vučko: "With the hotel on Jahorina, I abandoned the rigid guidelines of hotel building. I broke the usual sequence and thus avoided that sterile atmosphere, placing the guest at the center of things. I created an environment which agrees with the locality. I insist on the sensations produced by the primary form [the hotel] be reproduced from within by secondary forms, such as roof or ceiling structures, light wells, niches, the fireplace, and so on. Furniture can also be incorporated in a similar function." As such, Ugljen expressed his holistic modern vision of the "mountain lodge" within every facet of Hotel Vučko, making it a supreme example of his all-encompassing architectural philosophy.

A recent photo of the NEW Hotel Vučko on the site of the former Hotel Vučko on Jahorina. Credit: Almir Ribic

During the Olympic Games in 1984, Hotel Vučko was a massive success, with it reportedly hosting not only the President of the International Olympic Committee Juan Antonio Samaranch, but also the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf. What was completed for the Olympics was only the intended "1st Phase" of the project... subsequent phases were supposed to expand the hotel up to the capacity of 100 beds. However, just a few years after the conclusion of the Olympics, the dismantling of Yugoslavia began which sparked and chain of events that subsequently lead to the Bosnian War starting in the early 1990s. During the course of the war, Hotel Vučko was left in a state of complete ruin, as the areas around Jahorina were often the frontlines of conflict. After the war, the ruins of the hotel were demolished. In 2008, a new "Hotel Vučko" was built on the site of Ugljen's former hotel. The new hotel bears no resemblance whatsoever to the original, with it being larger in size and much more conventional in its architectural design.

Stojčevac Restaurant & Lodge, Stojčevac, BiH

A vintage Yugoslav-era photo of the Stojčevac Restaurant & Lodge in Stojčevac. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen
A vintage Yugoslav-era photo of the Stojčevac Restaurant & Lodge in Stojčevac. Credit: Archive of Zlatko Ugljen

Name: Stojčevac Restaurant & Lodge

Location: Stojčevac, FBiH, BiH

Years of creation: 1983

Current status: Destroyed and demolished in 1990s

Former coordinates: 43°49'13.2"N 18°16'04.5"E [approximate]

Description: Located on western edge of Sarajevo near the suburb of Stojčevac within the foothills of Mt. Igman is a natural feature known as the "Vrelo Bosne" or "Spring of Bosnia", which serves as one of the primary sources for the Bosna River. Around this spring is a scenic and serene park location with beautiful walking paths among the trees and flowing waters. It was at this ideal setting that architect Zlatko Ugljen was commissioned in the early 1980s to build a lodge and restaurant to cater to the site's many visitors, as well as to act as new infrastructure for the approaching Sarajevo Winter Olympics in 1984. Completed in 1983, the complex at Stojčevac which Ugljen created would at first glance seem very much a continuation of the architectural ideas that he explored in his nearby Jahorina ski lodge "Hotel Vučko", completed around the exact same time. In fact, both buildings may have been built by Ugljen concurrently. Firstly, we see similarities in building materials (native yellow pine wood and white plaster walls) and a design aesthetic that keeps in touch with both landscape and local tradition. Furthermore, dramatic and unconventional roof eaves, along with a playful use of geometry (especially with bold and steeply pitched roof lines), are key characteristics that tie Ugljen's Stojčevac lodge with his hotel on Jahorina.


Unfortunately, the Stojčevac Restaurant and Lodge was subject to the same destructive forces that also destroyed Hotel Vučko. Situated right between the hot spots of Mt Igman and the Sarajevo airport, the area around Stojčevac was particularly hard hit during the Bosnian War of the 1990s, which not only resulted in the destruction of Ugljen's complex, but also Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito's nearby personal residence "Vila Stojčevac" [read more about it at my article HERE on Tito's residences]. After the war, Ugljen's restaurant and lodge at Stojčevac were found completed destroyed and burned. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find the\ exact location where the former Stojčevac Restaurant and Lodge was situated, but it without a doubt existed somewhere near the "Vrelo Bosne" natural site. If anyone knows the exact location of Ugljen's former restaurant/lodge or has photos of the ruins, please contact me.

Hotel Fjord, Kotor, Montenegro

A vintage Yugoslav-era image of the exterior of Hotel Fjord located in Kotor, Montenegro. Credit: Treasures in Disguise/Jovana Miljanic
A vintage Yugoslav-era aerial postcard photo of Hotel Fjord located in Kotor, Montenegro.
A vintage Yugoslav-era image of the interior of Hotel Fjord located in Kotor, Montenegro. Credit: Treasures in Disguise/Jovana Miljanic

Name: Hotel Fjord

Location: Kotor, Montenegro

Years of creation: 1986

Current status: Demolished in 2018

Former coordinates: 42°25'19.2"N, 18°46'02.8"E

Description: The town of Kotor, Montenegro is a beautifully scenic and historic tourist destination located at the tip of the Bay of Kotor. One of the most picturesque locations of the bay was at its most southern point, a spot which looked down the mountainous valley of the bay as well as overlooking Kotor's UNESCO-protected old city. It was at this desirable site that a stately resort complex named "Hotel Slavija" was built in the 1923. However, this massive and historic hotel was destroyed in Montenegro's 1979 earthquake, which devastated not only this hotel, but also huge amounts of Kotor and the surrounding Adriatic coast. A photo of the the original 1923 Hotel Slavija can be seen at THIS link. By the early 1980s, plans were already in the works for the construction of a new resort complex to replace the destroyed hotel. A design proposal put forward by architect Zlatko Ugljen was subsequently adopted by Kotor as the blueprint from which a brand new resort hotel would be constructed. Completed in 1986 and unquestionably the largest single construction project in Kotor during the Yugoslav-era, this new complex was named "Hotel Fjord", no doubt as a reference to the fjord-like setting of the narrow bay of which the hotel sat at the head. The hotel, which was easily the largest in Kotor, took this "Nordic" reference even further by making their logo a Viking ship.

A early 2010's view of the Hotel Fjord's logo on a shattered piece of glass in its abandoned ruin. Credit: travelblogeurope.com

Sprawling across a huge area, Hotel Fjord was an extensive 155-room complex which included not only accommodations, but also restaurants, tennis courts, night clubs, a swimming pool, conference facilities and much more. However, while the former Hotel Slavija was a broad solid-mass of a structure developed during the 1960s popularity of the International style of modernist architecture which took no regard for place or context, Ugljen designed Hotel Fjord holding firm to his sensibility that a building fit its landscape. Montenegrin architect Dijana Vučinić explains this idea further in her analysis about the site's architecture, relating that the hotel was "already born out of the new postmodern sensibility of the 1980s... [Ugljen] consciously organized the building mass in a constellation of houses. With its irregular facades, individually sized windows and a highly differentiated set of terraces and public spaces on different levels, the hotel complex reads less like a single building but more like a piece of urban fabric." With its bright white polished stone facade, red terra-cotta tile shingles and expansive terraces, the structure appeared, as Vučinić explained, more than fitting amongst Kotor's historic architecture, even despite its oversized appearance. However, it is important to note that amidst these vernacular elements, hints of Ugljen's signature style of employing exaggerated geometry (particularly triangles), intricate contrasting shadows and deliberate framing of scenic landscape were all visible across Hotel Fjord. Its bold and engaging design was a beacon for thousands of visitors and stood as a modern icon for Kotor during the brief 19 year window in which it operated.

A 2011 photo of the abandoned Hotel Fjord in Kotor, Montenegro. Credit: javniservis.me
A recent 2018 photo of the demolition of Hotel Fjord in Kotor, Montenegro. Credit: MontenegroGirl@YouTube

Hotel Fjord, which was originally a state-owned property, was privatized during the 1990s, as were the majority of similar hotels across Montenegro. It was acquired by the politically-connected Montenegrin businessman Veselin Vesko Barović. However, despite being a relatively young hotel and highly successful during the Yugoslav-era, the hotel began to fall into a state of phsyical, managerial and financial disorder in the years after being taken over by Barović. The hotel remained opened to the public until 2005, at which point it became insolvent and went into bankruptcy proceedings, being then sold for around 5 million euros to Irish businessman Louis Maguire and Michael Fingleton. In entering into this purchase of the hotel, sources relate that the Irish duo promised to demolish the old Hotel Fjord and build an expansive new 70 million euro luxury 5-star resort complex. However, more than a decade passed with relatively few efforts put towards this goal. During these years of the hotel lingering as a blighted condemned building within Kotor's main touristic center, it was featured as a piece of Montenegro's threatened architectural heritage as part of the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale in 2014 during a presentation called "Treasures in Disguise". During this campaign, many groups advocated for the hotel's renovation rather than its demolition. Then, in 2017, the hotel was again sold to the newly formed Podgorica-based firm "Boka Bay Investment" for a price estimated to be upwards of 10 million euro. However, instead of restoring the hotel, this new owner had intentions to redevelop the site. As such, in April of 2018, Boka Bay Investment gave the order to begin the demolition process for Hotel Fjord. By the end of 2018, the hotel's remains sat as a heap of concrete rubble on its former footprint, with this the rubble being completely cleared from the site by the end of 2019. As of early 2021, the site of the former Hotel Fjord sits as an empty lot awaiting further development by its owners.

Special thanks:

I want to extend particular gratitude to the following people for helping me out in putting this article together... firstly, Andrew Lawler, Boris Trapara, Dijana Vučinić and Jovana Miljanić, but most importantly I wanted to thank Nina Ugljen Ademović and her father Zlatko Ugljen!

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