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Zagreb Fairgrounds: A Treasury of Modernism & History

Updated: Dec 30, 2023

Of all the Yugoslav-era infrastructure projects in Zagreb, perhaps one of the most ambitious and iconic within the realm of construction and modernist architecture is the Zagreb Trade Fair complex. Its creation, which began in the early 1950s, is also tightly associated with the city’s expansion across the Sava River, as it was this area’s first major project and paved the way for the rest of the urbanization on the south banks of the river (a zone which came to be called “Novi Zagreb/New Zagreb”). A tradition of trade fairs had existed in Zagerb as early as the 1860s with the “Zagreb Assembly Zagrebački zbor”, which is said to have been the first truly modern international trade gathering in the world, but this new complex on the Sava’s south bank was bigger than anything that had ever come before it. With a size of roughly 650m x 1000m, it was the largest fairgrounds facility in all of Yugoslavia (as well as being one of the biggest in Europe) and operated as an integral component of the economic engine of the region, cultivating trade relationships with countries around the world and serving as a showcase for domestic industry and technology companies. The Zagreb Trade Fair grounds are situated along the north side of what is today called Dubrovnik Avenue, but was known as Boris Kidrič Avenue during the Yugoslav-era, who was a famous Slovene WWII war hero and KPJ politician.


A 1970's era postcard view of the grounds of the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Construction on the pavilions of the Zagreb Trade Fair (Zagrebački velesajam, [ZV]) began in the mid-1950s, with some of Yugoslavia’s most notable architects being brought in to spearhead their design and layout. As a consequence, the pavilions of the fairgrounds became a showcase of mid-century modernist architecture, exhibiting the cutting-edge and forward thinking designs of both domestic and even some foreign architects. The first phase of the Zagreb Trade Fair, which was laid out along an urban plan devised by Zagreb architect Marijan Haberle and Ljubljana architect Božidar Rašica, was unveiled during a grand ceremony on September 7th, 1956 presided over by Yugoslav President Tito. This event was televised nationally as it unfolded and is thus cited as being the first live television broadcast in Yugoslavia. It is also important to mention that with the formation through the 1950s of the Non-Aligned Movement (a forum of nations pioneered by Yugoslavia’s President Josip Broz Tito that served as a third-way counterbalance between the Soviet sphere and the Western NATO powers), the Zagreb Trade Fair operated as an intermediary space for not only commerce and trade, but also a space where architects from all sides could come together to create new and inventive structures. Consequently, the Zagreb Trade Fair acted as a sort of battleground for the both communist and cap global powers to compete against each other on a neutral stage, where displays of architecture, technology, consumer products, and industry became the medium through which nations went head to head, most notably the USA and the USSR, who were ever-present and dominant forces at the Zagreb Fair. In fact, during the 1950s and early 60s, the Zagreb Fair was the few places in the world where the USA and USSR could be seen consistently interfacing together at the same event side by side.


Various Yugoslav-era posters for the Zagreb Trade Fair

At the height of the Zagreb Trade Fair during the mid-1960s, the facility saw nearly 2 million visitors a year, with 60 countries participating and over 6,000 exhibitors from four continents, making it amongst the largest such trade fairs in the world. This fair in Zagreb was by far the most integral trade/industrial exhibition in Yugoslavia, thus operating as a key component in the education of the national populace in regards to “modern” living and the future of what was to become the “new” socialist lifestyle and mass produced goods of the country, which its patrons were quick to become excited by. With this popularity, the number of pavilions and exhibition space (which was approaching 500,000 sqm of floor area) was ever increasing, with vast expansions being made up until the middle of the 1970s. It was at this point that attendance and the fanfare around the fairgrounds began to wane, which resulted in a significant slowing of the expansion of the facility. 


During the late 70s and 1980s, the focus of the fair events became more specialized and industry focused in their offerings, holding a greater number of smaller events instead of the single mass international event it was previously known for. Then, with the dismantling of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the utilization of the fairgrounds plummeted further and many of the pavilions began to descend into a poor unmaintained condition. The fair’s disrepair as a result of the turbulence of the 90s allowed some of the pavilions to be utilized for a range of unorthodox activities, such as guerilla rave dances and even a prison camp. In the 2000s, some sparse use of a few of the better maintained pavilions continued to be used for smaller scale exhibition and fair events, however, a new use for the pavilions popped up around this same time, which was their utilization for gym, fitness and work-out space. At the present time, roughly half of the former pavilion space is used for sports/exercise activities, while other unique repurposing of the pavilion space is manifested as warehouse storage, office space, child day-care, laser tag, escape rooms, etc. At the same time, other pavilions are completely derelict and sitting in various states of decay and abandonment. During the 2015 migrant crisis, some of these pavilions were used to house over 1,200 refugees. Meanwhile, several of the better-maintained pavilions along Dubrovnik Ave. are still used for numerous annual trade & industry events, such as Interliber, the Zagreb Auto Show, CroAGRO, among others.


A view of the grounds of the northeast end of the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: Mapiranje Trešnjevke

While several of the pavilions are currently under protection by the state of Croatia as works of immovable cultural heritage (as well as the fairgrounds themself, as of 2007), the future existence of the Zagreb Trade Fairgrounds is still seen to be at risk. Such concerns are particularly salient in the face of a proposal by Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, dubbed “Zagreb’s Manhattan” project, that foresaw the demolition of the fairgrounds and the construction of an expansive Dubai-funded new planned city centered around a 200-story skyscraper (akin to the Belgrade Waterfront project). However, while Bandić’s proposal was ultimately rejected, there still exists the potential of similar such projects being considered in the future while the current state and condition of the Zagreb Fairground is so dismal and under-utilized.


In the following sections, we will investigate in detail some of the pavilions located across the grounds of the Zagreb Trade Fair, as well as other important features and items located within this space. They are presented here in no particular order. While not every single pavilion or structure within the fairgrounds will be examined, I will do my best to cover the most notable and significant sites. If anyone, while reading through the following sections, knows more information about these or other locations within the grounds of the Zagreb Trade fair that you feel might further enrich this article, please reach out to me!

 

New USSR Pavilion:

A vintage postcard view of the new USSR Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Name: The USSR Pavilion

Year Constructed: 1967

Number: #39

Architect: Boris S. Vilenskiy


The USSR was one of the most active and enthusiastic participants of the Zagreb Trade Fair (Zagrebački velesajam), who consistently used its space here at the event as a means through which to constantly woo Yugoslavia closer to its own influence and ideological sphere, with its being constantly in battle against the persuasive propaganda exerted by the presentations at the nearby American pavilions. As such, in 1967, the USSR made the decision to construct their second pavilion at the Zagreb’s fairgrounds. But not just any pavilion… the one that the USSR would complete in that year would stand as the largest and most spacious national pavilion across the entire site. The site chosen for this new USSR Pavilion was at the north end of the fairgrounds in the spot formerly occupied by the original Polish Pavilion, created in 1956 by Polish architect N. Kokozov (which was demolished to make way for this new structure). The complex was designed by Russian Jewish architect Boris S. Vilensky [Борис С. Виленский], who was Moscow’s master pavilion creator. Vilensky had designed exposition and trade fair pavilions for the USSR all around the world, from Bombay, to Buenos Aires, to Delhi, to Dublin, to Kabul, and beyond, while also being the architect of numerous underground Metro stations in Moscow. Passing away in 1970, the USSR Pavilion here in Zagreb was one of, if not the, last architectural project that Vilensky completed in his life. 


A late 1980s view of the new USSR Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Constructed as a sleek flat-roofed international style pavilion, the structure stood out with a bumped out upper level facade surrounded by thin alkali-cast low-iron glass panels (“Copilit”). This opaque Coplit material is notable in that it transmits less heat inside structure, while the low-iron content of the material reduces the green tint often associated with standard glass walls, giving it a more distinct appearance. This Coplit-adorned arrangement was then sat upon a concrete pedestal, making it a bright airy structure that was perched effortlessly upon the landscape. Blazoned across the front of the pavilion in massive letters was SSSR (a Latin letter shortening of the country’s name “Soyuz Sovyetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik”). One reason that the USSR wanted this more vast and sprawling exhibition space (compared to their original pavilion) was for the display of their automotive, industrial and agricultural equipment, which were some of the main products they hoped to export into the Yugoslavian market. As far as the bold streamlined shape of the pavilion, it was a massive success and became one of the most popular new attractions at the fair. In the years after the end of the structure being used as part of fair exhibitions, the large SSSR letters in the front of the building were removed but, otherwise, the facility is largely the same from the exterior. Today, the pavilion is used as the warehouse and bottling space for the Croatian drink distributor ROTO.

 

Old USSR Pavilion:

A vintage 1950s image of the old USSR Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Name: The USSR Pavilion

Year Constructed: 1956

Number: #9

Architect: Yuri Abramov


The original USSR Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair was amongst the first group of pavilions constructed on the new site along the prominent thoroughfare the “Allée of Nations” and was part of the key unveiling ceremony for the fairgrounds in 1956. The USA did not construct their first pavilion on the few fairground site until the following year, so, the Soviets saw their early presence here at this new illustrious trade complex as very important geopolitically. USSR’s pavilion was designed by Russian Jewish architect Yuri Abramov, who is seen as one of the Soviet Union’s pioneers of modernist architecture and who was also part of design team for the the USSR’s first post-WWII pavilion at a World Expo, which was in Brussels in 1958 (two years after his work here at Zagreb). Abramov’s pavilion took an airplane hangar-like shape that consisted of a 14m tall arch that spanned 27.5m wide and 57m long. Uniquely, the arch was constructed solely of curved reinforced and prefabricated concrete sections, giving it a solid yet gravity defying appearance. Meanwhile, the two openings on either end of the pavilion were completed with huge curtain walls of glass panels. Lastly, two narrow annex sections extend along the broad sides of the pavilion, jutting slightly at the main entrance (which originally created a modest courtyard entrance). Lastly, at the corners of these annexes facing inward towards this courtyard were originally a series of concrete relief sculptures depicting male and female figures in the socialist realist style engaged in various pursuits of labor and work.


A 1950s vintage view of the interior of the old USSR Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.
A vintage view of exhibits at the old USSR Pavilion, such as the Sputnik 3 [left] and a Borovo Tire exhibit [right].
A vintage photo showing Tito and company viewing the old USSR Pavilion.

It was from this pavilion that many of the Soviet’s great accomplishments were heralded, such as its many space-race achievements, with a full-scale replica of the famous Sputnik 3 satellite displayed at this pavilion in 1959. Meanwhile, the original USSR Pavilion in its early years was often populated with new Volga passenger trucks, Stalinet combine harvesters, Aeroflot helicopters, as well as the many inventions of the famous Sverdlov Machine-Tool Plant in Leningrad. In later years of the fair, additions were cobbled onto the USSR Pavilion, as a means of increasings its exhibition space, however,  these unfortunately served to block the view of the impressive concrete arch construction of the original part of the pavilion. These additions also marred and disrupted the relief sculptures, of which only one still exists and is in poor condition. In 2003, the USSR Pavilion was one of the 8 structures at the Zagreb Fair that is protected as a piece of immovable architectural heritage by the Croatian government. 


A view of the remaining relief sculpture on the old USSR Pavilion. Credit: personal photo

Today, the pavilion is in fair shape and continues to be used for exhibitions and events, as well as for concerts, soundstage filming and other events. Scenes from the 2019 film “Koja je ovo država” were filmed within the pavilion. Lastly, as for the two relief sculpture sets on the annex wings of the pavilion, the relief on the west side was removed during subsequent additions to the pavilion during the 1970s and 80s, however, the west relief continues to exist (albeit in very poor condition).

 

New Italian Pavilion

A recent photo of the exterior of the new Italian Pavilion. Credit: Zeljko Lukunic

Name: The Italian Pavilion

Year Constructed: 1962

Number: #15

Architect[s]: Raffaele Contigiani


In the early 1960s, plans were being set in motion by the Italian government for the creation of a new pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair (Zagrebački velesajam). This was actually the third incarnation of a Italian Pavilion at this fairgrounds built by the government of Italy, with their first (created in 1956 by Raffaele Contigiani & Mario De Renzi) being located just to the west of the Czechoslovakia Pavilion and the second  (erected in 1959 and also created by Raffaele Contigiani) located where the Timber Industry Pavilion currently stands. Both prior pavilions have been demolished, so this third incarnation is the only one of Contigiani’s works at the fairground that still remains. 


A vintage photo of the new Italian Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

This new Italian Pavilion was completed in 1962 and designed again by Contigiani (with collaboration from engineer Giuseppe Sambito). Contigiani was one of Italy’s leaders in forward-thinking modernist designs, not only creating numerous pavilions for Italy at fairs around the world but also being much lauded for his innovative work on the brutalist masterpiece “Hotel du Lac” in Tunisia. Equally stunning is Contigiani’s third Italian Pavilion here at Zagreb, which immediately stands out amongst all other surrounding structures with its series of 12 massive inverted pyramids (~9m tall) holding up the entire building. Each pyramid is textured with ribs of alternating bands of blue sheet metal and glass, giving it a playful circus-like appearance. Descending from underneath the upper reaches of the pyramids were walls of glass curtains that form the pavilion’s interior space. Originally, the mullions between the panes of glass on these walls were painted a vibrant red hue, but later they were changed to a more neutral white color. Within the ceiling of the pavilion’s interior is a lattice of thin steel beams that elevate the central roof a further 5m in height, a feature that allows copious amounts of natural light into the space. 


A recent view of the interior of the new Italian Pavilion. Credit: Darko Tomas

The immense space of this new Italian Pavilion made for a perfect showroom for Italy’s automotive exhibitions, of which many were hosted here during the height of the Zagreb Trade Fair during the 1960s and 70s. The pavilion continued to be regularly utilized through the 80s and 90s (with sources indicating that at some point Italy sold the pavilion to Switzerland), however, by the 2000s, the structure began to fall into a dismal state of repair, to the point where engineering experts with the city deemed that it was unstable and not suitable for use until repairs could be made. However, despite the Italian Pavilion being added to the list of protected cultural sites by the Croatian government in 2003, funds have still not been invested towards the rehabilitation of the structure. As such, the pavilion has sat disused and derelict for numerous years now.

 

Old Italian Pavilion

A vintage photo of the old Italian Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Name: Italian Pavilion

Year Constructed: 1956

Number: #21

Architect: Raffaele Contigiani

Former coordinates: 45°46'48.7"N, 15°58'18.5"E


The original Italian Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair was part of the first group of national pavilions constructed upon this event’s first opening at Novi Zagreb in 1956. Built along the prominent main thoroughfare of the fairgrounds (the “Allée of Nations”), this complex was designed by the Italian architect Raffaele Contigiani, who was the lead architect of all three pavilions constructed at this fairground over the years. Contigiani’s first pavilion here in Zagreb consisted of a two-tiered structure characterized by its dramatic corrugated roofline, particularly at its entrance, where a zig-zag motif sets the visual aesthetic for the entire facility. Then, a vaulted ceiling at the center of the pavilion rose up to flood the interior with light from its wrap-around zig-zag glass walls. To the right of the main glass entrance doors, a long painted mural adorned the facade (but sadly, no documentation of it seems to remain). This original Italian Pavilion stood out amongst the other original national pavilions with its dynamic form and more whimsical playful stylings.


A vintage photo of the 1956 construction of the old Italian Pavilion. Credit: Mapiranje Trešnjevke

With Italy constructing a new pavilion within the fairgrounds in 1959, the facility was sold to Poland for their use as an exhibition space (particularly as Poland’s original pavilion was demolished that same year to make room for the new USSR Pavilion). Poland continued using the pavilion until the nature of the events shifted to more specialized exhibitions during the late 1970s and early 80s. Yet, by the 1990s, the pavilion had fallen into a poor state of condition. For reasons that are not immediately clear nor able to be readily established, this structure was demolished and razed to the ground at some point during the late 90s, leaving nothing behind but the concrete pad the pavilion originally sat upon. This site was left empty and vacant for more than 20 years, until the location was used for the construction of a film set for the Nova TV series "Dar Mar", which is said to be the largest single set piece ever constructed for a Croatian production.

 

New USA Pavilion

A vintage postcard view of the new USA Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Name: The USA Pavilion

Year Constructed: 1967

Number: #13

Architect: Fritz Bornemann


The construction of a second USA Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair (Zagrebački velesajam) was part of the country’s expansion of its exhibition space, largely as a means of keeping up with the USSR’s own expansion (with both countries opening up their second pavilions here in 1967). Situated right along what is today Dubrovnik Avenue (known as Boris Kidrič Avenue during the Yugoslav era), Berlin architect Fritz Bornemann was the designer of America’s new pavilion, who had previously designed the German Opera House and the Memorial Library in Berlin. However, the USA Pavilion here at Zagreb was Bornemann’s first national pavilion project, which he received so much acclaim for that he was subsequently chosen to design the German Pavilion at the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka, Japan. It is interesting to note that before Bornemann’s concept was accepted, Croatian architect Ivan Vitić put forward an ambitious geometric design for the new USA Pavilion in 1965 which was ultimately turned down.  Bornemann’s USA Pavilion consists of a one-leveled simple square building with a raw texturized concrete facade upon which sits a thick flat white roof with oversized eaves (which was held up by a system of 3D lightweight trusses). The concrete facade is embossed with a pattern of the letters “USA” printed over and over, wrapping this motif around the entire building.


A 1969 view of Josip Broz Tito & his wife examining the Mercury spacecraft. Credit: James Blair

In addition to its many exhibitions on American life and technology, the USA Pavilion was also a venue from which the many American space race achievements were displayed, such as installations of the Apollo 8 capsule (the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon) in 1969 and the Mercury capsule (the first manned US spacecraft) in 1970. By the 1980s, the pavilion was utilized less and less, until the 1990s, when it began to be used as a private business site, largely as a result of its excellent access to Dubrovnik Avenue. Today, the former USA Pavilion is occupied by a rug and textile business. Interestingly, as a result of the embossed “USA” pattern within the facade’s concrete panels, it is one of the few pavilions at the Zagreb Trade Fair today which can easily be identified as to the country that constructed it.

 

Old USA Pavilion:

A vintage postcard view of the old USA Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Name: The USA Pavilion

Year Constructed: 1957

Number: #34

Architect: Walter Dorwin Teague 


When the new Zagreb Trade Fair complex was unveiled in 1956, the US was not among the countries who first had a pavilion at this new prime location, deciding to instead operate their old pavilion at the former fair site on Savska Street for that year. However, the US quickly noticed that it was a missed opportunity, as the pavilions of large communist nations like the USSR and China dominated the new complex and drew much fanfare. As such, the following year’s fair event of 1957, the US made sure that they had a prime spot at the Novi Zagreb fairground and that they had an impressive pavilion that could contend with those of the Eastern powers.


A vintage view of the famous X-15 hypersonic rocket plane at the old USA Pavilion.

The design for the 1957 USA Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair came out of the architectural office of Walter Dorwin Teague. Considered to be a master of the “mid-century modern” style, Teague was responsible for numerous fair pavilions during the 1930s to the 1950s, creating projects at the World’s Fair at New York and Seattle (as well as many other events). As such, it was a logical choice for the US government to tap Teague for the creation of what would become, at that time, the largest national pavilion the US had created for a fair in a foreign country. It was clear that the US understood the strategic geopolitical importance of having an impressive pavilion at Zagreb, especially to have one in close proximity to its communist rivals. Teague was in his 70s at this point and, as such, this prevented him from personally overseeing the construction of the pavilion but he did personally send his architect son, Walter Teague Jr, to ensure the success of the project. In a 1986 New York Times article, Teague Jr recounts the daunting experience building the pavilion in Zagreb and cooperating with the Yugoslav workers under extreme time pressure, saying, “the steel mill in Maribor worked 24 hours a day, and 13 machine shops in Zagreb cranked out the huge louvers that made up the facade, using the material we shipped over. Our people and the Yugoslavs worked side by side, communicating in sign language.” In its original appearance, the USA Pavilion had striking visuals, being dominated along its wide front side with a 29 meter long wall of glass that was topped off by an inverted gull-wing like V-shaped roof. Installed in front of the pavilion were three steel spires with Googie-inspired stylings that held up the letters “U-S-A”.


A vintage view of the exterior of the old USA Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.
A vintage 1959 view of Tito & Jovanka at the "Lake ‘n Sea" exhibit at the USA Pavilion. Credit: lakenseaorg

Upon its unveiling in the fall of 1957, one of the most alluring attractions on offer within the USA Pavilion was a full scale recreation of a fully-stocked American grocery store, titled “Supermarket USA” (whose opening ribbon was cut by Yugoslav President Tito himself). This display, along with other exhibits such as an appliance shop, laundromat, and a furnished model apartment, made it clear that the US was intent upon dazzling the Yugoslav people with demonstrations of the American way of life, compared to the Soviet pavilions, which largely focused on displays of their advancement in industrial machinery and agricultural equipment. In fact, the “Supermarket USA” display was so popular, its equipment was bought up by the Yugoslav company “Vračar”, where it was set up in Belgrade the following year at Cvetni Trg as the first modern American-style market in the city. While the newspapers in Zagreb raved about the exhibition in the USA Pavilion, the Soviet press criticized Tito for how much longer he spent in the American exhibitions compared to that of socialist nations, asserting that such actions were indictments of his dedication to Marxist doctrine. Other exhibits over the years at the pavilion included aircraft spectacles like the North American X-15 hypersonic rocket-powered plane and the Transland AG-2, as well as automotive concepts like the Chevy Impala, the Ford Mustang Cobra and the Studebaker Lark VI. Meanwhile, in 1962, a huge temporary sculpture, shaped as a stylized human figure holding their arms high and their head depicted as the sun, was installed in front of the pavilion celebrating health and leisure, created by celebrated American graphic designer Lance Wyman.


A contemporary view of what remains of the old USA Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

Standing as one of the most popular pavilions of the 60s and 70s here at the Zagreb Trade Fair, by the 1980s, the original USA Pavilion was being used less and less. Then, by the 90s, events ceased being held here. Today, the building sits in very poor condition, only being used for warehouse storage and some marginal office space. Numerous poorly done exterior alterations have been made to the facade, significantly diminishing its overall visual appeal. Lastly, the large Googie “USA” metal spires that originally stood in front of the pavilion have been absent for many decades now.

 

East German Pavilion:

A vintage postcard view of the East German Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Name: East German Pavilion

Year Constructed: 1964

Number: #35

Architect: Božidar Rašica


The original pavilion for East Germany (officially the “German Democratic Republic” [GDR] or “Njemačka Demokratska Republika” [NDR]) here at the new Zagreb Trade Fair (Zagrebački velesajam) was constructed in 1957 and created by Richard Paulick, a German architect who was a student of Walter Gropius. This original complex (designated as #18 and designed as a straightforward glass-fronted pavilion) quickly became insufficient for the exhibition needs of East Germany as the years progressed. As such, in 1964, the country moved forward in the construction of a new pavilion on a plot directly north of their old one. In choosing a design for the East German Pavilion, the country asked Yugoslav authorities if they could offer up an architect to helm the construction of the project. Subsequently, Croatian architect Božidar Rašica, who was the lead designer of the original layout of the fairground itself, was handed over the responsibility of creating the new pavilion for East Germany.


Unveiled in the autumn of 1964, this new pavilion was more than twice as large as the original East German Pavilion. The structure that Rašica created was a unique creation of architecture and engineering, allowing it to stand out among other pavilions. Laid out upon a rectangular footprint of roughly 85m x 53m, the pavilion itself stands roughly 22m tall, with its roof suspended by 6 large concrete pillars within the interior of the space. As these 6 pillars (arranged in a grid of 2x3) extend upwards, they flare out into thin pyramids just below the ceiling, while above the roof, a thin pillar rises another 5m into the air. Then, from the top of that roof pillar, a system of supports descend down towards the roof’s surface in yet another pyramid shape to support the weight of the entire roof itself. This unique design allows for maximal open interior space and gives the whole structure a very space-age design. Lastly, surrounding the facade of the pavilion in three horizontal rows are narrow opaque panes of engineered Coplit glass. This Coplit material is notable in that it transmits less heat inside the structure, while it's also designed with low-iron content, a property that reduces the green tint often associated with standard glass walls, giving it a more distinct appearance. The inclusion of the Coplit glass panels on Rašica’s pavilion were so successful, when the new USSR pavilion was built three years later, they were also used to encase the entire exterior of that building as well.


A recent view of the interior of the East German Pavilion. Credit: Karting Arena Zagreb

For his design of the East Germany Pavilion, Rašica was granted in 1965 the federal prize by the Central Committee of the Association of Architects of Yugoslavia. Similar to the USSR, East Germany made construction and agricultural machinery often the showcase of their exhibitions, for which the high roofs of the new pavilion were excellently suited. During the 1970s, East Germany sometimes shared this pavilion with Czechoslovakia, helping both nations to bear the cost of this immense building. However, by the 1980s, East Germany used the pavilion less and less, while during the 1990s, a unified Germany used the pavilion as a staging ground and warehouse for relief and humanitarian aid during the Yugoslav Wars. In 2003, the original East German pavilion next door, pavilion #18, was protected as a building of important “ambient value” by the Croatian government. As far as Rašica’s new East German Pavilion, it is yet to be granted any national protection and, for the last few years, it has been transformed into a popular go-kart racing track.

 

West German Pavilion:

A vintage view of the West German Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Name: The West German Pavilion

Year Constructed: 1960

Number: #8

Architect: Peter Pixis


When it came time for West Germany (officially the “Federal Republic of Germany”) to construct its first pavilion at the new site of the Zagreb Trade Fair, the spot chosen for this new project was a prominent spot right along the “Alley of Nations”. This spot, located right next to the original USSR Pavilion, was to take the place of the original Hungarian Pavilion (created in 1956 by architect I. Brijeska), which was to be dismantled. The following year, the Hungarians temporarily reassembled their pavilion just next to the new West German Pavilion, until they later took up residence in Pavilion #22. The designer for the new West German Pavilion was Munich architect Peter Pixis. Distinguished by a long career, Pixis designed projects both for domestic German trade fairs as well as exhibition halls for Germany abroad (such as at the Budapest International Fair).


A vintage b&w aerial view of the West German Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

The West German Pavilion was completed in 1960 and consisted of a flat roofed rectangular complex that was surrounded completely by glass curtain walls on its north and south sides. A series of 6 thin concrete structural beams, thin and exposed along the top of the building, carry the load of the roof and save the structure from requiring bulky internal support columns. At the northeast corner of the pavilion was originally a dramatically cantilevered concrete awning, highly geometric and angular, that cantilevered outwards out from the structure, seeming to defy gravity. However, the distinct and streamlined form of the original pavilion was altered when two additions were added to extend the original pavilion in 1968, overseen by Croatian architect Božidar Rašica. These additions, which serve to extend the pavilion towards the main road and connect it to the USSR Pavilion, are successful in their execution of improving the space for West Germany’s exhibitions while also doing its best to preserve the appearance of Pixis’s original pavilion. Because of its central position within the fairgrounds, it was well patronized through the decades and was maintained in good condition. The complex continues to operate up to the present day, hosting numerous exhibitions, events and trade fair presentations.


A recent view of the exterior of the West German Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: GoogleMaps

It is also important to mention that West Germany built a second pavilion complex just a few meters south of their original hall, with this new facility (#10) located along what is today Dubrovnik Avenue (known as Boris Kidrič Avenue during the Yugoslav-era). It was unveiled in 1968 and its architect is credited in sources only as “Büderich”. An addition was also added onto the north end of it in 1990 by the architect Đivo Dražić. One of the most notable cultural history aspects of this secondary West German Pavilion was that it became the scene of the first mass techno parties in Croatia during the mid-1990s, hosting the first famous indoor rave festival “Future Shock” in June of 1994.

 

Chinese Pavilion:

A recent view of the Chinese Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Name: The Chinese Pavilion

Year Completed: 1956

Number: #11

Architect: Cheng Sung Mao


The fairground's Chinese Pavilion, located along the central thoroughfare (the “Allée of Nations”), was among the first cluster of pavilions constructed at this site in 1956. China was very excited at the prospect of constructing a pavilion at the Zagreb Fairgrounds, as it saw Yugoslavia as one of its most important penetration points as far as accessing the European markets. It stands as the only complex in the fairgrounds to have been built in a traditional cultural style, with the pavilion reflecting the heritage of hand crafted Chinese architecture. The construction and design of this distinct building, which takes the form of a multi-tiered wooden pagoda, was overseen by the Chinese architect Cheng Sung Mao, who coordinated a team of traditional craftsmen, woodworkers, builders and other artisans brought over from China to complete this pavilion. With its stone carvings, green tile roof, massive lanterns, intricate wooden doors, and ornate statues, sources describe this pavilion as being the only preserved Chinese building of the 20th century in Europe that was built by Chinese laborers in the traditional style. Meanwhile, the interior of the pavilion is characterized by an open two-level entrance atrium adorned with painted and gilded ceilings, all surrounded above by a mezzanine with lattice wooden railings. The front stone facade of the pavilion is crafted of marble from the Dalmatian island of Korčula (being the location said to be the birthplace of iconic explorer Marco Polo, the first European to visit China). As such, this material operates as a symbol for the centuries-old connection between Croatia and China. Situated above the main entrance of the complex there is an inscription in Chinese and Croatian that reads: “Pavilion of the People's Republic of China”. In 1971, an annex corridor between the Chinese Pavilion and the adjacent USSR Pavilion was constructed by Croatian architect Božidar Kolonić (lead designer of the Osnova Design Office).


A vintage b&w photo of the Chinese Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.
A recent view of the interior of the Chinese Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

The Chinese Pavilion continues to stand in good condition and is consistently used by a number of various groups, including many organizations still tied to Chinese/Asian cultural interests, such as martial arts studios, fitness and advocacy organizations. In 2003, the Croatian Ministry of Culture protected the Chinese Pavilion by designating it as a Monument of Cultural Heritage. The pavilion underwent rehabilitation and restoration in 2014/2015 with assistance from the Chinese government.

 

Czechoslovakia Pavilion:

A vintage postcard view of the Czechoslovakia Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Name: Czechoslovakia Pavilion

Year Completed: 1956

Number: #20

Architect: Josef Hruby


The pavilion of Czechoslovakia (then the CSSR or “Czechoslovak Socialist Republic”) was one of the original pavilions constructed as part of the creation of the Zagreb Fairgrounds in 1956, situated along the “Allée of Nations”. These facilities were the work of Czech architect Josef Hrubý, who was one of Czechoslovakia’s most famous 20th century architects, created not only some of the country’s most significant mid-century buildings but also numerous CSSR pavilions for exhibitions around the world, most notably the 1958 Brussels World Expo and the interior of the 1967 Montreal World Expo. Fashioned in the International Style with large walls of glass enhanced by brick-like gridded mullions, the pavilion is unique for its wooden barrel roof, which is entirely load bearing (as opposed to the steel frame construction most modernist buildings of the time employed).


A b&w 1950s vintage view of the Czechoslovakia Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

One of the most popular exhibits at the CSSR Pavilion was in 1960 when the construction firm Jugomont assembled life-size walk-thru modern apartment models for people to explore, which displayed the future of high-rise apartment living. With many such apartment towers being constructed during this time not only in Zagreb but across Yugoslavia, construction firms used the Zagreb Fair as an opportunity to showcase the lifestyles available to the country’s citizens. In addition, the apartments were fully furnished with stylish furniture and accessories from the Yugoslav manufacturers Exportdrvo and Interpret, allowing visitors to fully visualize themselves in the space. 


A recent photo of the remains of the Czechoslovakia Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

By the 1980s, Czechoslovakia ceased using this pavilion for exhibitions and by the 1990s it was being used by private organizations, with the interior of the complex being converted into a badminton and tennis center. During the 1990s, the wooden load-bearing structure of the pavilion was in need of desperate repair (as it was at risk of collapsing). This was of particular concern to Croatia’s president Franjo Tuđman, who used these facilities to play tennis. As such, the pavilion was repaired and restored during this period (along with an adjoining annex [20A] being demolished, which had been in a state of near collapse). The old CSSR Pavilion continues to operate as a badminton and tennis center up to the present day. In 2003, the Croatian Ministry of Culture protected the Czechoslovakia Pavilion by designating it as a Monument of Cultural Heritage.

 

Yugoslavia Pavilions:

A vintage b&w postcard view of one of the Yugoslavia Pavilion #6 at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Name: Yugoslav Pavilions

Year Completed: 1956 & 1976

Number(s): #1 - 6

Architect(s): Božidar Rašica & Marijan Haberle

Coordinates: [Pav.1], [Pav. 2], [Pav. 5] and [Pav. 6]


The vast majority of the industrial, commercial and cultural exhibitions that were on display by Yugoslavia were set up in the first initial pavilions constructed here at the Zagreb Fairgrounds in 1956. The original Pavilions 1 & 2 were created as modest entrance kiosks at the southwestern corner of the fairgrounds. Meanwhile, the 1956 versions of Pavilions 3 & 4 were simple temporary complexes meant to offer basic facilities for exhibition purposes. Pavilion 3 was of a long hip-roofed construction, while Pavilion 4 was a shorter curved canopy tent-like structure. All four of these original pavilions were torn down in 1975 and in their place were constructed what are now known as the present-day Pavilions 1 & 2, created by Ljubljana-born architect Božidar Rašica and unveiled in 1976. One of the fathers of modernism in Croatia, Rašica was part of the famous EXAT 51 group and among the main pioneering designers of the entire layout of the fairgrounds project here in Novi Zagreb. Rašica’s two pavilions consist of similarly styled warehouse-like structures defined by their long cascading arched sections of connected curved rooflines, along with distinctively blue exterior walls.


A vintage view of the Yugoslav Pavilion #5 showing an ad for the Battle of Neretva film.
A vintage b&w image of Tito and company examining exhibits in Yugoslav Pavilion #6.

Also in 1956 were constructed Pavilions 5 & 6 (just to the east of Pavilions 3 & 4), projects which were spearheaded by Croatian architect Marijan Haberle. As one of Zagreb’s most significant architects of the 1950s, Haberle created such works as the Hotel International [1957] and the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall [1958]. These two structures, 5 & 6 (similar in design), were of an elongated pavilion style, with high ceilings, long strips of windows and slits of perforated roof sections to allow in great amounts of light and air. It is also pertinent to note that in 1961, Haberle constructed another pavilion for Yugoslav exhibits, #25, just north of Pavilion 5, designed in a similar style as his other works here. 


A recent photo of the Yugoslavia Pavilion #1 at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

The newer Pavilions 1 & 2, as well as the older Pavilions 5 & 6 (as well as 25), continue to be used up to the present day, mostly for activities such as fitness studios, basketball, gyms, children’s daycare, tennis courts, among other diverse activities. In addition, these pavilions sometimes play host to global exhibitions, such as the Interliber International Book & Teaching Appliance Fair. Only Pavilions 5 & 6 are under minimal protection by the Croatian Ministry of Culture for their “ambient value”.

 

Austria Pavilion:

A recent view of the front of the Austria Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: Google Maps

Name: Austria Pavilion

Year Completed: 1969

Number: #7

Architect: Božidar Kolonić


Along what is present-day Dubrovnik Avenue (known as Boris Kidrič Avenue during the Yugoslav-era), just south of Pavilion 6, the Austria Pavilion (Pavilion 7) was constructed in 1969 by Croatian architect Božidar Kolonić (lead designer of the Osnova Design Office). The exterior form of the Austria Pavilion, which is of a single level rectangular volume with 2,400 sq m of area, is characterized by a central ornamental band of green patterned metal, while roof cornices with oversized eaves are adorned with flattened diamond-shape panels reminiscent of the Broyhill Brasilia design. Set between the green ornamental band and the diamond cornices is a long ribbon of windows that allow light to penetrate into the exhibition space. Little information (or photographic documentation) is available in regards to the Yugoslav-era operation of this pavilion by the Austrian authorities. In 1987, an annex [7a] was constructed on the northwest end of the Austria Pavilion, created by architect Đivo Dražić & Edvin Šmit, which was ultimately connected to the new south entrance (also by Dražić & Šmit) built during the same time period.


A recent view of the Austria Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

Currently, the Austria Pavilion is in good condition and is routinely used for exhibitions and trade fairs. The structure is not protected by any government agencies nor designated with any cultural listings.

 

Romania Pavilion:

A vintage 1956 image of the Romania Pavilion under construction at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: Mapiranje Trešnjevke

Name: Romania Pavilion

Year Completed: 1956

Number: #19

Architect: Ressu [?]


Located directly next to the Czechoslovakia Pavilion is the Romania Pavilion, a site which was also one of the original exhibition halls built here at the Zagreb Fairgrounds in 1956. Sources reference the architect of this pavilion as being a figure named “Ressu”, however, I have not been able to find any further reference or information of the identity of this architect. With a brick facade and undulating corrugated roof (pierced with a large skylight at its center), the most distinct feature of the pavilion is a decorative geometric screen along the front- and east-facing wall. Sadly, little information (or photographic documentation) is available in regards to the Yugoslav-era operation of this pavilion by the Romanian authorities.


A recent photo of the remains of the Romania Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

Today the Romania Pavilion is quite shielded and tucked away, however, its unique features were much more visible and easy to appreciate before the Slovenijales Furniture Pavilion was built next door to it in 1964. Today, the pavilion is in reasonable condition and still is utilized by the local community, primarily as a gymnastics studio and fitness center. It is not protected by any government agencies nor designated with any cultural listings.

 

Slovenijales Furniture Pavilion

A recent photo of the Slovenijales Furniture Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

Name: Slovenijales Furniture Pavilion

Year Completed: 1964

Number: #16

Architect: Božidar Rašica


Situated directly next to the Romania Pavilion and across from the Chinese Pavilion is the Slovenijales Furniture Pavilion. The complex was unveiled in 1964 and designed by Ljubljana-born architect Božidar Rašica. One of the fathers of modernism in Croatia, Rašica was part of the famous EXAT 51 group and among the main pioneering designers of the entire layout of the fairgrounds project here in Novi Zagreb. This pavilion was created as a showroom and trade venue for the Ljubljana-based furniture company Slovenijales, which was the largest furniture producer in Slovenia (perhaps also in Yugoslavia). The pavilion is surrounded by a distinct geometrically-textured yellow facade. Above this yellow facade is a long bank of window strips that are capped with a heavy concrete-beam roof. The finishing accent of this roof arrangement is an extension of these long concrete beams dramatically from the east and west cornices, allowing a clear unhindered view of the pavilion’s construction. Sadly, little information (or photographic documentation) is available in regards to the Yugoslav-era operation of this pavilion by the Slovenijales company.


The Slovenijales Pavilion continues to exist in good condition up to the present day. It appears that the facility is still used for some nature of business, but further details on its current operations are not readily available. The pavilion is not protected by any government agencies nor designated with any cultural listings.

 

Mašinogradnja Pavilion:

A vintage photo of the Mašinogradnja Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: Omnia/Europeana

Name: Mašinogradnja Pavilion

Year Completed: 1957

Number: #36

Architect: Božidar Rašica


At the northeast corner of the Zagreb Trade Fairgrounds can be found the enormous and glass-encased Mašinogradnja “Heavy Machinery” Pavilion. Unveiled in 1957 during the second year of operation of the fair, this expansive pavilion was designed by Ljubljana-born architect Božidar Rašica. One of the fathers of modernism in Croatia, Rašica was part of the famous EXAT 51 group and was among the main pioneering designers of the entire layout of the fairgrounds project here in Novi Zagreb. Sitting as an open and voluminous object, the pavilion is constructed from a simple combination of steel and glass, giving the interior of the object the maximum amount of adaptable multi-purpose space for exhibitors to function. The two-tiered ceiling of the pavilion is suspended from steel girders extending above the structure’s roof, down from which a curtain membrane of uninterrupted glass descends nearly to the ground. This configuration opens the interior up to huge amounts of natural light and leaves the interior space free from any supportive structures that might impede the exhibition of large displays by the various participating heavy machinery and ferrous metallurgy companies (such as TAM, Progres Invest, Mašino Union, Brodomaterial, etc). When seen as a whole, this composition by Rašica is highly reminiscent of the work of American architect Mies van der Rohe, particularly his SR Crown Hall in Chicago.


A vintage image of the Mašinogradnja Pavilion under construction at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

In addition to the exhibition of heavy machinery, the Mašinogradnja Pavilion also played host to cultural events, various performances and concerts. For example, in 1959, the American jazz musician and trumpet player Louis Armstrong staged a concert within the pavilion with a full band accompaniment.


A recent photo of the Mašinogradnja Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

During the Yugoslav-era, the Mašinogradnja Pavilion was seen as an iconic structure and viewed as a symbol for the technology, industry and machines that were so often on display here. It was such a prominent and atmospheric building that, as recounted by sources, scenes from Orson Welles 1962 film “The Trial” were also filmed within the pavilion. However, by the 1980s, industrial exhibitions within the pavilion had come to a halt and the complex began to be used for the purposes of indoor tennis. Rašica had originally intended to include interchangeable facilities within the pavilion for its use as a sports center when exhibitions were not being held, however, these were never completed. Thus, alterations which were damaging to the structure were needed to cater the building to sporting events. Meanwhile, in the 1990s, clay tennis courts were built just to the northeast edge of the pavilion, further altering the pavilions surroundings. Yet, in 2003, the Croatian Ministry of Culture protected the Mašinogradnja Pavilion by designating it as a Monument of Cultural Heritage. Yet, despite this designation, in 2020, an indoor trampoline park and family entertainment center called “Amazinga” opened up within the pavilion, during which time the interior of the space was drastically changed.

 

Vitić Pavilion:

A vintage b&w view of the Vitić Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Name: The Vitić Pavilion of Nations or the “International Collective Pavilion”

Year Completed: 1957

Number: #40

Architect: Ivan Vitić


Along the central northern boundary of the Zagreb Trade Fair is situated the large and dramatic arena complex known as the “Vitić Pavilion”. Unveiled in 1957, the name of the pavilion comes from its architect Ivan Vitić, who was one of the most significant Yugoslav-era architects in Croatia, creating such notable Zagreb landmarks as the Kockica (Cube) government building [1968] and the colorful apartment tower on Vojnovićeva [1958]. Originally, the pavilion was meant to be a much more simple structure and intended as the West German Pavilion, however, as the Mayor of Zagreb Većeslav Holjevac feared that the Trade Fair might be moved to Belgrade, he commissioned Vitić to create a much more daring and impressive structure that would solidify Zagreb as an unequivocal fairground venue. The pavilion that Vitić would come to create for the Zagreb Fair went on to become regarded as one of the most significant architectural works in Croatia of the 1950s.


A vintage view of the Vitić Pavilion. Credit: Tošo Dabac

Working with the engineer Kruna Tonković (Croatia’s most accomplished bridge builder), Ivan Vitić crafted a pavilion that was not only visually stunning, but also a noteworthy feat of modern construction in itself. Formed from a combination of reinforced concrete and cable stays, the Vitić Pavilion appears as a shapely silhouette that lays out across the landscape as an elegant parabola elevated by a system of zig-zagged mesh support columns. Positioned at an unusual 45 degree angle across the layout of the fairgrounds, the two narrow ends of the pavilion lean back outwards across a series of  concrete supported triangles. From these triangles, a series of tensioned cables extend across the pavilion’s roof, supporting the entire wood paneled ceiling of the structure. From here, expansive lengths of triangle-mullion glass panes extend along both broad sides of the pavilion. As such, these features not only open up the interior to huge amounts of light, but also allow the floorspace to be fully open and entirely unimpeded by any support columns or structures. What further pushes the creation of this unique concrete pavilion to impressive heights is, in addition to its unique architectural solution, it was also constructed in a mere four months of time between May and September of 1957. Interestingly, the pavilion bears many similarities to the Wuppertal Swim Center in Wuppertal, Germany (also unveiled in 1957 and built by architect Friedrich Hetzelt).


A recent view of the Vitić Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

One interesting aspect of this pavilion is that it is the one structure within the fairgrounds that defies the orthogonal layout of the complex, sitting at an odd 45 degree angle when compared to all over pavilions. The reason for this is the original 1956 plan for this area of the fairgrounds had this pavilion sitting within and along a large heptagon-shaped pathway (positioned at its northeast side). While the construction of the Vitić Pavilion conformed to this initial layout, future development around this area disregarded the plan, with the heptagon-shaped pathway never actually even being built. As such, the pavilion is now situated oddly compared to all surrounding buildings.

 

A recent view of the interior skating rink of the Vitić Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: Stela Urbanc

By the late 1970s, the utility for the Vitić Pavilion as an exhibition space had become minimal, as such, the City of Zagreb made provisions to transform the hall into a large ice rink for use as the main venue of the 1979 European Figure Skating Championship (which were won that year by East German skater Jan Hoffmann for the 3rd year in a row). For the past +40 years, the Vitić Pavilion has been continually employed as a skating rink, used for both hockey and figure skating events. In 2003, the Croatian Ministry of Culture protected the Vitić Pavilion by designating it as a Monument of Cultural Heritage. No longer managed by the Zagreb Trade Fair, today the pavilion is operated by the Zagreb Sports Facilities Management Institute. 

 

Timber Industry Pavilion:

A recent view of the rear facade of the Timber Industry Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

Name: Timber Industry Pavilion

Year Completed: 1971

Number: #12

Architect[s]: Dubravko Radošević & Božidar Kolonić


Near the southeast corner of the Zagreb Trade Fair (Zagrebački velesajam), just next to the USA Pavilion, is the complex that was built to serve as the Timber Industry (Drvna industrija) Pavilion. Unveiled in 1971 and created by the architect team of Dubravko Radošević & Božidar Kolonić, the pavilion is a characterized by its raw angular concrete facade, with the architectural term “brutalist” very much fitting on account of its very minimalist exterior and unadorned facade. As an aside, it is apt to point out the irony of constructing a pavilion dedicated to the country’s timber industry that is constructed solely of pure raw concrete. The most striking exterior elements of the building are its sharply ascending zig-zag ramps, as well as its extremely cantilevered triangle entrance overhangs, with these features appearing both on the building’s front street-facing facade and rear facade. Meanwhile, the upper sections of the building’s facade are punctuated only by a very thin strip of windows. As far as adornments, the structure’s only decorative element that can be said to exist are at the northeast and southwest corners (both identical), which are a modest geometric configuration of triangle shaped vents. 


A vintage 1980s view of the Timber Industry Pavillion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: Mapiranje Trešnjevke

The impetus for the construction of the Timber Industry Pavilion was part of the fair’s administration responding to the changing desires of fairgoers during the late 1960s. Trends were shifting more towards specialized fair offerings and events rather than general fairs that displayed a wide spectrum of different goods and exhibits. The Timber Industry Pavilion specialized as an exhibition space for various wood products, predominantly furniture and other household applications (wood flooring, construction material, etc). The pavilion served not only as an exhibition space for Yugoslav wood products producers, but also those from around the world wishing to display their products to a Yugoslav audience.


A view of interior exhibits at the Timber Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: ULUPUH

Also, it is important to mention that the site of the Timber Industry Pavilion was not the first pavilion to be built at this location. In 1959, this was the site of the second Italian Pavilion here at the fairgrounds. This original Italian Pavilion stood as a highly modernist arrangement of roughly a dozen hexagon-shaped towers, all with sharply slanting rooflines painted in bright colors. Sadly, very little information is available about this pavilion (even the identity of its architect), while very little photo documentation of it is available. After using the pavilion for three years, the Italians sold the structure to the Netherlands in 1962 for use in their exhibitions, as Italy then built another new pavilion next door. The Netherlands then handed the location back to the ZV fairgrounds administration in 1970, at which point it was torn down and the new Timber Industry Pavilion was created in its place.


The Timber Industry Pavilion still stands in reasonable condition up to the present day. Interestingly, it continues to serve as a hub for furniture and home goods retailers and exhibitionists selling wood products. Today, the pavilion is known as “Interior Center 12” (Interijer centar 12), with a large illuminating sign at the top of the building along its street-facing side advertising this name. The pavilion is not protected by any government agencies nor designated with any cultural listings.

 

Đuro Đaković Pavilion:

A vintage b&w view of the "Đuro Đaković" Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: Miroslav Begović Archive

Name: "Đuro Đaković" Pavilion

Year Completed: 1961

Number: #28

Architect: Miroslav Begović


Near the northwest edge of the Zagreb Fairgrounds exists the present day ruins of the "Đuro Đaković" Pavilion. The company known as "Đuro Đaković" was a Croatian factory headquartered in Slavonski Brod who focused on metal fabrication, power plant construction and civil engineering. The name of the company refers to the famous Yugoslav communist activist and labor organizer Đuro Đaković, who himself was a metal worker. The "Đuro Đaković" company was keen on having their products and industrial goods on display for an international audience, as such, they made the choice to open their own dedicated pavilion and exhibition space at the Zagreb Trade Fair in 1961. Designed by Croatian architect Miroslav Begović (which was his first major work), the pavilion stood as an open airy glass-encased metal structure that was defined by its oversized exaggerated eaves, cantilevered out past the structure to an extreme degree, giving the building an almost airplane-like appearance. The building’s exposed prefabricated steel frame, floating metal stairways and hanging glass facade gave the pavilion a very industrial aesthetic, reflecting the mission and offerings of the Đuro Đaković company. The interior of the pavilion was notable for its spacious atrium surrounded around the perimeter by a hanging mezzanine, all imparting the effect of floating within the landscape. There were no doors, no walls, no windows, no constraints, just pure open space. 


A vintage b&w view of the interior of the "Đuro Đaković" Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: Miroslav Begović Archive
A recent view of the"Đuro Đaković" Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

Sadly, in the years after the decline of the Zagreb Fair, the Đuro Đaković Pavilion was not able to find a new tenant to operate within its space. As such, it began a slow decline into decay and dereliction. Today, while the street structure and roof of the pavilion are both still standing and intact, it sits in a state of complete abandonment. Sources report that the ruin’s primary utilization is as a colony for local stray cats. As of 2003, the Đuro Đaković Pavilion is only under minimal protection by the Croatian Ministry of Culture for its “ambient value”. In 2020, the Croatian Museum of Architecture (HAZU) put on a show (curated by Borka Bobovec) that was dedicated to Miroslav Begović, with historic photos, sketches and documentation of the Đuro Đaković Pavilion acting as centerpieces for the show. Then, in 2022, the Oris House of Architecture in Croatia organized an exhibition project where three accomplished architects put forward plans for revitalizing the ruined pavilion. However, no solid restoration plans are moving forward as of yet.

 

Rade Končar Pavilion:

A vintage postcard view of the “Rade Končar” Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Name: “Rade Končar” Pavilion

Year Completed: 1957

Number: #31

Architect(s): Zvonimir Marohnić & Drago Korbar


Directly east of the “Đuro Đaković” Pavilion near the northwest corner of the fairgrounds are the forgotten remains of the “Rade Končar” Pavilion. Similar to the “Đuro Đaković” company, the Zagreb-based company “Rade Končar” wished to have their own dedicated pavilion within the fairgrounds to exhibit their goods and machines. “Rade Končar” was an industry focused on energy and electricity production, being named after the famous KPJ leader and Partisan fighter of the same name. Their pavilion was unveiled in 1957 and was designed by the Croatian architects Zvonimir Marohnić & Drago Korbar. The complex was of a relatively simple design, standing as an open square characterized by its walls of thinly slit windows that brought light into the entire pavilion, all topped off with a flat roof with oversized eaves. The “Rade Končar” Pavilion was notable for its impressive displays of electrical equipment, consumer electronics and other gadgets.


A recent view of the remains of the “Rade Končar” Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

In the post-Yugoslav era, the “Rade Končar” Pavilion has fallen into a state of relative disuse and abandonment. Currently, its windows are all covered and there are no signs the building is currently being used for any purposes whatsoever. However, signage indicates it is being used (perhaps in the recent past) by a Croatian furniture company called “Alto”. The pavilion is not protected by any government agencies nor designated with any cultural listings.

 

Ready-Made Department Store & Supermarket Pavilions:

A vintage b&w photo of the Ready-Made Supermarket Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Name: Ready-Made Department Store & Supermarket Pavilions

Year Completed: 1957

Number: Existed on the current site of #25

Architect(s): Ninoslav Kučan, Aleksandar Dragomanović, Stjepan Milković, Zdravko Gmajner & Emil Ladinek

Former coordinates: 45°46'48.8"N, 15°58'09.7"E


During the second year of the Zagreb Trade Fair in 1957, a special exhibition series was put on called the “Family & Household” (“Porodica i domaćinstvo”). These displays were meant to inform Yugoslav citizens on the not-too-distant changes that future technologies had in store for them and present to them developments that were to aid in their modern ways of living and increase their standards of life. The organizing committee of this exhibition consisted of multiple socio-economic organizations, such as the Federation of Trade Unions of Yugoslavia, the Federation of Women's Societies of Yugoslavia, the Council for the Care of Children and Youth of Yugoslavia, etc. The goal of the Family & Household exhibition was most certainly tasked with creating a new modern society for the people of Yugoslavia, presenting to them the lives they could be leading in the future, and teaching them how to bring about change in their own lives.


A vintage b&w photo of the Ready-Made Department Store Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

Two of the most significant exhibition spaces during the Family & Household program were the Ready-Made Department Store and the Ready-Made Supermarket. These two individual pavilions were demonstrative examples of inexpensive, prefabricated, modern architectural structures, infinitely flexible and modular, that could be used to house commercial endeavors. Both pavilions were created as glass encased boxes that radiated an atmosphere of sleek modernity and gleaming purity. The Department Store Pavilion was designed by the architect team of Ninoslav Kučan and Aleksandar Dragomanović, while the Supermarket Pavilion was designed by the architect team of Stjepan Milković, Zdravko Gmajner and Emil Ladinek. No doubt these two pavilions were in response to the presentations by the USA Pavilion of a modern American supermarket, an exotic self-service offering with high stocked shelves, conveyer-belt check-out counters and refrigerated coolers, a display that the Yugoslav visitors fell head-over-heels for. In the same fashion, the Family & Household exhibits Department Store and Supermarket were equal successes.


A vintage image of the NaMa department store at Trešnjevački trg 1, formerly the Supermarket Pavilion.
A vintage b&w image of the Modna Kuca department store at Praška 7, formerly the Department Store Pavilion.

In fact, these pavilions were such successes that as soon as the Family & Household exhibition concluded in 1960, both pavilions were bought by companies and erected around Zagreb to be operated just as seen at the fairgrounds. The Department Store Pavilion was moved to Praška 7 (just north of Park Zrinjevac) and given the name Modna kuća “Standard” (or “Fashion House Standard”). It was constructed in only 90 days and opened in April of 1960. The site upon which the department store was built was previously occupied by the 1867 Zagreb Synagogue, which was maliciously torn down in 1942 by Ustaše authorities during WWII. Strangely, exactly 20 years later, Modna kuća “Standard” mysteriously burned down in a fire on New Year's Day 1980. As of 2023, the site still sits as an empty parking lot and nothing has been rebuilt. As for the Supermarket Pavilion, it was moved from the fairgrounds in 1959 and purchased by the Croatia-based chain store NaMa (which stands for “NArodni MAgazin” or 'People’s Store'). It was relocated and quickly reassembled at Trešnjevački trg 1 (formerly "October Revolution Square"), being unveiled in September of 1960. This stood as the very first general department store in Zagreb during the era of socialism. It was so successful, six more were constructed in Zagreb before the end of that same year. The old NaMa pavilion at Trešnjevački continues to stand at this location up to the present day, where it is currently being operated as a Konzum Supermarket.

 

Energoinvest Pavilion:

A recent photo of the Energoinvest Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

Name: Energoinvest Pavilion

Year Completed: 1960

Number: #32

Architect: Zdravko Gmajner


Near the center of the Zagreb Fairgrounds, the Sarajevo-based import/export (as well as energy and engineering) firm “Energoinvest” constructed an exhibition pavilion dedicated to showcasing the efforts of their industry. Unveiled in 1960, the pavilion was designed by Croatian architect Zdravko Gmajner, who was part of the team responsible for constructing the first general department store in Zagreb. Constructed in the International Style, with long strips of glass walls within mullion grids all held within a prefabricated box frame, the design allows for flexibility and can be adapted to a variety of needs. Sadly, little information (or photographic documentation) is available in regards to the Yugoslav-era operation of this pavilion by the management of Energoinvest.


While the company Energoinvest continues to operate up to the present day, they have not operated any exhibitions out of the pavilion since the 1970s. During the 1980s, the pavilion was used as showroom space by the metallurgical and metalworking company RMK Zenica, which was said to be one of the largest steel producers in Yugoslavia. Now defunct, their logo can still be seen stenciled on the side of the pavilion. Currently, the pavilion is being occupied by the Messis heavy equipment company, who uses the space as a showroom for their tractors and implements. The pavilion is not protected by any government agencies nor designated with any cultural listings.

 

South Entrance Pavilion:

A recent view of the South Entrace Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

Name: South Entrance Pavilion

Year Completed: 1987

Number: n/a

Architect(s): Đivo Dražić & Edvin Šmit


The last major pavilion project at the Zagreb Trade Fair was the South Entrance Pavilion, which was completed between 1986 and 1987. As the name suggests, it is situated along the southern boundary of the fairgrounds along what is today called Dubrovnik Avenue (known as Boris Kidrič Avenue during the Yugoslav-era). For decades, there were plans designed by Božidar Rašica to build a large entrance pavilion and square along the east side of the fairgrounds (as well as a 30 story skyscraper called the “Palace of Nations”), but these were abandoned by the early 1980s for budgetary reasons. As a result, a more modest plan to create an entrance pavilion along the south boundary of the fairgrounds was accepted as a compromise. Created by the architect team of Đivo Dražić & Edvin Šmit, the impetus for the construction of this new entrance pavilion was for it to act as a centerpiece for the 1987 Summer Universiade (which is a sort of university Olympic-style competition) that were hosted in Zagreb that year. This large South Entrance Pavilion project was to replace a smaller, much more modest, south entrance that existed at this spot before, which essentially consisted of some simple covered turnstiles. Because of the turbulent economic situation of the late 1980s in Yugoslavia, most large scale construction projects were banned. However, for the purposes of the Universiade, this Entrance Pavilion was permitted, as some of the events were being held at venues across the fairgrounds. As such, this pavilion stands as a unique piece of architectural history not only for the fairgrounds, but also for Zagreb, as it stands as one of the few major buildings constructed during this tumultuous time period.


A vintage 1990s image of the South Entrance Pavilion at the Zagreb Trade Fair.

The unique appearance of the South Entrance Pavilion, compared to other pavilions across the fairgrounds, reflects the distinct era within which it was built, where the architectural aesthetic was dominated by postmodernism. Dražić & Šmit crafted a structure characterized by its facade of blue glazed glass that was all set within a grid of blue mullions. Exposed blue painted steel girders raised the composition into the air. Meanwhile, cylinders and sweeping curves punctuate the pavilion (all wrapped with blue glass and mullions), giving the building a sense of playfulness and whimsy. Postmodernism is known for its eccentric use of color and shapes (think of the furniture of the Memphis Group), as such, the Entrance Pavilion stands as an excellent and unique example of style, seen in very few other places in Zagreb.


The South Entrance Pavilion continues to exist in good condition up to the present day and is still used as an entrance and informational pavilion for visitors during exhibitions and events. In addition, the pavilion also currently contains commercial retail space, bars and cafes. The pavilion is not protected by any government agencies nor designated with any cultural listings.


A recent photo of the Hipar sculpture in front of the South Entrance Pavilion. Credit: personal photo

Lastly, it is important to mention one last element within the vicinity of the South Entrance Pavilion, which is a sculptural work known as the “Hipar” or “Školjka/Shell”. The work was created in 1964 by Božidar Rašica (with help from Karl Poltz), who not only created numerous pavilions across the fairgrounds but was also one of its primary planners and organizers during the mid-1950s. Constructed of a reinforced concrete shell, the sculpture takes the shape of a soaring hyperboloid which operated as a canopy and an information point. At the time of the Hipar’s conception in the early 1960s, there were no shotcrete concrete machines in Yugoslavia that could have eased the construction of such an unusual experimental structure. As such, Rašica had to painstakingly frame the shape of this intricate design and then pour the concrete by hand. Originally, Rašica wanted to make the sculpture much larger but these technical limitations forced him to scale back his initial concept. When the South Entrance Pavilion was created in front of the sculpture in 1987, the work was painted the same color blue to match the building. In 2003, the Croatian Ministry of Culture protected the Hipar sculpture by designating it as a Monument of Cultural Heritage. However, today, it is largely used as a rudimentary parking canopy for the surrounding parking lot. There are no nearby informational boards or signs which bring attention to the sculpture, its history or its cultural heritage status.

 

Sculpture Park and Arboretum:

A vintage view of the 1960 sculpture "Koritarke" by Ivan Sabolić at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: Mapiranje Trešnjevke

One component of the grounds of the Zagreb Trade Fair that often gets overlooked by those examining it is its legacy of being a significant repository of mid-20th century Yugoslav modern sculpture. Located primarily within the green lawns of the Allée of Nations and along the South Entrance promenade, there were originally dozens of sculptures (crafted from various mediums) placed within the landscape in front of the pavilions. These works began to appear at the fairgrounds in 1960, when 21 sculptures were initially installed across the complex. These objects were the work of some of the most prominent sculptors of Yugoslavia, such as Antun Augustinčić, Dušan Džamonja [profile page], Ivan Sabolić, Šime Vulas [profile page], Vojin Bakić [profile page], and many more. They ranged in form from traditional figurative to extreme abstract, illustrating the wide range of styles present in Yugoslavia at that time period. Placement of these works continued to be placed within these spaces during the 1960s and 70s. It is also important to point out that in addition to the sculptures, trees from around the world were planted among this park space, creating a magnificent arboretum. For instance, one can find maples from Japan, Monkey Puzzle trees from Chile, Catalpa trees from America, among others. These trees operate two fold, one, they beautify the space and, two, they serve as a symbolic gesture showing representatives from around the globe growing together in health and harmony.


A recent view of the 1975 sculpture "Submarine" by Petar Dolić at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

As sources recount, the objective of including these works were to “bring art closer to the people" and "enhance the aesthetic appearance of the fairgrounds area of the ZV." The idea of mingling together the often disparate disciplines of industry/commerce and the arts was an initiative routinely explored by Yugoslav authorities. This was most prominently seen in the numerous sculpture symposiums held across the country that brought together industrial producers (such as metal workers, miners, quarrymen, etc) and sculptors to work together to create sculptural masterpieces. This process created a grounded relationship between these two groups (the worker and the intellectual), thus serving the socialist goal of creating unity and brotherhood between all classes of individuals. An article I wrote about this topic can be found at THIS link. In the case of the Zagreb fairgrounds, citizens coming to the fair to ogle at the products of industry and commerce are elevated by the presence of these sculptures they themselves might not ever seek out or be exposed to otherwise.


A recent view of the 1978 sculpture "Pillar of Production" by Mila Kumbatović at the Zagreb Trade Fair. Credit: personal photo

One particularly interesting and representative sculpture to point out is work located along Dubrovnik Avenue in front of the South Entrance Pavilion. This work is aptly titled “The Pillar of Production/Stup proizvodnje” and was created by sculptor Mila Kumbatović. Erected here in 1978 (as part of the 13th Zagreb Salon), this work is constructed of steel tubes that Kumbatović scavenged from the trash while working at the Sisak Ironworks symposium sculpture colony. According to sources, the work speaks to the economic and industrial significance of the location in front of which it stands, as well as the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the Yugoslav people to find utility and success in the most unlikely of places. As such, the Pillar of Production can be seen to serve as a symbol for the entire Zagreb Trade Fair.


Today, many of the original sculptures have been removed from this park and most of those that are left lack any identification of their names or authors. Furthermore, many of these works exist in poor conditions, neglected over many decades, and are in desperate need of restoration and conservation.

 

Zagreb Trade Fair Map:

A map of the Zagreb Trade Fair (Zagrebački velesajam) located in Zagreb, Croatia.

Trade Fair Pavilions:

1.) Yugoslav Pavilion, by Božidar Rašica, 1976

2.) Yugoslav Pavilion, by Božidar Rašica, 1976

5.) Yugoslav Pavilion (Light Industry), by Marijan Haberle, 1956

6.) Yugoslav Pavilion (Light Industry), by Marijan Haberle, 1957

7.) Austria Pavilion, by Božidar Kolonić, 1969

8.) Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) Pavilion, by Peter Pixis, 1960

8a+b.) Pavilion 8 expansion, by Božidar Rašica, 1969

9.) USSR Pavilion, by Yuri Abramov, 1956

10.) Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) Pavilion, by Büderich, 1968

10a.) Pavilion 10 expansion, by Đivo Dražić, 1990

11.) China Pavilion, by Cheng Sung Mao, 1957

11a.) Pavilion 11 expansion, by Božidar Kolonić, 1971

12.) Timber Industry Pavilion, by Dubravko Radošević & Božidar Kolonić, 1971

13.) USA Pavilion, by Fritz Bornemann, 1967

14.) Jugodrvo Furniture Pavilion, by Ivan Vitić, 1957

14a.) Marles Furniture Pavilion, Ludvik Sedonja, 1976

15.) Italy Pavilion, by Raffaele Contigiani, 1961

16.) Slovenijales Furniture Pavilion, Božidar Rašica, 1964

18.) Democratic Republic of Germany (East Germany) Pavilion, by Richard Paulick, 1957

19.) Romania Pavilion, by Ressu, 1957

20.) Czechoslovakia Pavilion, by Josef Hruby, 1956

22.) Hungary Pavilion, by Marijan Haberle, 1956

23.) Lesnina Furniture Pavilion, by Pavel Göstl, 1970

24.) “Vaso Miskin Crni” Railway Workshop Pavilion, by Lujo Schwerer, 1961

25.) Yugoslav Pavilion (Light Industry), by Marijan Haberle, 1961

28.) "Đuro Đaković" Pavilion, by Miroslav Begović, 1961

29.) Craftsmanship Pavilion, by Drago Korbar, 1958

30.) “INGRA” Pavilion, by Vjenceslav Richter, 1962

31.) “Rade Končar” Pavilion, by Zvonimir Marohnić & Drago Korbar, 1957

32.) “Energoinvest” Pavilion, by Zdravko Gmajner, 1960

33.) Greece Pavilion, by Vlasta Jakovac, 1959

34.) USA Pavilion, by Walter Dorwin Teague, 1957

35.) Democratic Republic of Germany (East Germany) Pavilion, by Božidar Rašica, 1964

36.) Mašinogradnja Pavilion, by Božidar Rašica, 1957

39.) USSR Pavilion, by Boris S. Vilenskiy, 1967

40.) The Vitić Pavilion of Nations or the “International Collective Pavilion”, by Ivan Vitić, 1957


Other Buildings & Pavilions:

A.) South Entrance Pavilion, Đivo Dražić & Edvin Šmit, 1987

B.) Administrative Building, by Marijan Haberle, 1956 (addition by Zrinka Andrijević, 1965)

C.) Customs House  “Intereuropa”, by Đivo Dražić & Edvin Šmit, 1991

D.) Customs Warehouses, by Marijan Haberle, 1956

E.) Congress Center, by Božidar Rašica, 1969


Demolished/Removed Pavilions (Orange letters):

F.) Pavilion 3, unknown author, 1956, demolished early 1970s

G.) Pavilion 4, unknown author, 1956, demolished early 1970s

H.) Department Store Pav., by Ninoslav Kučan & Aleksandar Dragomanović, 1957, removed 1960

I.) Supermarket Pav., by Stjepan Milković, Zdravko Gmajner and Emil Ladinek, 1957, removed 1959

J.) Hungarian Pavilion, by I. Brijeska, 1956, demolished 1959

K.) Italian Pavilion (#21) (also later used by Poland), by Raffaele Contigiani, 1956, demolished 1990s

L.) Wing of Czechoslovakia Pavilion (#20a), by Josef Hruby, 1956, demolished 1990s

M.) Italian Pavilion, unknown author, 1959, demolished 1970

N.) Poland Pavilion, unknown author, 1956, demolished 1966 

 

Helpful & Interesting Links:


Sources and More Information:

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