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Zdravko Bregovac: An Architect of Yugoslav Pleasure

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

Perhaps one of the most prolific and influential architects of Yugoslavia that made a lasting mark upon the landscape and the hearts of the public that endures up to the present day is Zdravko Bregovac. While he crafted a wide variety of buildings during his four decade career as an architect, he is unquestionably most remembered for the countless hotels, motels resorts and other touristic facilities that he created from Slovenia down the Croatia’s Adriatic coast to Montenegro. Not only did Bregovac help to revolutionize Yugoslavia’s tourism industry with his resorts, bringing leisure-filled joy to the hearts of millions, but his avant-garde approach to design has left us with a stunning legacy of works that few have rivaled and that still have much to teach us today.

A photo of Zdravko Bregovac at the height of his career. Credit: Family archive Bregovac-Pisk

Born to parents Dragan and Marija in the small village of Dinjevac, Croatia on March 4th, 1924 (just 10km from Đurđevac), Zdravko Bregovac was a bright child who was born into a family that valued education as well as creativity. His father Dragan was a mathematics professor, which resulted in the family moving quite often as he took up teaching positions at various institutions across the region. Eventually, these moves resulted in the family relocating to Zagreb, where Dragan had secured a respectable position with the Ministry of Education. After graduating from high school in 1942, Bregovac began studying electrical engineering at the University of Zagreb, however, he did not find this direction fulfilling, so he quickly changed over his focus of study to architecture. He was trained through the course of his studies by the famous Croatian early-modernist architects Zdenko Strižić, Alfred Albini and Mladen Kauzlarić, while, at the same time, he studied alongside fellow students such future luminaries as Vladimir Zarahović and Vjenceslav Richter. After graduating in 1949, Bregovac moved to Rijeka where he began working for the “Central Design Bureau” (“Centralni biro za projektiranje”), focusing on expanding infrastructure around the region’s shipbuilding industry across Istria. However, Bregovac’s ambitions as a creator were not satisfied within Istria’s shipbuilding industry and he began to reconnect with his former university classmates from Zagreb.


After catching up with his former architecture school friends Vladimir Zarahović and Vjenceslav Richter in 1950, Bregovac was enlisted into their new artistic group named “EXAT 51” (Experimental Atelier). At its core, EXAT 51 was a small avant-garde collective of creators (inspired by Bauhaus and Russian constructivism) who objected to the rigid formalism of Yugoslavia’s state-prescribed “Socialist Realism” art style and felt that not only that abstract art (which was at that point frowned upon by the state) had a place within the socialist system, but that the “pure” arts and the “applied” arts could exist as a seamless unified whole. Also part of this group were other creators such as interior designer Bernardo Bernardi, graphic artist Ivan Picelj, artist Aleksandar Srnec, among others, who would all come to be integral in his professional collaborations throughout the rest of his career. However, Bregovac would come to work most closely with his friend Vjenceslav Richter. After quitting his job with “Central Design Bureau” in 1952, through the rest of the 1950s, Bregovac worked on a number of formative architectural proposals with Richter that would come to set the tone for the rest of his career, which included projects such as the City Museum of Belgrade (1954), a housing complex in Banja Luka (1955), the National Museum of Aleppo (1956) and the Museum of the People’s Revolution in Sarajevo (1958), some of which were built and some not. In addition, Bregovac also took on numerous commissions to construct pavilions on behalf of Yugoslavia at events not only domestically (such as the Tourist Pavilion he built at the Zagreb Fair in 1959), but also pavilions representing his country at fairs in Chicago, Helsinki and Vienna. In addition to this creative work, he also took part in a significant amount of scholarly work during the 1950s, acting as the editor-in-chief to the important Zagreb trade journal “Arhitektura” from 1953 to 1956, where he often used artwork from his fellow EXAT 51 colleagues as front-cover art for the journal.

A vintage postcard of the National Museum in Aleppo, Syria, created by Bregovac & Richter in 1956.

However, it was working on several touristic projects during 1959 and 1960 along the Adriatic coast (consisting mostly of restorations, bungalow resorts and modest hotels) that seemed to resonate most deeply with Bregovac. With numerous high-profile successes under his belt and a new spirited energy for tourism architecture, he moved to the Istrian seaside town of Opatija to start his own architecture firm named “Opatija-projekt”, which was to focus almost exclusively on the creation of hotel and resort complexes. He began with some noteworthy projects along the Istrian coast between Opatija and Rabac, as well as spearheading the construction of a new resort called “Bellevue” at Plitvice Lakes next to Marijan Haberle’s famous Hotel Plitvice [1957]. However, Bregovac’s real fame as an architect came when he completed the “Hotel Ambassador” in 1966, which quickly became one of Yugoslavia’s most famous and resplendent locales, visited by the elites and celebrities from all over the world. Afterwards. Bregovac went on to create even more stunning and elaborate resorts, hotels and even several motels across the region, especially along the ever-popular Adriatic Coastal Highway touristic route. To illustrate just how significant the hotel boom was in Yugoslavia during this era, between 1960 and 1970, the country doubled its number of hotels from 400 to 800, with the vast majority of them being built along its Adriatic coast.


The bulk of Bregovac’s resorts and hotels were either in a coastal Adriatic setting or a serene mountain atmosphere. So, when it came to his design approach, he had two very different ways in which he tackled creating an architectural concept for these two very distinct regional settings. While it can be openly admitted that Bregovac’s designs can often be compared to the International Style, a highly popular facet of modernism during this period, he nonetheless was able to imbue his works with his own personal touches and highlights of regional flair, thus, transcending the cold uniformity and regional decontextualization for which the International Style was often criticized. For example, in his coastal works, he expressed more “Mediterranean” aesthetics (such as white facades, red-tile roofs, lattices), while his mountain resorts took on a more rustic tone, often replete with warm wood finishes, steeply pitched roofs and darker color schemes. Also, towards the goal of maintaining regional character, Bregovac was also very keen on preserving the natural landscape in the area around which he situated his hotels, keeping as many trees, rocks and terrain features as possible. This approach was to protect the pristine character of the environment as well as to convey the impression that the hotel itself was part of (or an extension) of the landscape. It was such fussing over little details such as this (a tree here, a rock there) that made Bregovac’s hotels unique experiences. He was not surprisingly just as fussy over the hotel’s interiors, as he was well versed in the craft of artful interior design. For his resorts, he often threw himself quite deep into this process, building customized furniture, fixtures and even went as far as to personally design the shelves behind the reception desk for storing room keys in some instances. It must also be mentioned on the topic of interior design that Bregovac, in addition to building new hotels, also undertook the process of renovating the interiors of classic pre-war hotels such as Hotel Toplice in Bled [1968], Hotel Kvarner in Opatija [1971] and Hotel Istria in Rab [1974].

A vintage photo from the "American Bar" at Hotel Ambassador in Opatija, with mural by Edo Murtić. Credit: CCN Images

It is also important to mention that Bregovac employed within the design of his hotels the philosophies he took from EXAT 51, exhibiting that pure abstract art can successfully be combined with applied art. For example, many of his hotel interior’s were adorned with massive free-form art installations (often made by former EXAT 51 members) that integrated themselves seamlessly with the surroundings, almost to the point where they became inseparable with the hotel’s architecture and design.


Over his life, Bregovac, with the help of numerous other architects and artists, created more than two dozen hotels, motels and resorts across Yugoslavia and, in the process, helped to put the country on the map as a European travel destination by completely reimagining its idea of touristic architecture and the coastal/mountain resort experience. Through this pioneering work, he received countless awards and recognitions, such as the Borba Award, the "Viktor Kovačić" Award and the “Vladimir Nazor” Award for lifetime achievements. He even went on to teach his skills to students at both universities in Rijeka and in Zagreb, passing on his experience to the next generation. He continued creating new projects until the mid 1980s, at which point he retired. On February 8th, 1998, Bregovac passed away in Rijeka at the age of 74, at which point he was subsequently interred at his family plot in Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb. Today, Bregovac is fondly remembered by academics and art historians as one of Croatia’s most famous and accomplished architects of the Yugoslav era. Not only has Bregovac’s work had multiple retrospective shows at museums across Croatia in recent years dedicated to his legacy, but his work was also widely shown at the 2018 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City that was dedicated to Yugoslavia’s architecture.


The following sections of this article will explore in detail the works of Zdravko Bregovac’s hotel, motel and resort architecture. While I have done my best to track down all of these works (which sources say number between 25 and 35), I concede that there are a few that remain elusive.

 

1.) Helios Hotel & Bungalows, 1960

A vintage Yugoslav-era postcard showing the Helios Hotel in Mali Lošinj, Croatia.

Name: Helios Hotel & Bungalows

Year: 1960

Condition: Fair to good, still operating [slated for demolition]

Location: Mali Lošinj, Croatia


Nestled among the coastal pines on Čikat Bay on the outskirts of the historic town of Mali Lošinj is the Helios Hotel & Bungalows. This was one of the first hotels (if not the very first one) that Bregovac built when he started upon his career-long journey into the realm of touristic architecture. Completed in 1960, the complex consists, firstly, of three wings of flat-roofed rectangular blocks (each three levels) that extend off of the main reception area. These wings are crafted in the international style with white facade broad faces and end-cap walls composed of native stone. Meanwhile, the white facade is interspersed on the street-side with vertical strips of red windows and then red banister balconies on the sea-facing side. Off of the reception area is a restaurant, which opens up through a series of glass curtain walls onto an outdoor patio courtyard that is enclosed and covered with a series of streamlined metal awnings. The second component of the complex is a series of modest bungalows across the street from the main hotel complex, composed of simple rectangular concrete construction with a flat roof and wide double doors that open up towards the hotel.


Since its construction, it has been a hugely popular destination among Croatian tourists, with many having come regularly for decades. It stands as a unique historical example of Bregovac’s early touristic experiments and an important relic of Yugoslavia’s classic resort architecture. In 2012, California-based filmmaker Ryan Jeffery spent several weeks at Hotel Helios in order to compose a documentary about the cultural life of the resort. In a description of the project, he writes that “the film follows the day-to-day operations of the hotel, documenting both the guests and the employees.” Titled “Guest House Helios”, the trailer can be watched at THIS link, while the documentary in its entirety can be watched at THIS link. However, despite the history and cultural importance of Hotel Helios (it being one of the last fully-original un-renovated Yugoslav-era hotels on the island of Lošinj), plans have been in the works now since at least 2009 to demolish the complex and replace it with a new contemporary luxury resort. While I have not been able to find articles about the exact schedule for these plans, I was able to find some of the proposals put forward HERE and HERE. From what I have been able to establish, as far as the summer of 2021, the original Hotel Helios still seems to be operational, but I have not confirmed that and it is hard to know how much longer it will be open for.

 

2.) Hotel Resort Saint Andrea, 1963

A vintage Yugoslav-era image of the restaurant pavilion of Hotel Saint Andrea in Rabac, Croatia.

Name: Hotel Resort Saint Andrea (today "Hotel Miramar" & "Hotel Allegro")

Year: 1963

Condition: Very good

Location: Saint Andrea Beach, Rabac, Croatia


In his follow up to the Hotel Helios, Bregovac created an attractive resort complex in the seaside Istrian town of Rabac. This would be the first of many projects that Bregovac would undertake in Rabac, to the point that, by the end of the 1970s, nearly every major resort in the town would be created by Bregovac. Located at the tip of Saint Andrea Peninsula which juts out into Kvarner Bay, Hotel Saint Andrea originally consisted of four rectangular three-level hotel blocks arranged in a staggered orientation leading town to the beach, all topped with gently sloping red tile roofs. A restaurant pavilion positioned at the rocky tip of the peninsula, which was itself especially dramatic in the way it stood atop the rocks perched over the beach with its wide verandas and long exaggerated horizontal eaves sweeping across the sky. Meanwhile, in 1986, the facility, due to its popularity, was expanded with two low-rise towers connecting the four blocks into two larger complexes. These two expanded facilities became known as Hotel Castor and Hotel Pollux, both as sub-divisions of what was called the Hotel Saint Andrea Resort complex. In addition, elegant swimming pools and cafe patios were added at the same time in order to improve the resort’s offerings. Finally, within the hotels’ interiors, Bregovac’s fellow EXAT 51 member Aleksandar Srnec created numerous art installations.


Vintage Yugoslav-era images of the interior of the Saint Andrea Resort at Rabac, Croatia.

After the dismantling of Yugoslavia, the complex was privatized and it is now operated by the Poreč-based hotel conglomerate “Valamar”. While there have been some renovations during the 1990s and 2000s, the resort appears largely the same, however, many of Srnec’s interior art installations were removed during this time. With these changes, the Hotel Castor and Hotel Pollux changed their names to “Hotel Miramar” and “Hotel Allegro”, respectively. While the hotels still operate and are in excellent condition, the restaurant pavilion has been shuttered up and in a state of disuse for many years now. The official website for the complex can be found at THIS link.

 

3.) Hotel Bellevue, 1963

A contemporary photo of Hotel Bellevue at Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. Credit: idriva.com

Name: Hotel Bellevue

Year: 1963

Condition: Very good

Location: Velika Poljana, Plitvice Lakes, Croatia


During the same time that Zdravko Bregovac was working on the Saint Andrea Resort at Rabac, he was also working on an additional commission for the creation of a new resort complex at the world famous Plitvice Lakes in the scenic and mountainous Lika region of Croatia. This new hotel that Bregovac was to build was given the name “Hotel Bellevue” and was to be situated overlooking the lakes directly next to Marijan Haberle’s famous “Hotel Plitvice” built in 1957. Unveiled in 1963, Hotel Bellevue is constructed as an arrangement of three connected pavilions, with one facing towards the parking area and two facing outwards in the direction of the lakes. The exterior of the pavilions is covered in a facade of dark wood slats and white plaster, with all of this topped off by a set of gently sloping red metal gabled roofs. The hotel itself is situated within a natural depression in the landscape as to minimize the amount of visual and environmental disruption incurred by the facility, thus, allowing the hotel to merge with the surrounding natural topography. The theme of “wood” carries over into the interior of the hotel as well, with a main dining hall paneled from floor to ceiling in deep stained pine boards. Furthermore, the dining hall also has expansive curtain windows that look out westward towards the waterfalls. The Hotel Bellevue complex is expertly crafted and follows closely to the 1946 Plitvice Lake development plan by Zdenko Strižić that called for low-impact environmentally sensitive architecture that complements the landscape rather than imposes itself upon it. For his efforts creating Hotel Bellevue, Bregovac was granted an award by the Association of Architects of Yugoslavia for the country’s best architectural achievement of 1963.

A contemporary photo of the dining hall of Hotel Bellevue at Plitvice Lakes National Park. Credit: farvater.travel

Hotel Bellevue continues to operate up to the present day and is in very good condition. In its present state, it has undergone very few renovations, appearing much as it did during the Yugoslav-era. However, in 2021, the Plitvice Lakes National Park, who own the hotel, chose to undertake an extreme renovation proposal put forward by Croatian architect Maja Tedeschi that would completely transform the appearance of the hotel. Sources seem to indicate that this renovation work will begin by 2022.

 

4.) Hotel Lanterna, 1965

A contemporary view of Hotel Lanterna at Rabac, Croatia. Credit: Valamar Sanfior Hotel

Name: Hotel Lanterna (today “Valamar Sanfior Hotel & Casa”)

Year: 1965

Condition: Very good

Location: Saint Andrea Peninsula, Rabac, Croatia


In his second seaside resort project a Rabac, Bregovac undertook a project directly adjacent to the one he made two years prior (Hotel Saint Andrea) which came to be known as “Hotel Lanterna”, named after the pebble beach that it stands perched on the rocks just above. Completed in 1965 and accommodating 335 beds, the hotel is characterized by its square three-level pavilion style construction (63m x 63m) that is completed with a pure white facade and low-pitched red tile roof. Within the center of the pavilion is a 31m wide square courtyard, overflowing with trees and vegetation. This was the first hotel Bregovac designed that featured this inner-square cortile design, which is a feature he may have borrowed from the designs he and Vjenceslav Richter proposed for the National Museum in Aleppo in Syria and the Museum of the Revolution in Sarajevo. Numerous sources recount that Bregovac’s Hotel Lanterna project here at Rabac was the most beloved creation of his career. The hotel was privatized during the 1990s, which led to it undergoing significant 8 million euro renovations in 2013. While the exterior of the hotel has remained largely intact and in its original appearance, the interior has been significantly changed, with the majority of the original Yugoslav-era interior design elements made by Bregovac and other artists being lost. The hotel continues to operate up to the present day and is in excellent condition. The facility is currently operated by the Poreč-based hotel conglomerate “Valamar”, with its name changed from “Hotel Lanterna” to “Valamar Sanfior Hotel”.


A vintage postcard photo of Lanterna Apartments at Rabac, Croatia.

Finally, it is important to note that in 1969, four years after Hotel Lanterna was completed, Bregovac began work on a supplementary component of this complex directly adjacent to the main building. Unveiled in 1972 and called “Lanterna Apartments”, this new complex was composed of clusters of four-level white blocks which were characterized by their vertical columns of balconies extending forward in a staggered fashion, all arranged in a circle around a central courtyard. Bregovac also built a duplicate of it at the same time 700m north within the Girandella resort complex called “Girandella Apartments”. In 2013, the Lanterna Apartments were acquired by Valamar, who undertook an extensive renovation on the property, which entailed considerable changes to both the interior and exterior of the complex. As part of these efforts, one of the blocks within the circle (closest to the sea) was torn down in order to improve views for the rest of the complex and to build a pool. Today the facility is known as “Valamar Sanfior Casa”.

 

5.) Motel Ičići, 1966

A vintage postcard view of Motel Ičići at Ičići, Croatia near Opatija.

Name: Motel Ičići

Year: 1966

Condition: Demolished, 2016

Location: Ičići, Croatia

Former Coordinates: 45°19'06.1"N, 14°17'29.0"E


In 1966, Bregovac unveiled his first roadside motel complex along the coastal highway of the small Istrian seaside town of Ičići, just west of Opatija right along the famous Lungomare promenade. Not only was this Bregovac’s first motel, but it was also one of the first motels or motor lodges in this region of the Adriatic. Not surprisingly named “Motel Ičići”, the facility originally consisted of a primary 60m long rectangular pavilion with three levels and a flat roof, along with three smaller similarly styled 30m long pavilions south along the waterfront. All three pavilions were fashioned in the International Style and were positioned on the rocks above the sea and offered dramatic unrivaled views out onto Kvarner Bay. Motel Ičići operated as a popular and well-patronized seaside destination for nearly five decades, however, with its privatization in the early 2000s, it began to fall into decline. By the early 2010s, it was shut down completely. Owned by the Liburnia Riviera Hotel group, based out of Opatija, that organization made the decision to demolish Motel Ičići in 2016, which was carried out in April of that year. In its place, a new 4-star contemporary luxury resort was built in its place named “Hotel Ičići”, which continues to operate to this day.

A vintage postcard view of Motel Ičići at Ičići, Croatia new Opatija.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that at the same time that Bregovac was building “Motel Ičići”, he also built a private residence just 400m down the road in Ičići for his friend Ivo Robić, who was an internationally famous singer-songwriter. Composed of a red plaster cube with a wall of pale blue wooden shutters facing south, the house still stands to the present day in good shape and in its original condition. However, interestingly, before his death in 2000, Robić donated the house to the Catholic diocese of Rijeka, who now operate the house as a church.

 

6.) Hotel Ambassador, 1966

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Ambassador in Opatija, Croatia.

Name: Hotel Ambassador

Year: 1964-1966

Condition: Very good

Location: Tomaševac Beach, Opatija, Croatia


Unquestionably, the most famous of all of Bregovac’s tourist complexes was Hotel Ambassador in Opatija. Fashioned as one of the first truly “luxury” resorts along the Adriatic, it set itself apart from many other hotels and resorts being built during this era as it was most decidedly aimed not at the common worker-tourist but, instead, a more upper-class clientele. This was also the first hotel that Bregovac created that was in the style of the ultra-large cube high-rise, a style that gained attention on the Adriatic just a few years earlier in 1963 with the opening of “Hotel Marjan” in Split by the architect Lovro Perković. Hotel Ambassador stands as a 12 story cube tower with 173 rooms looking out above Tomaševac Beach as it sits upon the rocks right at the edge of Kvarner Bay. The cube itself rests in an offset orientation atop a large two-level 83m x 35m pavilion that spreads out at the foot of the beach, accommodating the hotel’s restaurants, bars, lounges, and other amenities.

A vintage photo of the lobby of Hotel Ambassador in Opatija. Credit: CCN Images

The cube’s facade itself is painted with white balcony railings, while, behind the balconies, the rooms are enclosed in fully glass curtain walls. The interior of the hotel was originally adorned with a refined selection of 1960's era modern furnishings, arranged with a unique color scheme of purples paired with wood paneling. In addition, Hotel Ambassador was replete with a significant assemblage of artwork from some of Yugoslavia’s most significant artists (many of them being Bregovac’s EXAT 51 colleagues). For example, within the hotel were works by Vlado Kristl, Aleksandar Srnec, Ivan Picelj, Zvonko Lončarić, but one of the most charismatic works in the hotel was a bold and colorful abstract mural by artist Edo Murtić that took up an entire wall of the hotel’s bar and lounge. In addition, it must also be mentioned that the furniture of the hotel was designed by the famous architect and designer Bernardo Bernardi. Bregovac made sure that every detail of the hotel was thoughtfully addressed, in what some refer to as one of the earliest examples of “total design” for a hotel in Yugoslavia, where even the uniforms, silverware, dinnerware and other accessories were all custom-crafted by local trades people specifically for the hotel. As such, Hotel Ambassador can be seen as perhaps a physical culmination of the ideas of EXAT 51’s philosophy of bringing together the pure arts and the applied arts into a hotel complex that almost itself operated as a work of art.


However, it is important to note that not all of those in Opatija celebrated the Hotel Ambassador, even despite the fact that it attracted celebrities and prominent figures from around the world (even Yugoslav President Tito and his wife Jovanka from time to time). Many sources note that many locals felt that the massive modernist building (towering over the entire town) was incongruous with the historical Belle Epoque architecture that characterized the atmosphere of Opatija. Furthermore, sources note that even local ecologists referred to the hotel as a “thorn in the eye” of the landscape and the region. Though, despite such critical remarks during the 60s and 70s era, Hotel Ambassador nevertheless became one of the most famous hotels of the Adriatic coast. Notable contemporary Croatian architect Idis Turato remarks that the hotel “is still the best organized and designed tourist complex on the Adriatic”, while other sources call it “one of the strongest hotels in Croatian architectural history”. It is important to note, however, that the hotel has changed significantly since the Yugoslav-era. In 2002, a tragic fire struck Hotel Ambassador, which resulted in a complete renovation of the hotel’s interior. When the hotel re-opened the following year, its new interior was completely changed, with nearly all signs of Bregovac’s original interior design lost, along with all of the original furniture and artworks. I was not able to determine if those original pieces of furniture or art were saved and preserved or if they were all lost/discarded. Today, the hotel is owned by the Liburnia Riviera Hotel group, based out of Opatija, and is a five-star resort in excellent condition. Its official website can be found at THIS link.

 

7.) Hotel Bellevue, 1966

A contemporary view of the present-day appearance of Hotel Bellevue in Mali Lošinj, Croatia. Credit: Trip Advisor

Name: Hotel Bellevue

Year: 1966

Condition: Very good [renovated 2013]

Location: Mali Lošinj, Croatia


The same year that Bregovac unveiled the famous Hotel Ambassador in Opatija, he also unveiled “Hotel Bellevue” (the second hotel he would build with this name), in the town of Mali Lošinj, which is located on the island of Lošinj in the Adriatic. Located on Čikat Bay, Hotel Bellevue is located less than 300 meters away from the first hotel he built in Mali Lošinj six years earlier, Hotel Helios. For the architectural style of this hotel, Bregovac chose the square cortile pavilion design, similar to that which he used on Hotel Lanterna in Rabac, except Hotel Bellevue would be much bigger at 82m in diameter. Originally, the square pavilion was three levels high sitting on a foundation of native stone walls, while the facade was painted white and topped off with a gabled red-tile roof. The complex integrated itself well within Mali Lošinj’s native architecture and had a minimal visual impact upon the landscape, just barely poking itself up above the surrounding tall pine trees. Even the inner courtyard of the hotel was left fully forested. The only bold accents were two thick dark blue lines circling the building around the two upper level balcony railings. The low-profile natural setting of Hotel Bellevue is an interesting contrast to Hotel Ambassador, which is among the most high profile, conspicuous and “in-your-face” of all of Bregovac’s hotels.

A vintage postcard view of the original appearance of Hotel Bellevue in Mali Lošinj, Croatia.

After the Yugoslav-era, the hotel was privatized and acquired by a local hotel development company named Jadranka Group. Subsequently, in 2013, an extensive renovation project began, which began by essentially gutting and stripping the hotel down to its bones, while certain sections of the old hotel were demolished. At that point, two additional levels were built on top of the hotel, while an expanded amenities complex was built in the direction of the waterfront. Through this process, many of the old pine trees around the hotel were removed, which, along with the increased height of the hotel, increased its visibility and visual impact upon the landscape dramatically. When completed in 2014 at a cost of 22 million euro, the new complex was transformed into a full luxury 5-star accommodation, the first 5-star hotel on the island of Lošinj. However, the renovated hotel bears little resemblance to Bregovac’s original Hotel Bellevue. The official website for the renovated hotel can be found at THIS link.

 

8.) Golf Hotel, 1967

A vintage Yugoslav-era postcard view of Golf Hotel in Bled, Slovenia.

Name: Golf Hotel (today called the “Rikli Balance Hotel”)

Year: 1967

Condition: Very good

Location: Lake Bled, Slovenia


The following year after the resounding success of the unveiling of Bregovac’s Hotel Ambassador in Opatija, he was commissioned to create a smaller version of that seminal work at the famous Lake Bled in Slovenia. Unveiled in 1967 and named the “Golf Hotel”, the facility was built with 150 rooms and was crafted as a layered white concrete cube roughly half the size of the one he made at Opatija. Overlooking Lake Bled from its eastern shore, the Golf Hotel’s height, unquestionably the tallest complex in town, offered stunning and one-of-a-kind views of the landscape and the lake. And like Hotel Ambassador, Golf Hotel also had its interior richly adorned with the most fashionable late-60’s era decorations and furnishings, along with modern artwork from Yugoslavia’s most famous creators. Furthermore, in an attempt to communicate the region’s rustic mountain ambience, Bregovac bedecks the interior with significant amounts of wood paneling, deep earth-tone carpets and wide balconies for taking in mountain air and views. As a result of this resplendent atmosphere, which was among the most luxurious hotels in Slovenia, it became a magnet for Yugoslav politicians to hold conferences and engagements, even being one of Yugoslav President Tito’s and Jovanka’s favorite stops while in Slovenia. However, despite its success in many realms, sources recount that Bregovac’s Golf Hotel received criticisms from multiple fronts in a similar respect that the Ambassador Hotel did, asserting that its modern architecture, towering above the rest of the town, was incongruous with the traditional vernacular style of local built environment. Perhaps because of such criticisms, Bregovac never made another cube tower hotel again.

A series of vintage postcard views of Golf Hotel in Bled, Slovenia.

After the end of the Yugoslav-era, the Golf Hotel was privatized and underwent an extreme renovation in 2004. Then, in 2018, after yet another shift in ownership, the hotel underwent further renovations, while also changing its name to the “Rikli Balance Hotel”, named after 19th century Swiss natural healer Arnold Rilki, who is locally famed for being the person who originally turned Bled into a touristic destination. While the exterior of the hotel has remained largely the same during these renovations, the interior has been completely transformed, with few elements left remaining from its original design. This new luxury hotel has 4-stars and operates in excellent condition. Its official website can be found at THIS link.

 

9.) Hotel Resort Girandella, 1969

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Resort Girandella in Rabac, Croatia.

Name: Hotel Resort Girandella (today “Girandella Valamar Collection Resort”)

Year: 1969

Condition: Very good

Location: Girandella Beach, Rabac, Croatia


The third touristic project which Zdravko Bregovac worked on in the Istrian town of Rabac, Croatia is a collection of resort hotels dubbed “Girandella”, named after the scenic pebble beach in front of which the complex resides. Completed in 1969, the complex itself is enormous, stretching across roughly 800 meters of waterfront and comprising roughly 13 touristic buildings [five main hotel pavilions (originally named “Mercury”, “Saturn”, “Pluto”, Neptune” and “Uranus”), a central restaurant & amenities complex, along with seven additional villas and sub-pavilions]. As for the reason for naming these hotels after planets?... let’s not forget that the year this resort opened in 1969 was the height of the Space Race between the US and USSR. In breaking up the resort into an array of smaller segments (instead of creating one massive tower), Bregovac avoids having an overly obtrusive impact upon the landscape, something that he was criticized for with his previous projects at Opatija and Bled. All together, this collection of 13 buildings originally accommodated over 1,350 beds across nearly 1,000 rooms. Bregovac positions all of the buildings along the hillside parallel to the coastline and staggered from each other in such a way that none are blocking the other’s sea vistas, a clever design feature to optimize visitor satisfaction. The most dominant structure of the Girandella resort complex is the central restaurant pavilion, which is made up of a series of three levels of wide white terraces that dramatically jut out towards the sea and look down onto one of the main strips of Girandella Beach. The whole restaurant pavilion sits upon a native stone foundation wall that helps convey the impression that the complex is rising from the rockface itself.

A view of one of the hotel pavilions at Hotel Resort Girandella. Credit: Walter Rudolph/United Archives GmbH/Alamy

Meanwhile, as for the hotel pavilions and villa complexes, it is with these buildings that Bregovac showcases for the first time what may describe as his “honeycomb” facade, a facade style that would come to be his trademark feature from now into the future. This honeycomb texture that Bregovac innovcated is characterized by the balcony of each room either extended forward or sunken backwards in a seemingly random fashion along the face of the building (almost like staggered building blocks), giving the facade a dynamic appearance with an intricate play of shadow and light. In the case of the villas and three hotel pavilions here at Girandella, the honeycomb texture was done in white and originally had yellow sliding accent screens in front of each set of glass doors. Sources relate that Bregovac’s inspiration for this “honeycomb” facade was from a series of kinetic interactive sculptures by his EXAT 51 colleague Vjenceslav Richter titled “Relief Meter” (“Reljefometar”), which consisted of hundreds of square aluminum rods connected together in a movable grid that can be oriented in any arrangement imaginable.


In the aftermath of the dismantling of Yugoslavia during the 1990s, the Girandella Resort was acquired by the Poreč-based hotel conglomerate “Valamar”, at which point the name of the resort was changed to “Girandella Valamar Collection Resort”. In 2014, the hotel complex underwent an extensive renovation and facility update. While the majority of the exterior of the resort’s facilities maintained much of their original appearance, the interiors of the facilities were completely changed, with nearly all of the original interior artwork, furniture and fixtures removed. Interestingly, after it was removed during renovations, some of the furniture and artwork from Girandella went on display at a 2016 exhibition in Graz, Austria called “Enjoying the Fruits of Yugoslavia’s Third Way” at the Galerie Gebhart Blazek. The official website for the Girandella Resort can be found at THIS link.

A vintage view of Girandella Apartments (later Hotel Albona) at Hotel Resort Girandella.

Finally, it is also important to note that as soon as the Girandella resort was completed, Bregovac immediately began work on building a supplementary accommodation facility at the northern end of the resort, which would come to be known as “Girandella Apartments”. Unveiled in 1972, this new complex was composed of clusters of four-level white blocks which were characterized by their vertical columns of balconies extending forward in a staggered fashion, all arranged in a circle around a central courtyard. After the Yugoslav-era, its name was changed to “Hotel Albona” and its facade was painted in a multi-color array of vibrant shades. However, it was subsequently demolished in 2017 to make way for new facilities planned by Valamar. Nevertheless, Bregovac made a duplicate of the“Girandella Apartments” just 700 meters away to the southwest next to Hotel Lanterna, which was given the name “Lanterna Apartments”. It still stands, but has been significantly renovated.

 

10.) Hotel Jezero, 1970

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Jezero at Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia.

Name: Hotel Jezero

Year: 1970

Condition: Very good

Location: Plitvice Lakes, Croatia


Seven years after Bregovac unveiled his first tourist complex at Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes, “Hotel Bellevue” [1963], he went on to unveil a second complex in 1970. Named “Hotel Jezero” (with “Jezero” meaning “Lake” in Croatian), it was situated adjacent to Marijan Haberle’s famous “Hotel Plitvice” built in 1957, resulting in a unique situation where “Hotel Plitvice” was sandwiched between two of Bregovac’s hotels. Offering about 230 rooms spread across three connected pavilions (stretching over 160m long), Hotel Jezero immediately became the largest and most spacious touristic facility at Plitvice Lakes National Park. Though, despite its immense size, Bregovac fashions it and situates it within the landscape in such a way that it is not excessive obtrusive or a blight upon the landscape. If anything, its copious use of wood paneling, native stone and low profile within the environment results in Hotel Jezero acting as an attractive counterpart to the surrounding forests rather than interfering with it. Furthermore, a clever design solution that Bregovac devised for the hotel was locating its parking area on top of the amenities facility (indoor pool, conference room, etc), thus, avoiding the need to cut down more of the forest than necessary.


Hotel Jezero is still under the administration of Plitvice National Park, just as it was during the Yugoslav-era, and still operates in an excellent condition up to the present day. While it has gone through some renovations and modernizations over the years, its exterior remains largely unchanged while a few of its original Yugoslav-era elements and fixtures are still in place. The official website for Hotel Jezero can be found at THIS link.


It is also worth mentioning that not long after finishing work on Hotel Jezero, Bregovac created for himself a personal home here at Plitvice Lakes not far from his two hotels. Crafted in the traditional A-frame style in a scenic natural setting, today it sits in good condition, still owned by the family, and is available as a vacation rental. More info about it can be found at THIS link.

 

11.) Hotel Apollo, 1970

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Apollo at Rabac, Croatia.

Name: Hotel Apollo (today “Hotel Amfora”)

Year: 1970

Condition: Very good

Location: Rabac, Croatia


The fourth hotel resort project which Zdravko Bregovac would undertake in the seaside Istrian town of Rabac, Croatia is a facility called “Hotel Apollo”. In a similar fashion to the planet-themed hotel names at the nearby Girandella Resort, the “Apollo” name of the hotel may also be related to the global craze surrounding the first NASA Apollo moon landing that had just occurred a few months before this hotel opened. Unveiled in 1970 and situated right above Rabac Beach, the complex consists of a single hotel pavilion with 54 rooms (50m x 31m) and is the second hotel which Bregovac designed which features the white “honeycomb” facade that he first showcased at Girandella the year before. At only three levels in height, Hotel Apollo is not excessively imposing upon the landscape or the local architecture of the town center of Rabac. In fact, Bregovac’s honeycomb facade design, which presents itself as a seemingly random arrangement of white boxes, if anything, does a successful job at invoking and referencing the varied assortment of white houses sitting upon the hillsides in the background.


After the Yugoslav-era, the hotel was privatized and was subsequently acquired by the Opatija-based hotel conglomerate “Valamar”, which changed the facility’s name to “Hotel Amfora”. Today, the hotel is in excellent condition, being operated as a 3-star establishment, and its official website can be found at THIS link.

 

12.) Hotel Barbara & Hotel Novi Park, 1970

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Barbara at Borik, Croatia near Zadar.

Name: Hotel Barbara & Hotel Novi Park (today “Falkensteiner - Club Funimation”)

Year: 1970

Condition: Very good

Location: Borik, Zadar, Croatia


At the same time that Bregovac was working on the Hotel Apollo in Rabac, he was also working on developing a dual seaside hotel resort complex in the Borik area of Zadar, Croatia, this being his first foray into creating a hotel in that region. Partnering with architect Ivan Filipčić, the project the two men set themselves to here at Borik, right near the Puntamika Lighthouse, was creating two resort hotels side-by-side: “Hotel Barabara” and “Hotel Novi Park”. Of the two hotels, “Barbara”, with roughly 150 rooms, is the much more famous of the two and often looked back on as probably his second most famous work after Hotel Ambassador. Like with Bregovac’s “Apollo” (made the same year), Hotel Barbara also features the white honeycomb facade design, however, his employment of it here at Borik is probably his most architecturally successful and well-recognized example. Nearly every component of the hotel was cast and fabricated off-site, leaving only the work of assembly to be completed once work began, resulting in construction only taking a shockingly quick seven months to finish. In an interesting contrast to the exterior’s bright white facade, the interior of the hotel was originally decorated by Bregovac & Filipčić in a color palette of dark earth tones (common for the 70s), accompanied by large amounts of wood paneling. Hotel Novi Park was constructed less than 60m away from Hotel Barbara, with them both being connected through a long breezeway and a shared swimming pool in between. Novi Park is designed as a square cortiled hotel pavilion (roughly 63m wide), with this being the third example of a hotel that Bregovac designed in this fashion. Standing three levels tall with roughly 100 rooms, it is interesting that despite the two hotels being built together and part of a joined resort complex, Bregovac & Filipčić did not seem to take efforts to create any architectural unity or shared style between the two buildings.

A series of vintage view of the interior of Hotel Barbara at Borik, Croatia.
A vintage postcard showing the locations of Hotel Barbara and Hotel Novi Park at Borik.

Through the privatization era of the 1990s, both hotels were subsequently acquired by the Austrian company called “The Falkensteiner Group” and the resort was given the new name “Club Funimation”. Several rounds of renovation in 2006 and 2018 have changed both hotel’s interiors significantly from their original states, though, their exteriors were left largely intact. The official website for the Club Funimation resort can be found at THIS link.

 

13.) Hotel Marina, 1970

A vintage postcard view showing Hotel Marina in Mošćenička Draga, Croatia.

Name: Hotel Marina

Year: 1970

Condition: Very good

Location: Mošćenička Draga, Croatia


The seaside Istrian town of Mošćenička Draga is a picturesque resort community that looks eastwards out over the Adriatic onto Kvarner Bay. It was in this setting that Bregovac unveiled his third complex of 1970, positioned on a small hill overlooking the main beach and marina of Mošćenička Draga. It was because of this alluring vista that the complex was no doubt given the name “Hotel Marina”. The complex stands three-levels tall as a 63m wide square cortile pavilion, roughly the same size as Hotel Novi Park that Bregovac made this same year in Borik, except Hotel Marina has a gabled red-tile roof, while Novi Park has a flat roof. This would be the fourth hotel that Bregovac would design in this style. Upon its completion, Hotel Marina, with over 180 rooms, immediately became the biggest and most elaborate resort in Mošćenička Draga and for over 50 years has kept that position, continuing to exist as an important component of the community and its tourism infrastructure. However, despite it being the biggest building in the town, it is designed in such a way that it is not overly obtrusive and does not excessively impose itself upon the landscape. Since the criticisms he received for Hotel Ambassador four years earlier in 1966, Bregovac worked much harder to integrate his works more naturalistically into the surrounding environment.


Today, Hotel Marina is owned by the Liburnia Riviera Hotel group, based out of Opatija, and continues to operate in excellent condition and under its original name. It underwent a full interior renovation in 2019 and, as a result, its interior bears little resemblance to Bregovac’s design, yet, its exterior has been largely maintained exactly in its original appearance. The official website for Hotel Marina can be found at THIS link.

 

14.) Maslinica Resort (Hotels Mimosa, Hedera & Narcis), 1970

A vintage postcard view of the Maslenica Resort located in Rabac, Croatia.

Name: Maslinica Resort (Hotels “Mimosa”, “Hedera” & “Narcis”)

Year: 1970

Condition: Very good

Location: Rabac, Croatia


The fifth hotel complex that Bregovac would undertake at Rabac (in cooperation with architect Anton Turin) in his whirlwind run of touristic construction in this small seaside town is a complex called the “Maslinica Resort”. The name itself means “little olive tree” in English, a reference to a famous ancient olive grove adjacent to the complex. The first notable thing to point out is that the resort was completed in 1970, with this complex finishing up the busiest year of Bregovac’s career, with him building a total of five resorts in just this one year alone. The Maslinica Resort is located at Maslinica Beach within the western bay of Rabac and consists of three separate hotels: “Mimosa”, “Hedera” and “Narcis” (all named after types of flowers). The hotels themselves, all arranged in a line, are built into the northern hillside adjacent to the beach, cascading down the slopes of the hill seven levels in a series of stair-step terraces. All together, the three hotels offer over 1,800 beds over nearly 1,000 rooms (making it the largest project that Bregovac completed), with every single room delivering excellent views out onto the beach and Kvarner Bay, which is a unique offering, as traditional free-standing hotels generally always have certain rooms that lack the valuable seaside vista. Blending into the landscape with its white Mediterranean style, Maslinica is a unique solution for not only creating a resort with a reduced visual impact, but also ensuring that key waterfront and beach property is kept as open and accessible as possible.

A series of pre-renovation images of the Maslenica Resort in Rabac, Croatia.

Over the decades, the three hotels have been repainted from their original white to a varying assortment of bright color schemes, but recent photos indicate that they have been brought back to their original white appearance. During the era of privatization of the 1990s, the Maslinica Resort was acquired by Italian businessman Filip Horstman, who, by all available accounts, ran the complex very successfully and in a conscientious manner in relation to its workers. When Horstman passed away in 2018, ownership and management of the resort was taken over by his surviving wife and brothers. The resort experienced significant renovations in 2012, which left little of its original interior Yugoslav-era charm intact, however, the exterior appearance of the resort is completely preserved. The official website for the Maslinica Resort can be found at THIS link.

 

15.) Hotel Carolina, 1971

A recent photo showing Hotel Carolina on Rab Island in Suha Punta. Credit: Hotel Carolina Valamar

Name: Hotel Carolina (today “Valamar Carolina Hotel”)

Year: 1971

Condition: Very good

Location: Suha Punta, Rab Island, Croatia


On the southern coast of the island of Rab is the beautiful seaside settlement named Suha Punta, which is a touristic community roughly 2km west of the island’s main town, Rab. In 1971, Bregovac, along with architect Darko Turat, unveiled a hotel project which would come to be named “Hotel Carolina”. Positioned dramatically at the very tip of the Kalifront Peninsula right on the edge of the waterfront overlooking the Adriatic, the hotel has 142 rooms spread across four levels. Hotel Carolina is the fourth project on which Bregovac would utilize his very distinct white “honeycomb” facade pattern, which had essentially become his signature style by this point. Interestingly, many people believe, even today, that Hotel Carolina here on Rab is an exact duplicate of Hotel Barbara at Borik (which he made just the year before). However, while the facades are certainly similar, the dimensions of the two hotels are drastically different, with the footprint of Hotel Carolina being roughly 90m x 31m in size, while the Hotel Barbara is much longer and thinner, at 112m x 21m. With this added width, Hotel Carolina is able to accommodate a series of central atriums that cut all the way through the building to the ground floor. These atriums are illuminated from above through a set of rooftop skylights.


After the hotel was privatized in the 1990s, it was subsequently acquired by a holding company named “Imperial”, which is managed by the Poreč-based hotel conglomerate “Valamar” along with the AZ Mandatory Pension Fund. The complex is currently operating under the name “Valamar Carolina Hotel & Villas”. It stands in excellent condition and functions as a 4-star resort. The hotel underwent significant renovations in 2003 and in 2019, changing its look to a more contemporary style, a complete change from its Yugoslav-era appearance. However, the exterior of the hotel is relatively unchanged and appears very much as it did in its original condition. The official website for the hotel can be found at THIS link.

 

16.) Hotel Fortuna, 1971

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Fortuna at Rabac, Croatia.

Name: Hotel Fortuna

Year: 1971

Condition: Demolished (~2010)

Location: Rabac, Croatia


The sixth hotel project that Bregovac would undertake in the seaside town of Rabac, Croatia would be a project called “Hotel Fortuna”. Unveiled in 1971, Hotel Fortuna was situated high upon the ridge leading out to Saint Andrea Peninsula and overlooked Rabac’s main harbor and marina. Similar to his last project at Rab, this hotel would also feature the white “honeycomb” facade, with it being the fifth hotel at this point in his career which he would create showcasing what had now become his signature style. Sources indicate that the hotel was commissioned by a mining company from the nearby town of Labin as an official company holiday accommodation for their mine workers. While vintage images of the hotel make it appear very similar to Bregovac's previous projects of Hotel Barbara and Hotel Carolina, further investigation reveals that Fortuna was built on a much smaller scale, with only about 55 rooms spread across a footprint of only 61m x 18m. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any interior images of the hotel, so to what degree it was adorned with art installations and fine interior fixtures is not known. Just a few meters to the south of Hotel Fortuna was another accommodation known as “Hotel Istria Miner”, which was built in the mid-1960s. Istria Miner is of a more simplistic style than Fortuna, so it can not immediately be said whether this was also the work of Bregovac, as the sources I’ve seen do not credit it to him.


After the dismantling of Yugoslavia began in the 1990s and a series of conflicts broke out across Croatia, Hotel Fortuna and Hotel Istria Miner operated as a shelter for refugees from Slavonia and Vukovar displaced by the war. The refugees stayed in the two hotels until about 2002, at which point they returned to their homes. After the refugees had left, however, both hotels were in very poor condition and, as a result, went on to sit in a state of neglect for many years. During the privatization era, the ownership of the hotel was subsequently acquired firstly by the Croatian water management organization “Hrvatske vode”, but then passed on to the Poreč-based hotel conglomerate “Valamar”. However, today, sources indicate that the property is owned by an Austrian firm named “IS-Consult”. After sitting derelict for so long, even experiencing a fire in 2007, Hotel Fortuna and Hotel Istria Miner were both demolished by its owners around 2010. While the site of Hotel Fortuna has sat as an empty vacant lot for more than 10 years, sources indicate that plans are for it to be developed into a new luxury resort. In 2014, a new hotel complex called “Luxury Apartments Istria Fortuna” was constructed on the site previously occupied by Hotel Istria Miner.

 

17.) Hotel Paris, 1971

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Paris in Opatija, Croatia.

Name: Hotel Paris

Year: 1971

Condition: Very good

Location: Opatija, Croatia


The second major touristic project which Zdravko Bregovac would undertake in Opatija after building Hotel Ambassador in 1966 was a project which came to be known as “Hotel Paris”. Unveiled in 1971 and located right across the street from Opatija’s famous Park Angiolina, Hotel Paris is composed of a five-level flat-roofed tower with a footprint of 38m x17m, which itself stands above a one level amenities pavilion (57m x 24m). It is notable to point out the unique orientation of these two masses, with the tower elevated above and crossing over top the pavilion in a perpendicular fashion, forming a “T” configuration. In my research, I was not able to determine the exact reason behind the name “Paris” for the hotel and being that I was not able to find any Yugoslav-era interior images of the hotel, it is unclear whether the hotel originally contained a Parisian-themed decor. Yet, what is clear from many articles published about the hotel is that it was a grand and elegant location right in the center of Opatija, with many sources describing it as one of the symbols of the city.


After the end of the Yugoslav-era, Hotel Paris was acquired by a company called “In-Mar” from Varaždinske Toplice, with it continuing to operate for a few more years up until about 2001 or 2002. It was at this point the hotel closed down, probably as a result of financial problems related to privatization. Still under ownership of In-Mar, the complex sat as a vacant unmaintained eyesore in Opatija for about 15 years. In describing this era of the hotel’s derelict condition, one news article described it in this way: “This hotel that literally collapsed in the very center of the city was a cancer-wound upon Opatija's tourism industry. It was a neglected monument, a reminder of some better tourist times”. However, it was finally in 2017 that Osijek casino entrepreneur Zdravko Josić bought the complex for roughly 7 million euro and undertook an extensive renovation project on the hotel. While the exterior of the hotel is largely unchanged from its original appearance (other than the dome awning over the main entrance), the interior of the hotel, on the other hand, bears little resemblance to its Yugoslav-era state. Josić reopened Hotel Paris in 2019 at a status of 4-stars with 90 rooms and a new casino on the ground level. The official website for the hotel can be found at THIS link.

 

18.) Hotel Eva, 1972

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Eva at Suha Punta on Rab Island, Croatia.

Name: Hotel Eva [today the “Eva Sunny Hotel & Residence”]

Year: 1972

Condition: Very good

Location: Suha Punta, Rab Island, Croatia


Just one year after completing his first hotel on the island of Rab at Suha Punta, “Hotel Carolina”, Bregovac was commissioned, along with collaborator Darko Turat, to create yet another hotel at this seaside settlement along the Kalifront Peninsula. This second hotel, which came to be known as “Hotel Eva”, was unveiled in 1971 and was located only 450m north of Hotel Carolina. With 196 rooms spread across 6 levels and a footprint of 112m x 21m, this was the sixth hotel project Bregovac created that had an exterior composed of his signature white “honeycomb” facade pattern. While Hotel Eva looks very similar to Hotel Barabara at Borik (with them both sharing the exact same size footprint of 112m x 21m), Hotel Eva is, however, one level taller and has more than two dozen additional rooms compared to Barbara.


Some early 2000s interior photos of Hotel Eva at Suha Punta on Rab Island, Croatia.

After the Yugoslav-era, the hotel was acquired by the Poreč-based hotel conglomerate “Valamar”, with the complex today being known as the “Eva Sunny Hotel & Residence”. It has only undergone minimal renovations over the decades and still contains significant amounts of its original Yugoslav-era fixtures, art and decorative installations. However, some sources indicate that major renovations are planned in the not too distant future (2022-2023?). It continues operation up to the present day as a 2-star resort. The official website for this hotel resort can be found at THIS link.

 

19.) Grabovac Motel, 1976

A vintage postcard view of Motel Grabovac near Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia.

Name: Grabovac Motel

Year: 1976

Condition: Very good (temporarily closed as of July 2021)

Location: Grabovac, Plitvice Lakes, Croatia


In 1976, ten years after completing his first motel project at Ičići, Croatia, Bregovac completed the construction of his second motor lodge, just north of the Plitvice Lakes in the Lika region of Croatia. The name given to the complex was “Motel Grabovac”, named after the hornbeam tree that is native to the surrounding Lika forests (“grab” being the Croatian word for “hornbeam”). The motel, which offers 31 rooms, is composed of a two-level square pavilion (33m x 33m) with steep mansard-like rooflines with wood shingles that surround the top of the building. Meanwhile, the facade of the building consists of a burnt orange plaster with a foundation made up of natural stone. Bregovac clearly made efforts in his design for this complex to ensure that it sat lightly upon the pristine natural background and felt as if it enhanced the surroundings instead of working against them. Compared to the three resort hotels located at the site of Plitvice Lakes (two of which were designed by Bregovac himself), Motel Grabovac was designed as an accommodation for much more economically minded tourists who may not need all the frills of a resort when coming to the Plitvice Lakes region.

Some early 2000s images of Motel Grabovac after it was rebuilt in the late 1990s.

Numerous sources relate that during the war which overtook this region during the 1990s, the interior of the motel was burned and devastated. However, the motel’s interior and exterior were repaired and renovated and reopened around 2000. Today, the Motel Grabovac (which today goes by the name “Hotel Grabovac”) is under the management of Plitvice Lakes National Park, just as it was during the Yugoslav-era. Its official website can be found at THIS link.

 

20.) Hotel Topolica, 1982

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Topolica in Bar, Montenegro.

Name: Hotel Topolica (today “Hotel Princess”)

Year: 1982

Condition: Very good

Location: Bar, Montenegro


The city of Bar, Montenegro is a scenic resort community right on the Adriatic coast which is overlooked by the immensely imposing Rumija Mountain. It was here on this coastline that Bregovac created his first and only resort complex in Montenegro, situated in front of Barska Beach just north of the city’s marina and next to King Nikola’s Palace Museum. Unveiled in 1982 and named “Hotel Topolica” (which roughly translated into English as “little poplar tree”). This is the third resort which Bregovac names after a type of tree, after Grabovac (hornbeam) and Maslinica (olive tree). The complex itself contains 135 rooms spread out across 5-levels, in addition to four congress halls, restaurants, and multiple pools. The shape of the hotel consists of a white colored rectangular pavilion sitting on a footprint roughly 95m x 33m and is topped off with a series of low-pitched red tiled rooflines. The whole composition of the exterior is very much in keeping with the vernacular architecture of the region. Within the interior of the hotel are several open atriums that pierce the entire body of the hotel (all lit via overhead skylights), similar to his Hotel Carolina project at Rab. Originally, the atriums had cascades of green vegetation hanging down off of the planters attached to the railings, giving the impression of a lush jungle environment. During the 60s & 70s, the design aesthetic of adorning the interior with huge amounts of plants in an effort to bring the outside inside was a popular approach to decorating, especially at resort locations.


The Hotel Topolica complex continued to be a popular touristic destination even after the Yugoslav-era and its privatization. Today, it is owned by the Atlas Hotel Group based out of Bar, who undertook a complete renovation of the hotel in 2007, at which point they renamed the facility “Hotel Princess” (perhaps because of its proximity to the King Nikola’s Palace Museum). While the exterior of the hotel looks largely the same, the interior is completely different, with no real remnants or fixtures from that time period remaining. Hotel Princess is in excellent condition and is operated as a 4-star hotel. The official website for the hotel can be found at THIS link.

 

21.) Motel Plitvice, 1983

A vintage Yugoslav-era postcard view of Motel Plitvice at Maslenica, Croatia.

Name: Motel Plitvice

Year: 1983

Condition: Abandoned, in ruins

Location: Maslenica, Croatia (by Maslenica Bridge)


The third motel facility that Bregovac would complete during his career was a roadside accommodation located along the main highway about 25km east of Zadar, Croatia, situated on a cliff overlooking the famous Maslenica Bridge that spans the Novsko Ždrilo strait. Named “Motel Plitvice” and unveiled in 1983, the motel was constructed by the management of Plitvice Lakes National Park to operate as an official stopover point along the primary southerly route up to the park. With 118 rooms spread across a complex with a 81m x 65m footprint, it was a sizable facility that offered a significant amount of facilities for simply being a motor lodge. It consisted of several pavilions with white plastered concrete facades, starting with a lobby, restaurant and amenities pavilion at the entrance, which then led to the rear where there were three pavilions with two levels each overlooking the bridge and the strait. On top of all of these pavilions were a series of low-pitched red tiled roofs (oriented very similar to Topolica at Bar), a feature that effectively blended the whole motel complex into the background with its very coastal Adriatic aesthetic. The interior of the motel was also quite refined, with Bregovac putting forward considerable effort to cultivate an atmosphere of comfort and relaxation, with a large swimming pool peering out onto the strait, an oversized fireplace in the lobby, a salon, a disco, among other niceties.

A contemporary view of the ruins of Motel Plitvice at Maslenica, Croatia. Credit: Lost-places.com

During its short operation time of only 8 years, Motel Plitvice at Maslenica operated as a popular and successful travel stop for tourists on their way up to the National Park. However, as violence overtook the region in the beginning of the 1990s with the onset of the Yugoslav Wars, the motel was taken over by Serbian Krajina (RSK) and Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) forces in 1991. It was at this point that these two groups used explosives to destroy the Maslenica Bridge in order to prevent the Croatian Army from accessing the region. Later on in the war, Motel Plitvice was utilized by United Nations peacekeeping forces as a base, as well as the Croatian Army after them. After the war, the motel was in quite a poor condition, but was nonetheless bought by a developer for a surprisingly low price. However, despite this purchase, Motel Plitvice proceeded to sit idle and vacant in an extreme state of deterioration for more than 20 years, up to the present day. Numerous plans and proposals have been put forward during this time, but nothing ever materialized. It is currently still for sale. Today, the abandoned hotel is mostly visited by vandals and curious passers-by who spot the unusual building as the cross over Maslenica Bridge (which was rebuilt in 2005). Recent photos of the ruins of Motel Plitvice can be seen at THIS link.

 

22.) Hotel Padova, 1983

A vintage postcard view of Hotel Padova at Rab on Rab Island, Croatia..

Name: Hotel Padova (today “Valamar Padova Hotel”)

Year: 1983

Condition: Very good

Location: Banjol, Rab Island, Croatia


The samel year that Bregovac created Motel Plitvice at Maslenica, he also created a sizable seaside resort in the village of Banjol, Croatia on the Adriatic island of Rab. The hotel project was given the name “Padova”, named after the series of small bays along the coast of the village of Banjol. This was the third hotel which Bregovac built in the vicinity of the village of Rab, with this new project roughly 3km west of his first two Rab projects at Suha Punta. Unveiled in 1983, the hotel consists of two pavilions overlooking the old town of Rab, both of which sit on roughly the same size footprint (65m x 33m) and characterized with white plaster facades topped with low-pitched red tile roofs (similar to the hotel projects at Bar and Maslenica). The amenities pavilion sits parallel to the beach (set back about 50m), standing two levels tall, meanwhile, the hotel pavilion, which hosts 175 rooms, stands six levels tall and is oriented in a 45 degree angle to the amenities pavilion. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any Yugoslav-era or pre-renovation images of the hotel, so, it is difficult to establish the extent to which this facility was adorned and decorated.


After the dismantling of Yugoslavia and the start of the era of privatization, the hotel passed between several owners before it was subsequently acquired by the Opatija-based hotel conglomerate “Valamar”, who continue to operate it up to the present day under the name “Valamar Padova Hotel”. In 2009, the hotel underwent an extensive renovation, which left the interior changed dramatically from its original appearance, however, the exterior looks largely the same as it did when it was first unveiled in 1983. The official website for the hotel can be found at THIS link.

 

23.) Motel Plitvice, 1986

A vintage postcard image of the cross-over of Motel Plitvice in Lučko, Croatia (near Zagreb).

Name: Motel Plitvice

Year: 1986

Condition: Fair to good [slated for demolition in 2023]

Location: Lučko, Croatia (near Zagreb)


The fourth motel project that Breogvac would undertake (this time along with architect Ivan Piteš) was yet another facility funded by the Plitvice Lakes National Park, in addition to the INA oil company. Located in the suburb of Lučko roughly 8km southwest of Zagreb and unveiled in 1986 (or 1985 according to some sources), the motel was established as a lay-by rest stop right off of the city’s primary motorway. The complex is divided into three different disconnected sections: the main hotel pavilion (with 3 levels and 56 rooms, similar to the motel pavilion at Grabovac) and the motorway cross-over (which includes two cafes on each side) and, thirdly, a restaurant pavilion. The style of all three complexes is the same, characterized by steep wood-shingle roofs and white plaster facades, giving the facility an architectural aesthetic reminiscent of the rural Lika region vernacular style. Like Motel Plitvice at Maslenica, the version here at Lučko was also built to be a stop-over point for tourists along their journey to the National Park (particularly for people coming from the directions of Slovenia and points north of Zagreb). In fact, the motorway cross-over essentially operates as a sort of “gateway” to Plitvice, as just 2km past the motel heading east is the Karlovac exit off the motorway that takes motorists south towards the Lika region. Even today, the cross-over stands as an important motorway landmark for those passing through the Zagreb region. Meanwhile, the interior of the motel pavilion has an expansive atrium that cuts through the center of the complex, adorned with hanging plants, dramatically exposed wooden rafters, elegant lattices, a small natural stone fountain and an attractive glazed red brick floor. Next door in the restaurant facility, it is decorated with a resplendent rustic atmosphere of wood beams, fireplaces, vintage furniture and other touches invoking the rural aesthetic of the Lika region. Even the two cafes attached to either side of the cross-over work hard to cultivate a Lika rustic touch (although with a flair of modernism mixed in with it). Finally, in addition to the hotel, INA petrol stations were also included on both sides of the motorway rest stop.

Recent photos of the interior of Motel Plitvice at Lučko, Croatia (near Zagreb).

Since the end of the Yugoslav-era, the motel has been in continuous use and currently stands in a fairly good condition (although the need for some improvements are evident). Sources seem to indicate that it is still under the ownership of Plitvice Lakes National Park, just as it was since its original construction. Classed as a 2-star facility, it has only undergone slight renovations over the years, with both its interior and exterior appearing very similar to its original design and maintaining many of its Yugoslav-era fixtures and elements. The motel’s official website can be found at THIS link. As of spring 2023, news reports indicate that te complex will soon be demolished.

 

Other Projects?

It is difficult to find good authoritative sources on the projects which Zdravko Bregovac completed during his career, and even further, when certain projects are listed or credited, it is often difficult to find the locations mentioned or clarify if a credit is entirely accurate or not. I encountered such issues in the writing of this article. For instance, one source credits the last major projects Bregovac undertook was a complex called “Motel Vojnić” [1986] in Vojnić, Croatia. However, I was never able to find where in Vojnić this motel was located nor did I uncover any images of it. Meanwhile, many of Bregovac’s early works remained elusive to me, such as bungalow resorts he made at Poreč and Medveja [both in 1960], as well as several autocamp resorts he made, such as “Lanterna” at Poreč, “Treća Padova” at Rab, “Novalja” on Pag Island (all three created in the 1970s). Further projects credited to Bregovac that I was not able to confirm or find substantiation for are “Hotel International” in Baghdad, Iraq (which I was not able to even locate), as well as Hotel Parentium in Poreč.

 

Special Thanks

Of all of the people whose work was helpful in my writing of this article (most of who I cite and link to along the way), I wanted to specially thank the amazing work done by Croatian architect Idis Turato and academic researcher and writer Ivana Nikšić Olujić. The work they have done is invaluable and deeply inspired my work on this piece.


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