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New Croatian Architecture: Five Projects by 3LHD

The architecture of Croatia has a long history: the Croats have inhabited the area for 13 centuries, and there are important remnants of earlier Greek and Roman periods still preserved in the country. During the 1960s and 1970s, Yugoslav architects rejected the monumental austerity of Soviet design as well as the Modernist movements of Western design. They created a new school of design called heroic modernism, which is more extravagant, colourful and softer than the Soviet Bloc style. Today, architects in Croatia are resuming where they left off before the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the ensuing war.

Based in Zagreb, 3LHD is a collaborative architectural studio that is particularly interested in the integration of architecture, art and the urban landscape. 3LHD has an integrative approach to projects and believes that architecture must be so much more than functional. The principles of the practice are based on the modernity of the 21st century. Projects go ahead after the collection and modification of the opinions of various specialists. In this way, the studio likens its approach to that of a producer, director or a DJ who performs an excellent job of editing.

3LHD is responsible for Croatia’s first design hotel. Hotel Lone is situated in the Monte Mulini forest park, a beautiful tourist zone in the area of Rovinj. The design was created by a team of renowned Croatian architects, conceptual artists and product, fashion and graphic designers. The hotel’s identity is formed by its external Y-shaped design, which includes a facade defined by dominant horizontal lines – terrace guards designed to evoke the image of slanted boat decks. Hotel Lone won an award for best new build design hotel in Europe at the November 2012 Sleep event, which is sponsored by the influential Sleeper Magazine.

In the small Istrian village of Bale, 3LHD designed a new sports hall that adapts to it rich historical, cultural and social Mediterranean context. Inspiration for structure was found in the small traditional stone huts used as a shelter for shepherds. These provided a cool environment in hot weather and insulated against the cold in the winter. The sports hall was built according to old methods, without any cement or mortar and with interlocking stones found on the site. A traditional local dry stone wall motif was used as a template/pattern for the whole surfacing of the sports hall.

The waterfront in the city of Split has been an urbanised, public, open and accessible space for 1,700 years. It stands in front of Diocletian’s Palace, once the home of the eponymous Roman emperor. The modular Roman form of the palace in the latter phase became the framework that shaped the city and directed its expansion. In the same way, the dimensions, materials and form of the modular network of concrete elements introduced on the waterfront by 3LHD now direct the arrangement and positions of all the other elements of the public space.

Fifty years of contemporary dance culture in Zagreb has produced about 40 dance troops, and these have a new home in the city centre thanks to 3LHD’s conversion of an old cinema near the city’s main square. The main new architectural element of the centre is the entrance lobby. The volume of this space and its broken form suggests dance movement and work as a new element connecting a courtyard and a roof terrace. The roof terrace was the final element created in the centre, and it is an important part of the project of preservation and restoration of Zagreb’s last open roof stage.

Located in the centre of Rijeka, on the channel that separates the historic old town from the former port, the Memorial Bridge by 3LHD is a construction with tactile properties and a symbolic object. It is a pedestrian bridge that embodies utilitarian function and memorialises veterans from the Croatian war of independence. It is a place of memory and piety as well as a focus for meeting and socialising. The bridge is designed as an extremely thin plate connecting the two banks of the channel in a characteristic L-shape. It was produced in a local shipyard and carried by sea to the location in one piece on a specially designed barge.

3LHD is responsible for Croatia’s first design hotel. Hotel Lone is situated in the Monte Mulini forest park, a beautiful tourist zone in the area of Rovinj


Villa Klara is located in natural surroundings in a very attractive residential part of the city of Zagreb. For this project, 3HLD adjusted the customary program of a family residence to suit the very steep terrain. Instead of traditional divisions into upstairs/downstairs and public/private, the building is organized into a series of units. By integrating the external and internal space, several units were linked together in a form of horizontal and vertical meander. Through the wrapping of plywood panelling and green copper, the design demonstrates an integrative relationship toward its surroundings.