The area of Barutana near Bjelovar is the authentic place where Croatian veterans were killed during the 1991 Homeland War. The tragic event of the explosion of the ammunition depot took place at that place, during which 11 defenders of the city of Bjelovar were killed. This project achieves the complete arrangement of the memorial area in a way that communicates about a specific place by various means (landscape art, sculpture). An integral part of the project are people, site visitors.
After almost 30 years since the unfortunate event in 1991, when 11 Croatian veterans were killed in an explosion at a military warehouse, the City of Bjelovar decided to completely renovate the Barutana area and announced a public architectural competition to design this memorial area. The solution of the author Ivana Salopek was chosen, who created a public space for commemoration, contemplation and education in the Bedenik forest by setting up a monument with a kaleidoscope and landscaping the entire area. Retaining the remains of destroyed warehouses, broken trees and military barricades and interpolating new design elements (monument with a square, paths with info boards and urban equipment) created a harmonious spatial whole, suitable for all ages and intergenerational interaction. Through QR codes, this project is developing its continuation towards multilingualism and the widest audience, using web platforms. Through the upgrade of the natural environment, this project aims to be a meeting place for the local community, visitors from other places and casual passers-by, who exchange experiences and memories from the time of war, heroism, sacrifice and suffering. This project has no negative impacts on the environment and directs users to coexistence with nature, sustainable behavior and the evaluation of biodiversity and the natural ecosystem, as meeting places and information exchange. It connects urban and rural, because it is located outside the city of Bjelovar, along important state roads, but at the same time it is close enough to the city for short visits and outdoor living. An example of such an approach to the regulation of Barutana can be applied to other places of suffering and the relevant local communities.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
The principle of minimal interventions in the existing natural environment was taken into account when choosing the design. Entirely high vegetation within the Bedenik forest has been preserved, and the remains of the destruction of the warehouse structure and individual trees have been preserved and 'frozen in time' - the time of the explosion. Local products and local contractors were used to make the new elements. Thus, the monument was made of simple metal elements by a local locksmith workshop, as well as other new urban equipment. The trails are made of fine gravel, in order to minimize the impact on nature, and the floor coverings made of concrete slabs are designed so that they let rainwater into the surrounding soil and do not affect the flow of rainwater. All lighting in the range is designed to be economical and to reduce light pollution to a minimum, and the noise level is determined by the nearby state road, because there are no other sources of noise. Through the education of the youngest visitors, we want to point out the importance of preserving the natural environment and encourage user retention and staying outdoors. Bedenik Forest, also an ornithological area, is an ideal meeting place for the city's population with a natural environment, enriched landscaped trails, wooden benches and decent lighting. The narrower memorial area of Barutana is entirely a pedestrian zone, accessible to all categories of users, without negative impact on the environment and nature.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
The backbone of the project consists of two separate spatial units within the memorial area: the remains of destroyed warehouses as a place of destruction in the western part of the scope and a new square with a memorial in the eastern part of the scope. Experientially, one wanted to interpret the moment of the explosion, which is in a way frozen in time and people's memory. The kaleidoscope device was used for this, which attracts visitors with its design and creates interaction, and begins the story of the tragic events in this place. The black metal cube is located in the central place of the small square, and benches and flagpoles are placed around it, thus forming a space of commemoration and contemplation. An important part of the project is the educational trail with 14 information boards with descriptions of events and QR codes for access to additional information. A unique design has been applied to all visual communications in accordance with the central monument. Thus, the experience of Barutana includes landscaping, graphic design and sculpture, achieving a unique experience of living in natural parts of the forest and at the same time in an aesthetically valuable space. This project can serve as an example of moderate intervention in the natural environment, which creates a space suitable for a quiet stay and various occasional accompanying activities.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context
The Barutana project addresses primarily all the victims of the defensive and liberation Homeland War from this area, family members of the fallen Croatian veterans, their comrades and friends. Therefore, since the beginning of the project, close cooperation has been established with the services of the City of Bjelovar and the Permanent Museum Exhibition of the Homeland War in Bjelovar. This ensured the participation of the public and all key stakeholders in this project. Special attention was paid to the way the inscriptions with the names of the victims were displayed and designed. During the preparation of the project documentation, efforts were made to take into account subsequent proposals for the placement of additional facilities in the scope, such as individual military vehicles - tanks T55 and BVP M80. Citizens were regularly informed via the website about the progress of works and the date of the opening of the Barutana memorial area. This is an example of good cooperation between the Government of the Republic of Croatia, Bjelovarsko-Bilogorska County, the City of Bjelovar and the local community, as evidenced by the joint formal session of the Croatian Government at the opening, which was attended by the President. The goal in the future is to achieve a permanent exchange of experiences, knowledge and memories between all groups of citizens, to establish a unique path to peace and mutual tolerance on the basis of sacrifice and suffering.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary
The dimension of human casualties due to the destruction of war and the suffering of survivors, which testify to the heroism and selfless courage of individuals, are the basis of this project and represent a fundamental value. As the entire coverage is located in the natural area of the Bedenik forest, it was possible to build the concept on respect for the existing biodiversity of the ornithological area, without significant interventions in the natural environment. The contemporary design of the memorial and its surroundings reinterprets the tragic event and interprets it in an intuitive way for all generations. Target groups of users are all categories of citizens, from the oldest population in this area who witnessed the war activities of the aggressors, to children and young people who come to this place to get acquainted with the history of this area. Through the interaction of all these users with the work of art - black cube with a kaleidoscope and through educational paths, their mutual interaction is realized and transmit memories, knowledge, impressions and human values through generations. The theme of preserving peace, as a basic human need, is located within the natural whole, and high-value artistic interventions in a minimalist way emphasize all important messages and provide comprehensive information through a unique story. The Barutana area is an inclusive public space, accessible and affordable to all, under equal conditions at all times.
The population of Croatian veterans and their families is an important topic for Croatian society and after 30 years it still occupies a significant space in the public. People who lost their loved ones during the war need the support of society, primarily through gratitude, appreciation and respect, and quality art contributes to proper and clear communication, emphasizing adopted social values and creating a sense of acceptance, care and importance. This war population is one of the most vulnerable groups of citizens whose interests and dignity need to be protected. In that sense, all the necessary preconditions for a permanent and dignified evaluation of the merits of all victims of the Homeland War have been achieved at the authentic place of suffering. In this way, the importance of the unique place Barutana is fully emphasized, which in the minds of the people of this region, but also the whole of Croatia is an important moment. The city of Bjelovar is a smaller Croatian city that, through the implementation of this project, has shown how to address the need for inclusive public space, with emphasis on the needs of a specific social group that is a significant factor in Croatian society as a whole. The minimal artistic and landscape transformation of the historic site created a spatial framework for multigenerational connections and cooperation of the local community with all levels of government and for education through a permanent exhibition and a historical guide with links to digital platforms.
Please also explain the benefits that derived from their involvement.
As the process of selecting the conceptual design of the Barutana area began with the implementation of a public architectural competition, the public was involved from the beginning in monitoring the progress of this project. The City of Bjelovar, as the client and investor of the project, had its representatives in the jury, which selected the winning work. Later, regular cooperation was established between the author of the solution, the city's professional services, the contractor and the Permanent Museum Exhibition of the Homeland War in Bjelovar, as part of the Bilogora-Bjelovar Tourist Board. During the construction and arrangement of the memorial area, the City of Bjelovar regularly informed the citizens and the interested public about the dynamics of the works, and curious individuals visited the construction site and left their impressions on web portals and social networks. During this process, a number of additional follow-up requirements for the implementation of certain design-related details were taken into account. Veterans and Victims Associations have expressed their wishes and needs, and additional demands are emerging today, and acceptable ways are being found to incorporate them. In this way, it is visible how the project lives with the community, listens to the needs of its users and remains constantly up-to-date and relevant. The participation of civil society in the final design and maintenance of the Barutana area is an unavoidable part of this project and it is possible to approach other similar interventions in the future based on this experience.
In today's time of war conflicts and threats of destruction of entire cities and regions, it is important to constantly emphasize the lessons of the recent past and to enhance our propensity to seek peaceful solutions to conflicts and disagreements. On the experiences of the defensive and liberation Homeland War, the Croatian people built a sense of gratitude, reverence and dignified appreciation of human sacrifice and suffering, due to the actions of unreasonable aggressors. A special challenge was the natural environment of the protected forest, within which all interventions had to be reduced to a minimum and with a minimum repertoire of interventions and limited resources to convey messages about accepted social values and guidelines for future life. Social divisions, present both in global society and at the local level, sought to bridge through interaction with the monumental exhibition, but essentially through the interaction of visitors from various social groups with each other. Through acquaintance with historical events by living participants, it is possible to raise awareness of the importance of dialogue, tolerance and respect for cultural and other differences of people, united in the humanity of every human being.
Unlike the usual monumental features that emerged after the Homeland War in the wider area of the Republic of Croatia, Barutana has applied a specific approach to the design of monuments that invites interaction with visitors, is photogenic and attractive. It is a simple metal cubic body in which a kaleidoscope device is built, in order to interpret the moment of the warehouse explosion in 1991, frozen in time. It thus allows a view through the eyepiece of a kaleidoscope that mirrors fragments of the sky and clouds, the treetops and the surrounding space. This creates a second view of reality, the absence of the real and the transition to the contemplative and metaphorical. The visitor is thus drawn into the story of the unique sequence of events, participants, consequences and the final state of this authentic place. „The work is characterized by simplicity and innovation, especially in the part concerning the monument ... the visitor has the opportunity to approach the 'captured explosion' individually, which adds value to the whole concept. The educational and interactive character brings the visitor closer to the event and is deeply etched in his memory“ (from the review of the Jury for the competition.) This approach to design contributes to further reflection on the contemporary role of memorial sites and monuments for today's society.
Please provide clear documentation, communication of methodology and principles in this context.
On the example of this project, it is possible to apply the lessons learned to future similar tasks and procedures. First of all, the acquired knowledge related to the involvement of end users at the very beginning of thinking about the future project significantly contributes to the quality and acceptance of the final solution. During the development and execution of works, additional requirements appear from various sides, which need to be carefully considered and strive to take into account in order to comprehensively meet all the required features of the project. It is important that from the beginning there is a capable project manager and the trust and respect of the authors of the selected competition work, or their constant cooperation. The principle of interdisciplinarity between social and technical professions in this project was crucial for successful realization, because the original ideas and artistic expressions needed to be materialized in a real space. The limited budget was a particular challenge and showed how the project should be developed in stages, taking care of the final appearance and functioning of the whole. Experiences with fitting new content into the original natural whole and user interaction with this open-air exhibition can be used for other projects with similar themes and the needs of the local community.