The building lost its function back in 2004.
You’ve probably passed by the huge metal construction in Zagreb’s Upper Town a hundred of times and you know it for its whale mural, but, admit it, have you ever wondered what the function of this strange building is?
Well, believe it or not, it is a gallery.
It was built in the ‘80s and dark glass panels were used, so the building, which was already controversial enough, became even more controversial because it stood out among the classical Upper Town building. The glass panels were added to a concrete base, and, as the two materials have different properties, the glass panels began to fall off, making the building a hazard for everyone passing by. The building wasn’t supposed to be a gallery – at the beginning, it housed administrative offices of the Mimara Museum, but, with various interventions over time, it changed its function, causing more and more problems with every new change.
There are 12 thousand purple glass panels covering the façade, designed by Croatian artist Raoul Goldoni in cooperation with architect Igor Emili. However, even though the modernist design was state-of-the-art at the time, the building has faced numerous problems over time – in addition to glass panels falling off, there have been water leaks and a fire; there was an elevator shaft with no elevator, and the overall impression was that it was built in a hurry (some even say that it was simply never finished) so the building lost its function completely in 2004.
It was embellished by French artist Etien, who painted a huge whale as part of the Rendez-vouz festival in 2015, but this was also just a temporary solution.
Luckily, it seems that the building will finally get the renovation it deserves – one idea was to house works that are not on display at other museums; as Večernji list reported on October 11, 2017, there are tens of collections which have been donated to the City, but which haven’t found their permanent home yet, including works by Oskar Herman, Slavko Kopač, Josip Restek and Josip Crnobi. The building is also supposed to house a tourist info centre because numerous tourist visit the Upper Town as it is one of the most popular tourist landmarks in the city, especially the Gradec Plateau, where the building is located.
The latest update on the status of the building by Večernji list on October 28, 2017, suggests that the project of renovating the building should start in 2018. According to Dinko Bilić, head of the City Office for Physical Planning, Construction of the City, Utility Services and Transport, the building will not be demolished, but it will undergo a thorough renovation process to enrich the cultural and touristic offer of the Upper Town by turning it into a multifunctional, modern and innovative culture and tourism centre. Mr Bilić said that an expert team has assessed the status and created a static analysis, scaffolding has been added around the object to protect the passengers’ safety, and all the City Office is currently in the process of obtaining all necessary documents. They are not certain when the construction will take place because it depends on the funding.
It really is a shame to have a non-functional, and, more importantly, very unsafe building at one of the best locations in the city, especially if it could have such an important function, so we truly hope this project comes to life soon.