“Not in your house but still at home” is an old Viennese saying about cafes which sums up in one sentence the true meaning of this Central European, and thus the Croatian institution. The home away from home for many residents of Zagreb for years was the Kavkaz (Kazališna Kavana) cafe, which was closed for a long time. On Monday, October 29, 2018, it opened its doors to journalists and presented its updated and renovated interiors.
The legendary “Kavez”, as the cafe is often informally known, owes its reputation as a cultural oasis to renowned writers and artists who enjoyed spending time there: from Matoš and Ujević to Šimić and Krleža, but also to the fact that it is located in the very city centre opposite the Croatian National Theatre building. Kavkaz had an important place in the more recent history as well, as part of the Kavkaz-Zvečka-Blato trio. The cafe’s popularity reached its peak just during the New Wave period in the 1980s.
However, the cafe lost its former glory in recent years but the new owner, entrepreneur Tomislav Rajić from Zagreb, decided to change that, in cooperation with the designer and architect Mirta Mujačić Đaković. “Creating the new-old Kavkaz was a challenge, primarily because of the state it was in. Many doorways were walled up, basement and stairs were out of use… We decided to go in the direction of returning some of the architectural details from the past, opening all three floors using natural materials, with the aim of emphasizing the elegance of the entire space. We wanted to return the culture to the city, re-link the cafe with the theater and give it the significance it deserves. We also hope to encourage more similar projects throughout the city,” said Mirta Mujačić Đaković, who worked on the project together with her colleague Nika Fatović.
The strong connection with the theatre can be seen in every corner of the newly-renovated cafe – from the original Vatroslav Lisinski’s handwriting applied to the ceiling above the entrance to numerous posters from the history of the Croatian National Theatre (HNK), historical photos and original designs which decorate the walls.
The design of visual identity and the collection of historical material from the archives of HNK and the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences (HAZU) were done by the expert team from theKuharić Matoš agency, which also designed the new cafe logo. “Kavkaz is one of the most important venues in the historical centre of Zagreb. Although it changed several styles in its 120-year history, it has remained carved into the cultural heritage of Zagreb as a well-known gathering place for intellectuals, artists and bohemians. Therefore, our goal was to create a visual identity that will communicate the historical legacy and connectivity with the Croatian theatre, reminding us of the golden age of Kavkaz, and recreate it into a venue that is currently the only real cafe in the city,” said Luka Kuharić, Pavao Kuharić and Bojan Matoš.
The internal and external transformation is not the only novelty in the Kavkaz concept, which has now received several new features. The 500-square-metre Kavkaz now includes a restaurant/wine bar, and the venue will host various exhibitions related to the theatre, under the leadership of renowned costume designer Dženisa Pecotić. “In addition to exhibited artifacts, such as costumes, sketches and scene models, the new features include a newly-developed area in the cellar section of the cafe called Theatrical Route, which will be used to announce opening nights at the theatre, evoke memories of some of the great performances and their authors with costume and scene elements, and welcome various artists. We have paid particular attention to waiters’ dresses, which have been designed with details from the theatre curtain that means so much for all artists,” said Dženisa Pecotić.
Visit the cafe at the corner of Masarykova Street and the Republic of Croatia Square and re-discover the legendary attraction of Kavkaz.
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