Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Fame, Shame and Heritage

I noticed that I don’t blog about city of Split as much I would like to. Perhaps this is due to some of local issues being too petty or - which is more likely – too depressing to think about.

Recently, a lot of controversy was created by Split city authorities decision to start ambitious project of urban renewal that would include Riva, one of Split’s most recognisable landmarks. The project, given to Zagreb architectural studio LHD, had many Split citizens up in arms because of two things.

First, LHD is Zagreb studio, which looks like a mortal insult to those claiming that Split has enough talented architects of its own.

Second, and more interesting, reason is in the details of the proposed project. LHD envisioned boardwalk being transformed into Split version of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Each Split celebrity – legendary athlete, entertainer, writer etc. – is going to have the piece of boardwalk. Another detail is fountain, which is about to have state-of-the-art visual effects. Finally, traffic problems in nearby harbour are going to be solved with the construction of big two-floor garage where bus and train stations are located now.

All those solutions were decried as the rape of Split’s cultural legacy and “unnatural” introduction of Los Angeles, Las Vegas and futuristic architecture in what used to be predominantly Mediterranean ambient.

Yet, this proposed “rape”, when it happens, is going to be just one of the many similar events in Split’s long history. Riva today looks very different to the Riva fifty or hundred years ago. There are buildings that date from 1920s and 1930s, with definitely non-Mediterranean architectural style, and yet nobody proposes that they should be brought down in order to preserve some sort of cultural purity. And hardly anyone wants to see present-day asphalt from Riva being replaced by stone cobbles of the previous eras.

Much better argument against proposed project is more prosaic one. The money designated for this Riva renewal should be better spent on other projects – those that actually have something to do with the improving life of Split citizens.


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