Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel, Zadar

ALMAYER DÉPENDANCE ROOMS

Memento to the Zadar grandeur

It is impossible to be passing by the Almayer hotel, walking down the “Lady of Health” church park and Campo Castello, and not to notice an impressive Bianchini House erecting above Small Arsenal and Tri bunara square.

Bianchini House and Small Arsenal today
Photographer: Vjekoslav Bobić

This building, full of historical symbolism and significance, was built in 1914, just before the Great war - war that started almost euphorically and was supposed to finish all other wars. The construction of the building was commissioned and organized by Juraj Bianchini (1947 - 1928), a prominent Croatian revival politician, architect, journalist and a longtime editor of “Narodni List” - in that time, the most important Croatian newspaper in Dalmatia.

 

Campo Castello and the Bianchini House in the idyllic days before the First World War
Source: Facebook group “Stare razglednice i fotografije Zadra”


The building was designed by the Rings & Bonavia company from Trieste. Built on the site of the former medieval castle Castello and the old military building "Quartieretti", this was the first modern reinforced concrete building in Zadar.

 

Campo Castello and „Quartieretti“ military base prior to the construction of the Bianchini House
Source: Facebook group “Stare razglednice i fotografije Zadra”


Erected at the height of Zadar's fin-de siècle, when Zadar was the administrative, civic and multicultural center of the Austrian Kingdom of Dalmatia, this building, with its architectural expression and decoration, combined tradition with the first indications of modernity. Exempt from traditional construction methods and restrictions, its architecture is simultaneously in breach of established norms and classical proportions, all the while representing the ultimate reach of optimism, progress and the growing desires and needs of the former Zadar bourgeoisie.
 

Bianchini House and Small Arsenal today  
Photographer: Vjekoslav Bobić


The optimism and the feeling of progress was not long lasting, since the peak also meant the end of the civil era of Zadar. With its growing social and political tensions between the fragile Italian majority and the completely Croatian surroundings, the city plunged in the “danse macabre” of the First World War. At that time, Juraj Bianchini, as an editor of “Narodni List”, moved the editorial office of these major Croatian newspapers to his house. The sound of typewriters and printing presses, and the pre-war competition of Italian and Croatian newspapers, was soon replaced by the rattle of machine guns and the roar of cannons around the Soča valley, Piave and Caporetto.

Zadar at the beginning of the 20th century
Source: Facebook group “Stare razglednice i fotografije Zadra”


 The war was over. Due to the diplomatic games of Triple Entente, Zadar was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. It got turned into an isolated Italian estate, unnaturally cut-off from its Croatian national corpus and Central Europe. In the shadow of the Versailles negotiations, resenting the Italian occupation forces, in 1919 Juraj Bianchini was first arrested and then, like many other Croats, had to flee Zadar. Shortly afterwards, in 1920, “Narodni List” was banned and its editorial board, along with other Croatian institutions in Zadar, was devastated.
 

1911 edition of the “Narodni List”
Source: Facebook group “Stare razglednice i fotografije Zadra”

In the remainder of the 20th century, the Bianchini House shared the ups and downs of its city. From the false sense of abundance of the free port during the Italian fascist rule and the Italianization of the Zadar society, to Second World War and almost complete Allied destruction of the city and a new exodus of its population, this time Italian. House also survived an insane bombardment and years of siege of Zadar by Serbian rebels during the Croatian War of Independence (1991-1995). Rarely reconstructed, the House remained on the fringe of the forgotten part of the old town, patiently waiting for new times.
When we, for the first time, climbed the circular staircase and planned the reconstruction of the apartment that was once owned by Juraj Bianchini and served as an editorial of “Narodni List”  - an epicenter of all that went on, it was hard not to lament on all the past events. Despite the ravages of time and neglect, the building has kept the “fin-de siècle'' charm, and, due to numerous balconies and large windows, has an atypical open-air view of the park and the city.
 

View from Bianchini House over Campo Castello and Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel
Photographer: Vjekoslav Bobić


It is always a pleasure to work with beautiful spaces like this one is. Design was supposed to underline the intellectual and civic heritage of Zadar, with just a right dose of mitteleuropean melancholy, southern nostalgia and memento to the city’s grandeur. The same as in Almayer, design was almost completely in the hands of owners and sopuses - Irina Bakija and Vjekoslav Bobić, with a final touch of their dear friend and associate - designer Boris Ružić.


Boris Ružić, Vjekoslav Bobić and Irina Bakija – creative force behind the Almayer project
Photographer: Rajan Milošević - Koridor 27

The space was spilled with intellectual blue, along with lush vegetation’s green reflections of the nearby park on the large glass walls of the bathrooms. The graphicness and abstraction are emphasized and underlined by designer ceramic tiles, round forms of interior design lighting and Teo Perić’s artwork.  
 

Room #3 Bianchini
Photographer: Rajan Milošević - Koridor 27


Following the same idea as in the Almayer, respect for heritage and the use of organic materials were imperative. The humanity of the natural materials is rounded off by a new oak parquet with French embroidery as well as a new wooden exterior joinery, custom-made for large antique door and window openings. High ceilings are adorned with stucco, and Wolfgang Brenner's incentive paintings, selection of antique and designer furniture and certain details, encourage intellectuality and memento of the times gone by.

 
Room #3 Bianchini
Photographer: Rajan Milošević - Koridor 27


  Room #4 Battara - bathroom
Photographer: Rajan Milošević - Koridor 27


On the first floor of the Bianchini House, there is a total of four comfortable double rooms, three standard and one deluxe. After the reconstruction, rooms were opened in 2018, named and themed after Zadar intellectual giants, publishers and artists - Battara family, Brkan, Burat, and, off course, Bianchini himself.

Room #2 Brkan
Photographer: Rajan Milošević - Koridor 27


The story of the Bianchini House is not over. Planned reconstruction of the building and the historical Tri bunara square underneath it, all in an immediate proximity to the UNESCO-protected Zero Category Monuments, will restore the splendor of this architectural jewel of the civic Zadar.