As we initiated the exhibition series Academicians in Opatija, it seemed to us to be important in some sense to relate the exhibition venue and its environs, i.e., Opatija, with the authors on show. In this search the epoch-making work of Dušan Džamonja, the Rijeka mosque, was imperatively suggested as the only possible solution for the first show, for several reasons.  We were able in addition to relate the January exhibition with the anniversary of the artist’s death (January 14, 2009). Furthermore, the general public is hardly aware that the design of the mosque was Džamonja’s, although this religious centre claims prominence as one of the very best structures of contemporary Croatian religious architecture, perhaps absolutely the best.

Although known primarily as a sculptor, Dušan Džamonja also satisfied his need for creative expression in drawings and architectural designs.  In the design section of his work, he distinguished monumental and public sculpting, architectural and multimodular designs for buildings intended for public use (tower buildings, religious and cultural centres, hospitals) and architectural designs for his own purposes (for donation housing, work and residence).  “Created in his architectural, three-dimensional and multimodular designs were not only sculptural volumes but exciting spaces that communicate through the overlaps and crosses of complex plastic relationships and their language with all of our senses”. (1)   Just as in his creative work it is possible to follow the connections between drawings and sculptures, so the emphatic feedback between sculptures and designs can be noted, and a whole series of designs, such as the BM Complex (a large mosque and Islamic cultural centre) of 1985, a mosque in Oran of 1985, a design for a 100-storey tower of 1985, the prizewinning design for Zagreb Airport and ultimately the design of the mosque and Islamic centre in Rijeka, which he did jointly with the architects Branko Vučinović and Darko Vlahović can be subsumed under the denominator used by architecture critics – sculptural architecture. Certainly to this sequence we have to add the nomination for the Aga Khan Grand Prix for Architecture in 2016, where Džamonja was placed on the short list.

Dušan Džamonja comprehends and unites, in a way, in materials and in form, the organic and the inorganic world.  While the structural materials of his sculptures are inorganic – metals, including nails and chains, glass, granite and concrete – the forms produced are organic, mobile in their rhythm, dynamically reflecting the biorhythms of the animate world.  The creative procedure, seemingly simple and easily legible, is in fact highly complex, constructive and inspirational  Simple round forms, spheres, curved prisms, parts of spheres and segments of circles are varied and repeated in the rhythm of an artistic sensibility, creating an abstract architecture of a new kind of expression. Inspired by variations on the form of the crescent moon and segments of spheres, and combinations of these forms, creating a space of beauty and harmony, he designed the mosque and Islamic centre in Rijeka in 2001, erecting as he did so a massive monument to his highly individual spheroid figuration.  What was earlier discerned in his sculpture takes on here clear determinations of a genuinely new architecture. “In other words, the whole of Džamonja’s work is marked by a high degree of homogeneity, which gives him a particular position in contemporary sculpture”.  (2)  His forms are clear and practically feasible, both as macro-urbanistic units, and as visionary designs, of not only monumental but also utilitarian architecture that ultimately always retains the representative matrix.

In this exhibition the earlier works have been linked up with the later, expressed in a cyclical sequence “in which  the prior sculpture conditions the following, the first the last, for all wells up from a single model” (3) and the public has the opportunity to read off the developmental path behind the origins of this Rijeka environmental space of a special kind.

Jasmina Bavoljak

(1) Kisić, Dubravka. Dušan Džamonja, Projekti, Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts Museum of Croatian Architecture, Zagreb, 2003.

(2) Horvat-Pintarić, Vera. Dušan Džamonja, in the catalogue of the exhibition Džamonja, prijedlog donacije gradu Zagrebu, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, 1982.

(3) Horvat-Pintarić, Vera. Dušan Džamonja, u katalogu izložbe Džamonja, prijedlog donacije gradu Zagrebu, Galerija suvremene umjetnosti, Zagreb, 1982.


More about exhibition on the links bellow: 

hrt.hr video

Click on catalog here.

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