Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Kosovo National Library - One of Yugoslavia's more interesting buildings.

The Kosovo National Library, know by many other names as Yugoslavia, then Serbia, now Kosovo control it, is a fascinating building.  I will say more after the image, but I have to say I was captivated by this image today.

National Library of Kosovo at night

I think it looks beautiful here. But it has a bit of a bizarre history. 

I first saw images of it in a show called "Concrete Yugoslavia" (or something to that effect) a few years go. I have to admit, I didn't like it at all. I admired it and I understood the style, but I didn't "like" it. Below is a picture of it in glorious black and white.

In my defense, it is kind of ugly, particularly as I saw it a few years ago. But now it has been restored and looks very interesting. Personally I kind of love it. 

I was reading on wikipedia about it today, and the description of the style is interesting.  When it was built, the architect said that it was a homage to the Byzantine and Islamic architecture that historically ruled the region. The architect (a croatian Yugoslav) said, "This project is linked to the tradition of pre-Romanesque architecture of the Balkans."

After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Kosovo was originally part of Serbia. So the Serbs said style was a mixture of Serbian historical style and the Albanian Mosque Domes. It was, the said, meant to signify the bounds between the country and the local minorities.

Despite its callbacks to other styles it also, at least partly, fits into the Yugoslavian Modern Cement Brutalist style.

The domes from above

The war history of the building is also fascinating. In 1988, the independence of the region was removed when Serbia revoked Kosovo's status as a self-governing region of Serbia. The Albania minority in Serbia (albeit a majority in Kosovo) were not allowed to study or write in Albania (Serbia uses абецеда). The Serbian government (never a great group of autocrats) destroyed the library interior, furniture and about 100,000 books. These books included ancient histories of Kosovo, the people and the region. Just as in Bosnia, the Serbs tried to destroy independent histories and claim the entire region was Serbian by literally destroying history.

During the Balkan Wars, the building housed thousands of Bosniak and Croatian refugees. During the war between Serbia and Kosovo, the building housed the Serbian / Yugoslav Armed Forces Headquarters. After Kosovo independence, the Kosovo Army spent a week hunting for mines and other explosive booby traps.

After the war, Kosovo took about 9 years to restore the building with help from the EU, America and United Nations experts. Including the metal chain link that was created at the inception of the building.

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