Vukovar is Awaiting Its Attraction

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Vučedol is located a few kilometers away from Vukovar’s center, on the banks of the Danube. A renowned archeological site of Vučedol culture, boasting a population of somewhere between 2000 and 3000 inhabitants in 3000 B.C., sustaining themselves by livestock farming, hunting, manufacture of ceramics and metal objects. Vučedol is also a highly popular weekend getaway for Vukovar residents. The terrace of the one-time restaurant and outdoor pool along the river are now derelict and overgrown with weeds, a mere small boat here and there and the odd fisherman. Vukovar residents do not come here to swim anymore. However, visitors might be enticed enough by the Museum of Vučedol Culture to visit Vučedol, which is also, albeit new, already rundown. Thus the one-time excursion site stands a reminder of times past, while the Museum stands as a beacon of the future times, that are nowhere in sight as yet.

The Museum’s authors are from the ‘Architectural Workshop’ studio, headed by architect Goran Rako. The ‘Architectural Workshop’ obtained a commission from the Ministry of Culture for a conceptual solution of the Vučedol Archeological Museum. With such a direct commission, without even having released a public competition, was inevitably “facilitated” by the success of the Naron Archeological Museum in Vid, for which the ‘Architectural Workshop’ won a professional award, asa well as got great reviews from museum curators, archeologists and visitors.

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When they came to the Vučedol location in 2009, Goran Rako tells us, while the Museum was still on paper, they realized that the task before them was sensitive due to its archeological nature, as the Vučedol site is right next to the Museum, but also because of the natural environment, which is exceptionally beautiful, thus they were scared to ruin such natural harmony with architecture. Observing the environment, it dawned on them to connect the valley next to the Danube and Vučedol through the Museum building, which is located on top of the hill. That’s the reason the Museum is shaped as Rako calls is ‘a serpentine’. Climbing those “serpentines”, which are slightly slanted, thus making it easier for the disable to get around the area. Visitors will get acquainted with everything important in terms of the wealthy Vučedol culture, closing with the museum’s exhibition, situated at the authentic Vučedol location, the origin of Vučedol culture. The back area of the Museum is dug into the hill, while the façade is open with large glass panels towards nature, what provides a continued feeling of moving along the hill and at the same time nested into its surroundings. In order to protect the environment, it was obvious that minimal interventions were made in terms of the Museum’s development, what is further emphasized with the Museum’s green, grassy roof, which also serves as a walkway leading to Vučedol. That way, if you don’t feel like entering the Museum, the building itself can serve as a walkway to the top. Rako counts the Vučedol Museum within those museums where architecture is in the background. A “type of container without any enhanced esthetic features,” that helps the exhibits to convey their message in a more effective and clear way.

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Fitting in to the site, in addition by form, was also achieved with special attention to selection of materials, thus bricks were used for the outer layer, natural materials that blend in with the local land”, as the architects from the ‘Architectural Workshop’ tell us. The whole construction of the Museum is reinforced- concrete. The interior was done up in a simple manner, bare concrete walls were left as is, just coated with a layer of black paint, while light oak wood floorboards were left on the floor.

Extra special attention needed to be paid in regard to the Museum’s set up, i.e. the stories set to be told, as they were planned in a much broader sense than the collections of objects ready to be exhibited, among which are the renowned Vučedol Dove and little boot. Archeologist Aleksandar Durman worked with his architectural colleagues, as he has been researching the Vučedol culture for years. However, the exhibition set-up – that adds up to a total of 17 million HRK according to the expense list – is still missing, hence the Museum stands completed, yet closed.

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We asked the Ministry of Culture when the Museum is set to be opened, and received a reply that the Museum of Vučedol Culture and the Archeological Scientific and Research Amusement Park at that location were an integral project, which are on a list of projects set to be funded in 2014 from the European Union funds. “The realization of the whole project will be carried out in stages. The first stage will be the execution of a permanent set-up scheduled for next year, while at the same time, teams are developing the Archeological Park project for EU funds,” the Ministry of Culture stated. In regard to the question why the Museum, regardless of the rest of the project, still isn’t open, although fully developed, we received the following answer: “A building of the future museum was built (completed in 2011), while the whole project did not undergo either a cost/benefit analysis or a development strategy, or management of cultural resources and the entire cultural and tourist possibilities of the whole region as such. For whom was the Museum built, who are potential target visitors, what are interests of the local community, what are the needs of a contemporary museum audience or what is the supply of other content in the region – all these relevant questions were left unanswered. Regarding the energetic efficiency and utilization of natural resources as well as ‘smart’ technology which makes use of stated technologies; the project makes no mention of the concept of an efficient and rational ‘frugality’-oriented Museum, while expenses of a cold drive unit without visitors amount to tens of thousands HRK per month.”

Systematic research of Vučedol began over thirty years ago and even then ideas about developing a park and a museum on the exhumation site were taken under consideration. Such ideas were stopped short during the war, only to be picked up again following demining in 2000. Vučedol at long last got its Museum, albeit a nonstarter.

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 Photo: Boris Cvjetanović