Board Games Reign Supreme at Diocletian’s Palace


At the time when the team from OPA (Association for Promotion of Visual Arts Culture), with our huge support, fights to increase the number of Art classes in elementary schools with the goal of developing visual culture from the earliest age; it’s a real joy to discover a great project done by those a bit older. One of our readers pointed out an interesting project to us; a project definitely worth promoting, done by the students from School of Design, Graphics and Sustainable Building in Split.

We rarely promote projects “designed” by high school students, but this one definitely deserves a mention because it offers an intelligent, simple, and modern solution for turning Split, i.e. its cultural and historical heritage, into a brand. It’s undeniably highly commendable to discover drops of enthusiasm and creativity generated by high school minds in a city that has lately, alongside the usual lauds about its location and weather, also received its share of criticism due to the obvious political and sociological reasons.

The project in question is about two board games SPLI’SKI ŠAH (THE CHESS OF SPLIT) and DIOKLECIJANVSE NE LJVTV SE (SORRY! DIOCLETIAN) created by students from School of Design, Graphics and Sustainable Building in Split and their mentors.

With the help of their professors, the students have come up with their own versions of the two board games – chess and “Čovječe, ne ljuti se” (“SORRY!“) where the standard game boards have been replaced with the layout of Diocletian’s Palace. Use of the distinctive orthogonal layout of the Roman palace, as well as of its first inhabitants on the game pieces highlights the importance of incorporating architectural, historical, and cultural heritage into modern communication; in this case, potentially aimed at the younger generations, as well as tourists.

We further talked about this project with Tanja Ukas, a professor of Ceramic and Decorative Technique; and Composition and Scenography Technique at School of Design, Graphics and Sustainable Building; and she gave us more details about the project:

“Tasks about cultural heritage as an inspiration are a part of our Instruction Plan and Program. In an effort to avoid making dry and uncreative replicas, we are constantly looking for the new and interesting ways of designing. Originally, the chess idea was created last year, when our student Ivana Markov did her thesis project Spli’ski šah (The Chess of Split), on the topic “Cultural Heritage – Inspiration in Interpretation” (“Kulturna baština-inspiracija u interpretaciji”); with me as her mentor.

We came up with the idea of chess because of the identical positions of towers in both Diocletian’s Palace and the game itself. And since the task also required traditional folk costumes, the fact that the king and queen should be a man and a woman in traditional garb sort of came naturally. The bishop became an agriculturalist with a hoe on his back and with a donkey walking next to him, in lieu of a horse. The black squares were inserted in such a way to reproduce the layout of the Palace, i.e. the medieval city inside the Palace.”

“After presenting the chess at the national contest, we’ve also shown it at our traditional exhibition at The Split City Museum; whose Director has shown interest for the product. Seeing as the game had only been made as an exhibit; this year, with the composition and set designers; I’ve decided to make board pieces for a more practical and smaller chess, a new board, and a box to go with it.

Maroje Dominis Mršić, a senior student of Graphic Design, with his mentor Sonja Ortner, has joined in on this part of the task. We’ve been working on this project practically this entire academic year, alongside our regular classes.”

Due to the huge interest and positive reactions received for the project “The Chess of Split” (splitski šah); this year “SORRY!” (“Čovječe, ne ljuti se”) was created and renamed into “Sorry! Diocletian” (“Dioklecijane ne ljuti se“).

“Valentina Budiša, a senior student of Composition and Set Design, chose the topic: “Souvenir – A Detail of Cultural Heritage” (“Suvenir- detalj kulturne baštine“) as her thesis project; which served as the basis for the DIOKLECIJANVSE, NE LJVTV SE! project. Four figures, or game pieces, are: Diocletian, his wife Prisca, daughter Valeria, and a Roman soldier. When a player throws the dice and gets “six” they can start the game from one of the four doors; the game is played by moving circularly behind the walls; and in the end the player enters “home” – goal which is either in the Cardo Street or the Decumanus Street.

Students from the graphic processing course and their mentors Marko Dragun and Ivan Buljan participated in creating the design for boxes and playing boards for the two games – SPLI’SKI ŠAH and DIOKLECIJANVSE, NE LJVTV SE! The whole project was done entirely by our school, whose synergy always does us proud! And there’s also another idea for a game we’re currently developing and working on!”

When it comes to turning this project into an actual product, as well as interesting the people of Split in it; Tanja Ukas points out there were individuals during the exhibition that wanted to buy the game. The Split City Museum and some agencies have shown interest for collaboration as far as project realization is concerned, but nothing concrete has been done as yet.

“The project still needs work and fine-tuning. So far the production has been manual and thus too slow. Also, we have to meet curriculum requirements with our students which makes working on parallel projects such as this one, difficult, albeit fulfilling. The way we are doing things now is unbeneficial; it’s pure enthusiasm.”

The problem of identity and souvenir development on the market isn’t just a regional problem of Dalmatia, it’s present in the whole country; and what makes things somewhat better for Split is the designer shop Get Get Get (which we’ve covered here); where it’s possible to find authentic creations and original designer items done by young domestic creative minds whose works have an additional value, character, and authenticity. Tanja Ukas gave us her opinion on the effectiveness of use of Split heritage in the tourist promotion of the city:

“I think the regional – Dalmatian heritage – is more present than that of Split. We have a rich cultural and historical heritage that offers us many possibilities and it’s a source of inspiration for future projects. The City and tourist boards and offices should engage more in the research of appropriate souvenirs.

There’s a huge amount of cheap imported products of dubious quality, on the tourist stands in the city, but also in the galleries that should by default have a more refined sense of tradition, aesthetics and design. In such circumstances, it’s very difficult to define and explain the notions of aesthetics and culture to teenagers extremely susceptible to cheap and quick aesthetics and thinking…”

Click here to check out further details on the project and other activities of the school.