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Reconstructing Dubrovnik

Part 2 Dissertation 2014
Hannah Gaze
University of Westminster | UK
This dissertation takes Croatia as its focus with particular reference to Dubrovnik, examining how the destruction and reconstruction of the built landscape during and after the breakdown of Yugoslavia has been used to create, manipulate or protect a cultural identity. Croatia is geographically positioned at a cultural crossroads between historical empires and religious boundaries. Its rich and diverse cultural heritage was targeted during the Homeland War in 1991-1995.

There is a well-established link between the materiality of heritage and the fluidity of identity. Familiar buildings and landscapes enable us to develop a sense of place, underpinning our feelings of belonging and continuity. Public monuments moreover are often a physical representation of a national identity, manipulated at will in identity politics. During the Homeland War, the deliberate destruction of built heritage with a certain cultural value appeared to be an attempt to eradicate a people and their beliefs. The siege of Dubrovnik was particularly controversial since the city had been inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1979; it was specifically demilitarised and marked with the Hague Convention Flag, so its targeting was met with worldwide disgust, signalling a turning point in western attitudes towards the war. The consequent reconstruction of the historic city was the second such intervention within twenty years, following the repair and rebuilding after the earthquake of 1979.

Attitudes towards reconstruction can be established by studying the development of Heritage laws and conventions both nationally and internationally. The terms conservation, restoration, renewal, reconstruction and rehabilitation are all framed in legislation. Reconstruction debates tend to polarise around two approaches. The first is that building anew in a contemporary style signifies a new beginning for the place and the people. The contrasting approach, rebuilding in an historicist style, signifies continuity, almost masking any damage that has been done. Dubrovnik represents a good case-study for the examination of these approaches having suffered both natural and deliberate destruction. Through studying the responses to recovery after both earthquake and war, attitudes towards conservation can be considered through different lenses and conclusions drawn.

Hannah Gaze

Dr John Bold
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