Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, stands as a living testament to the rich tapestry of history and diverse cultural influences that have shaped the city’s architectural landscape. As a relatively linear city stretching along the banks of the Miljacka River, Sarajevo lends itself well to being traversed. Walking from Alipaino Polje (west Sarajevo) to Baarija (east Sarajevo) is possible. The former is an impressive example of brutalist, socialist, Yugoslavian architecture from the 1970s, while the latter is an Ottoman neighbourhood. Between the transects are typical Austro-Hungarian buildings. The entire city is in various states of decay, and new buildings continue to spring up here and there, waiting to tell their story (inandaroundsarajevo.com, n.d.).
This review aims to delve into the captivating architectural treasures of Sarajevo, highlighting its fusion of Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and contemporary designs, as well as the city’s resilience in rebuilding after the devastating conflicts of the 20th century.
Sarajevo’s architectural identity is deeply intertwined with its Ottoman past. Walking through the cobbled streets of Baščaršija, the city’s historic centre, one encounters the stunning Ottoman-style structures that have stood the test of time. Every city has its own landmark. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, London has Big Ben, and New York has the Statue of Liberty. Sarajevo has something to be proud of as well. It is the Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque, an Ottoman masterpiece from the 16th century. This Mosque and its surroundings are a must-see for anyone visiting Sarajevo. The iconic Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque, with its elegant domes and intricate calligraphy, exemplifies the mastery of Ottoman architecture. The Ottoman influence extends to the lively markets, or čaršija, where traditional crafts and merchants transport visitors to a bygone era (Islamic Arts Magazine, n.d.).
The Austro-Hungarian period left an indelible mark on Sarajevo’s architectural landscape. The grand buildings lining Ferhadija Street showcase the intricate blend of neo-Renaissance and Secessionist styles. The National Museum and the City Hall, both striking examples of Austro-Hungarian architecture, stand as symbols of cultural and administrative significance. The Latin Bridge, forever etched in history as the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, provides a picturesque setting with its elegant stone arches (Wikipedia, 2023).
Sarajevo’s architectural review would be incomplete without acknowledging the city’s resilience in the face of war. The scars of the conflict are evident in the remnants of bullet-ridden buildings, serving as a poignant reminder of the city’s turbulent past. However, the remarkable post-war reconstruction efforts have breathed new life into the city. Contemporary architectural designs have emerged, blending harmoniously with the historical fabric. The Avaz Twist Tower, a sleek skyscraper offering panoramic views, symbolises the city’s rebirth and determination.
Sarajevo embraces its status as a cultural hub, and its architectural landscape reflects this. The National Theater, with its ornate facade and grand interior, showcases a vibrant performing arts scene. The Sarajevo War Tunnel Museum, housed in a nondescript building, bears witness to the city’s history and is a testament to human resilience’s power. The Academy of Fine Arts and numerous galleries scattered throughout the city celebrate Sarajevo’s thriving contemporary art scene. The notable Bosniak institute is housed in an impressive building in central Sarajevo and features a variety of interesting exhibits dealing with the culture and history of the city and country. The International Center for Kids and Youth in New Sarajevo and the Center for Sarajevo Culture are also noteworthy (Wikipedia, 2021).
Sarajevo, known as the “City of Bridges,” boasts an array of picturesque spans that connect its diverse neighbourhoods. As mentioned earlier, the Latin Bridge is an architectural gem, but other bridges, such as the Festina Lente Bridge and the Emperor’s Bridge, offer enchanting views and architectural charm. These bridges not only serve as practical links but also contribute to the city’s aesthetic appeal and cultural symbolism (Hodžić, 2021).
Sarajevo’s architectural review reveals a city steeped in history, where Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian influences intertwine with contemporary designs. The city’s resilience in the face of adversity is evident in its post-war reconstruction efforts, which have seamlessly blended the old and the new. Sarajevo’s architectural tapestry tells the story of a city that has overcome challenges, celebrating its heritage while embracing progress. Visitors to Sarajevo will undoubtedly be captivated by the diverse styles, cultural richness, and enduring beauty that define this remarkable city.
inandaroundsarajevo.com. (n.d.). Architecture in Sarajevo. [online] Available at: https://inandaroundsarajevo.com/architecture-in-sarajevo.html [Accessed 28 May 2023].
Wikipedia. (2023). Latin Bridge. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_Bridge#cite_note-1 [Accessed 29 May 2023].
Wikipedia. (2021). Culture of Sarajevo. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Sarajevo [Accessed 29 May 2023].
Hodžić, N. (2021). Architectural historical heritage of Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Empire in Sarajevo. [online] FOMOSO. Available at: https://www.fomoso.org/en/mosoculture/feuilleton/architectural-historical-heritage-of-austria-hungary-and-ottoman-empire-in-sarajevo/ [Accessed 29 May 2023].