Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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National Theatre, the historic building

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Status of monument -> National monument

Published in the äOfficial Gazette of BiHô no. 3/08.

Pursuant to Article V para. 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Article 39 para. 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, at a session held from 11 to 17 September 2007 the Commission adopted a






The historic building of the National Theatre in Sarajevo is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 61 (old survey), corresponding to c.p. no. 2081/1, 2081/2, 2081/3 (new survey), Land Register entry no. XLVIII/80, cadastral municipality Sarajevo, Centre Municipality, Sarajevo, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The provisions relating to protection measures set forth by the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of the Federation of  BiH nos. 2/02, 27/02, 6/04 and 51/07) shall apply to the National Monument.




The Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the Government of the Federation) shall be responsible for ensuring and providing the legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary to protect, conserve, and display the National Monument.

The Commission to Preserve National Monuments (hereinafter: the Commission) shall determine the technical requirements and secure the funds for preparing and setting up signboards with the basic data on the monument and the Decision to proclaim the property a National Monument.




To ensure the on-going protection of the National Monument, the following protection measures are hereby stipulated, which shall apply to the area defined in Clause 1 para. 2 of this Decision.

-          all works are prohibited other than conservation and restoration works, routine maintenance works, and works designed to display the monument, with the approval of the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina,

-          the basement and ground floor areas of the property shall be renovated and provided with damp courses to prevent rising damp,

-          a project for the restoration of the interior of the property shall be drawn up, with a detailed survey of its condition (architectural and other surveys),

-          the project must be based on a methodological approach designed to protect the historic values of the property,

-          changes to the stylistic characteristics of the property by the removal or addition of individual decorative elements and architectural details (stone and other mouldings and carvings, string courses etc.) are prohibited,

-          all the installations in the building (fire prevention system, electric wiring, mains water and drainage) shall be renovated after an examination of the condition of the said installations,

-          a project to install lightning conductors shall be drawn up.




All executive and area development planning acts not in accordance with the provisions of this Decision are hereby revoked.




Everyone, and in particular the competent authorities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Canton, and urban and municipal authorities, shall refrain from any action that might damage the National Monument or jeopardize the preservation and rehabilitation thereof.




The Government of the Federation, the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning, the Federation heritage protection authority, and the Municipal Authorities in charge of urban planning and land registry affairs, shall be notified of this Decision in order to carry out the measures stipulated in Articles II to V of this Decision, and the Authorized Municipal Court shall be notified for the purposes of registration in the Land Register.




The elucidation and accompanying documentation form an integral part of this Decision, which may be viewed by interested parties on the premises or by accessing the website of the Commission (http://www.aneks8komisija.com.ba) 




Pursuant to Art. V para 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, decisions of the Commission are final.




On the date of adoption of this Decision, the National Monument shall be deleted from the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of BiH no. 33/02, Official Gazette of Republika Srpska no. 79/02, Official Gazette of the Federation of BiH no. 59/02, and Official Gazette of BrŔko District BiH no. 4/03), where it featured under serial no. 515.




This Decision shall enter into force on the date of its adoption and shall be published in the Official Gazette of BiH.


This Decision has been adopted by the following members of the Commission: Zeynep Ahunbay, Amra Had×imuhamedoviŠ, Dubravko LovrenoviŠ, Ljiljana Őevo and Tina Wik.


No: 02.2-131/07-5

12 September 2007



Chair of the Commission

Dubravko LovrenoviŠ


E l u c i d a t i o n



Pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a ôNational Monumentö is an item of public property proclaimed by the Commission to Preserve National Monuments to be a National Monument pursuant to Articles V and VI of Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and property entered on the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of  BiH no. 33/02) until the Commission reaches a final decision on its status, as to which there is no time limit and regardless of whether a petition for the property in question has been submitted or not.

The Commission to Preserve National Monuments issued a Decision to add the National Theatre in Sarajevo to the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, numbered as 515.

Pursuant to the provisions of the law, the Commission proceeded to carry out the procedure for reaching a final decision to designate the Property as a National Monument, pursuant to Article V para. 4 of Annex 8 and Article 35 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments.



In the procedure preceding the adoption of a final decision to proclaim the property a national monument, the following documentation was inspected:

-          Documentation on the location and current owner and user of the property (copy of cadastral plan and copy of land register entry)

-          Data on the current condition and use of the property, including a description and photographs, data of war damage, data on restoration or other works on the property, etc.

-          Historical, architectural and other documentary material on the property, as set out in the bibliography forming part of this Decision.


The findings based on the review of the above documentation and the condition of the property are as follows:


1. Details of the property


The National Theatre in Sarajevo is in the centre of the city, at the corner of Obala Kulina bana and KuloviŠ streets. This building and the Printing House, Central Post Office, Law Courts and other properties form a characteristic urban street front dating from the Austro-Hungarian period, dictated by the building regulations in force at that time.

Obala Kulina bana street and the river Miljacka are to the south of the building, and PozoriÜni trg (Theatre Square) to the north, bounded by Branilaca grada street.

To the west, the property is bounded by KuloviŠ street and by the Austro-Hungarian Central Post Office.

To the east of the National Theatre is a car park and modern office building dating from the 1960s.

The National Monument is located on a site designated as cadastral plot no. 61 (old survey), corresponding to c.p. no. 2081/1, 2081/2, 2081/3 (new survey), Land Register entry no. XLVIII/80, cadastral municipality Sarajevo, Centre Municipality, Sarajevo, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Historical information

The National Theatre, designed in 1896 by Karl Pa°ik(1) and built in 1897 and 1898, occupies an important position in the history of architecture in the Austro-Hungarian period.

It was built during a peak period of building and artisanal activity in Sarajevo, complemented by the adoption of new building regulations, the Building Ordinance of 1893. The new regulations were directly based on the Bauordnung, the first building regulations introduced by the new authorities(2).

The Building Ordinance of 1893 that was in force when the National Theatre in Sarajevo was built set out detailed regulations governing the use of building materials and precise standards for the size of new buildings(3).

The Regulatory Plan of the Building Ordinance, applicable only to the central, level area of the city, also governed the construction of all new buildings, and introduced the possibility of legislation affecting the size and outward appearance of buildings. The Plan allowed for three-storey buildings to be erected from the City Hall to the Drvenija bridge, but only two-storey residential properties with gardens facing the Miljacka river were to be permitted from the Drvenija bridge to the Skenderija bridge.

These regulations were amended just before the National Theatre was built, when the Miljacka was regulated and the Apel Quay (the Obala or embankment) was constructed.

This led to the erection of a number of public buildings of considerably greater height than the previous regulations permitted, including the National Theatre. These buildings, along the right bank of the Miljacka, were completed by the construction of the Post Office and Law Courts(4).

Work began on the construction of a representative building designed by architect Karl Pa°ik(5) in 1897, originally known as the Social Centre.

The works were preceded by a donation of the land by the Provincial Government(6), whose policy it was to encourage and provide incentives for the erection of public and cultural buildings with historicist and "pro-European" features.

The Social Centre was formally opened on 2 January 1899(7). 

The Gentlemen's Club, founded a year earlier, also opened its premises in the same building at that time(8).

During the Austro-Hungarian period, the building never officially became a theatre, but remained the Social Centre, Herren club or Clubhaus throughout, in which plays could be performed in the Saaltheater(9).

The construction of the Social Centre belongs to the first stage of Karl Pa°ik's work in Sarajevo, when he was mainly involved in designing and building public edifices. Later, in the second stage of his work, he chiefly built properties for the Catholic Church(10).

In terms of its stylistic features, the Social Centre was conceived in the historicist spirit, based directly on the doctrine of the strict academic historicism(11) in which Karl Pa°ik was trained when studying architecture in Vienna. The roots of his affection for historicism should be sought not only in his academic background, but in his origins(12).

Stylistically speaking, the building was designed in a historicist neo-Renaissance vocabulary, while in terms of its composition and details, certain elements borrowed from the National Theatre in Prague can be recognized. The development of the fašade, the frontispiece, the horizontal articulation, the characteristic details of the stone balustrade and so on are elements linking the design of the Social Centre in Sarajevo with its precursor in Prague, built ten years earlier(13).    

Other authorities, however, believe that the composition and details of the historicist neo-Renaissance fašade of the National Theatre were probably modelled on the Stock Exchange in Vienna, designed by architect Theophil von Hansen, Pa°ik's eminent teacher in Vienna, who obviously greatly influenced his pupil(14).

He was later to design his major work, the National Museum, in the same architectural vocabulary(15).

Pa°ik originally designed the entrance to the south, from Obala Kulina bana (the embankment), which is why this fašade is in its original symmetrical, monumental, strict form, a textbook example of the historicist neo-Renaissance expression.

The present main entrance, on the north side, was much simpler. Pa°ik treated it as a side fašade, lacking the strict symmetry and pronounced monumentality of the neo-Renaissance. It was only in the 20th century, when the Social Centre was converted into the National Theatre, that this fašade finally acquired strict neo-Renaissance features, completing the outward appearance of the building.

The construction of this capital property was followed by the general public with keen interest.

In 1896 the building was known in the Sarajevo press as the Social Centre, and was presented as a future venue for cultural and public life "on the corner of KuloviŠ street, with the main frontage on Apel embankment. . . intended to fulfil the noble task of being a social centre for Sarajevo and in particular a temple to the Muses." (16)  

Even before the Social Centre was built, Sarajevo had many venues for an active cultural life, where plays were performed(17). In these circumstances, it was perfectly logical for a representative edifice such as the Social Centre to evolve into a dedicated theatre, until then lacking in Sarajevo.

The Social Centre was finally converted into a theatre from 1921 on. Karl Pa°ik had the honour of being involved in these major alterations(18).

The conversion of the Social Centre into the National Theatre was part of a wider social plan on the part of the Kingdom's Council of Ministers for the organization of state, regional and travelling theatres. On 1 September 1919 the Council of Ministers adopted a ruling on the organization of state, regional and travelling theatres in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which provided for three categories of national theatre.

The first consisted of the three state (national) theatres in Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubljana.  Category two consisted of regional theatres in Sarajevo, Skoplje, Novi Sad and other cities. The third and last category included a number of travelling theatres in NiÜ, Kragujevac, Vara×din and other towns(19).

The outcome of this plan was, soon after, the adoption of a decision on 10 May 1920 to sell the Social Centre building and its inventory to the National Theatre in Sarajevo(20). 

In the National Theatre itself the view is that it was founded somewhat earlier, on 18 November 1919(21).

At the request of the National Government in Sarajevo, dated 3 August 1920, Josip VancaÜ drew up the first drawings for the interior conversion of the Social Centre into the National Theatre(22).

However, the conversion of the Social Centre into the National Theatre was finally entrusted to the original designer, architect Karl Pa°ik, on 3 May 1921. That same month the decision was taken to entrust the building works to the Joint Stock Construction Company in Sarajevo(23).

The works contractor was the entrepreneur Jozef Martinek, while Karl Pa°ik himself was wholeheartedly involved in the works(24).

Interestingly, even while the alterations were being carried out the National Theatre continued working and enjoyed some considerable successes. In June 1922 the first opera was performed in the National Theatre in Sarajevo ľ the work Porin [by the Croatian composer Vatroslav Lisinski], performed by the Opera from Osijek. 

Ever since then the National Theatre has continued working on the same site.

During the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the National Theatre took several artillery hits, but the damage was not extensive.


2. Description of the property

The National Theatre, designed and executed in the Neo-Renaissance historicist style, has an irregular ground plan, almost forming a rectangle measuring approx. 50 x 47 m.

The building consists of a basement area, ground floor, and the first and second storeys.

There are also mezzanine levels between the ground and first floor, where the mezzanine boxes are located, alongside the offices; and between the first and second floor, where the balcony with boxes, the actorsĺ dressing rooms and offices are located.

The basement area is now used mainly for storage and so on, though its original purpose was quite different(25). It includes dressing rooms and the actorsĺ toilet block.

The ground floor is the buildingĺs main floor. The covered entrance portico of the main, north entrance leads into the main foyer with cloakrooms and the box office. The side area, in the east wing, contains four foyers with a buffet at the south end, and the main auditorium.

The main auditorium lies east-west, with the entrance from the foyer to the east and the stage to the west. 

The orchestra pit is between the stage and the auditorium; to the left and right of the main stage are the wings.

The main auditorium has 286 seats in the stalls, in 13 rows of 22 seats each. It was built at the time of the original construction in 1897, when it was 21 m long, 15 m wide, and 12.50 m high.  Judging from the 1980 design for alterations to the interior, its present size is roughly the same.

On each side of the main auditorium, facing the foyers to the east, are two interior staircases, of which the north-eastern staircase is intended for use by the public.

The north hall, entered via the south, staff entrance, leads to a fourth staircase which is used solely by National Theatre staff; beside it is a lift, installed in the second half of the 20th century.

The mezzanine level of the main auditorium, above the ground floor, is where the central boxes are located, to the east, facing the stage. The central box measures approx. 11.00 x 3.50 m and has room for 15 people. There are six boxes on each side of the mezzanine level, each with room for four to six people. The maximum number of seats in the mezzanine side boxes is thus 72.

The balcony and the gallery are located above the mezzanine level. The balcony is to the east of the auditorium, above the central box. It measures approx 6.50 x 5.50 m, with steps to the sides leading to the raked seating area. The balcony consists of six raked rows each with ten seats, a total of 60, with a narrow passageway in front of the front row.

To the sides, forward of the balcony, are galleries each with 23 seats, a total of 46.

The total maximum seating capacity in the main auditorium of the National Theatre is 479(26).

The exit from the ground floor is via the north, covered entrance portico main steps to the square outside the theatre, PozoriÜni trg.

The ground floor contains another side door on the east side of the National Theatre, now rarely used, and then mainly as a way out at the end of performances to ease the pressure on the main, north exit. This exit links the foyer of the National Theatre with the side of PozoriÜni trg, and now has a side lift for the disabled. Originally, this entrance linked the dining room (foyer) with the green area outside the Social Centre.

The four foyers and buffet of the National Theatre are now used by the public during intervals, and for all kinds of art and other exhibitions.

The entrance hall to the north, leading into the other foyers, is 15.50 m long and 8.50 m wide.  The ceiling of this and all the remaining foyers on the ground floor is approx. 6.50 m high.

The first floor of the National Theatre houses the offices and rehearsal rooms. It contains a large and a small ballet hall, a hall for use by the orchestra and choir and for plays, the production area, salon, archives, sewing room and other such premises. The overall area of these premises is much reduced by the fact that the main ground-floor auditorium extends over two storeys, taking up the central area of the first floor(27).

The second floor of the National Theatre is also reduced in area by the daylight space of the large hall, and contains offices and ancillary premises.

To the south are offices, including those of the board, the directorĺs room, the scenographerĺs studio and some small ancillary premises. These premises are accessed only via the staircase from the south wing and by lift.

The stage machinery is housed on the opposite or north side of the second floor, which can be reached only via the staircase to the north of the main stage, leading to the ground floor dressing rooms.

There is an attic space above the main auditorium of the National Theatre, between the north and south wings of the second floor.

As regards the materials used to build the edifice, there is no doubt that the materials of the highest quality then available would have been used for such a representative building, in line with all the strict standards then applicable to the use of materials and construction.

The basic materials used to build the National Theatre were stone, brick, timber, iron, sheet metal and glass.

The basic load-bearing structure is of solid stone and brick.

The footings and foundation walls were made of quarry stone laid as drystone walling, partly to avoid the need to install expensive damp proofing, so as to prevent rising damp affecting the building.  For this reason, too, a layer of stone was laid below the thick floors in the basement and on the ground floor.  This stone was probably quarried locally, in the HreÜa and Miljevina quarries.

The structrural system of the building is of brick and stone, with the use too of steel structural girders, particularly in the basement, where they are used in combination with stone and brick.

The upper floor was built on a thick base approx. 50 cm thick, where the structural members are timber.

Later, during the 1921 alterations, the range of materials and construction techniques used in the National Theatre building were enriched by using what were then state-of-the-art materials and techniques. The mezzanine boxes, stalls and some other parts of the building were constructed using reinforced concrete, as evidenced by the blueprints and structural computations produced that year.

The exterior and interior walls, of varying thickness, are of brick.

The high-quality material used in the thick exterior walls meant that the building is well insulated, remaining relatively warm in winter and cool in summer. In addition, once the walls, both interior and exterior, were built using high-quality industrial brick, it was possible to carry out a whole range of minor repairs to the installations long after the building itself had been completed.

The original roof frame consisted of metal and timber trusses. The steeply-pitched roof was covered with sheet metal as the final cladding.

The most recent structural repairs to the roof, in the early 21st century, involved installing both metal grids and classic timber beams, which now form the roof frame.

The central three-paned roof, with the two longer panes lying north-south, was provided with steel bearing grids, covered with all the regulation insulation layers and finally the outer cladding.

The hipped roof above the entrance area to the north and the two complex side roofs to the north have timber frames. The same is true of the central and two complex side roofs to the south, which also have timber frames.

The newly-laid cladding is plasticized sheet metal over the entire roof area.

In terms of use, the original, 1886 design provided accomodation for a theatre and two clubs, the Gentlemenĺs Club and the Technical Club.

The single description dating from the time the building was erected reveals the original layout of the premises in the Social Centre, as it was then: ôThe main entrance leads to an antechamber, cloakroom and toilets, and then into a large hall for formal occasions ľ the Sarajevo cultural centre.  This handsome auditorium will be 21 m long, 15 m wide, and 12 ½ m high. The pillars and arcades link this hall with two side rooms, which thus increase its size and link it with the stage, which will be 11 m deep and 9 m wide. The auditorium is two storeys high, and can thus be surrounded by a balcony gallery, with below it space for a large box and a gallery foyer. The main auditorium leads direct into the dining hall, and this in turn into the garden. The ground floor contains the club premises, storerooms, offices, corridors and three stairways.

The first floor, where not occupied by the auditorium, will contain club premises (a reading room, two games rooms, a billiards room, two reception rooms with antechamber, a dining room, and the usual offices such as toilets and servantsĺ quarters, together with two separate rooms, a hall for private clubs, etc.

The lower ground floor (75 cm to 1.50 below street level) will contain a public house [inn], kitchen, private meeting hall, guest house, caretakerĺs room, storerooms, a basement for food and drink, a coal store, the central heating room, a bowling alley and so on.

The stage will extend over the full height of the edifice, as will the auditorium. The stage leads to the actorsĺ dressing rooms and to the premises as a whole, as required by a modern stage." (28)  

The alterations to the building carried out in 1921 had the effect of producing a purpose-built theatre, retaining the present-day appearance of the building.

The south entrance is the staff entrance, with the main entrance to the north. The original design did not envisage the elaborate, monumental north fašade, but the north entrance fašade now has a strict physiognomy and historicist neo-Renaissance appearance.

The spatial articulation of the volumes of the building is subordinate to the disciplined composition, albeit with each fašade treated differently. The primary articulation is achieved by central or side projections and by graded heights. 

The south fašade has a strict portico, solid, static and symmetrical, a feature that adorns many other successful historicist architectural compositions by Karl Pa°ik. Another feature of the south fašade is the strong entrance area and elaborately treated steps and arcaded portico.

The side fašades are composed stylistically in a similar manner, except that the east fašade has prominent entrance steps facing the square. All four fašades are articulated horizontally by the pronounced cornices on brackets between the floors of the National Theatre.

The historicist neo-Renaissance articulation is reinforced by the formal treatment of the fašade, with a more rustic finish at ground-floor level and smoother surfaces on the upper storeys.

All this is topped by a complex roof which is not designed to dominate this successful architectural composition.

The 1921 alterations gave the interior of the National Theatre its final appearance.

Boxes were installed on two levels in the central auditorium, and the floor of the stalls was raked.

The foyers were enlarged, as were the stage and dressing rooms, and there are now another two interior staircases dating from that time. Central heating was also installed in the building during these alterations.

Additional space was provided at ground-floor level, which is still in use since the storerooms were moved to the basement(29).


3. Legal status to date

The Regional Plan for BiH (Stage B ľ valorization of natural, cultural and historical values), published in 1980, designates the National Theatre in Sarajevo as a Category I monument under item 7, ôTheatre on the Embankmentô, category ôIndividual monumentsô, section 10.2.

The National Theatre in Sarajevo is on the List of Recorded, Previously Protected and Protected Immovable Cultural Monuments and Natural Heritgage of Canton Sarajevo, under clause 2 section 6.2.04, under the heading ôOther Cultural, Scientific and Educational Properties.ô

According to the information received from the Institute for the Protection of Monuments of the Federal Ministry of Culture and Sport on 13 August 2008, the National Theatre was listed but not protected by the Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage.


4. Research and conservation and restoration works

Between 2 January 1899, when it was formally opened, and 1921, the Social Centre was a public cultural institution in which social activities significant for the city were conducted and theatrical performances were held from time to time.

In 1921 the building was finally converted into the National Theatre. As noted above, the original designer, Karl Pa°ik, was responsible for the alterations. He was very familiar with the building, which ensured a comprehensive and high-quality conversion retaining both conceptual and structural continuity.

Pa°ik's first move was to alter the position of the main entrance, which was no longer to the south, but was moved to the north. The reasons for this alteration lie in the fact that there was only limited space to the south, by Obala Kulina bana embankment, insufficient for large numbers of the public to gather before or after theatre and other performances.

The north entrance seemed a much more practical option, with space to layout the theatre square, PozoriÜni trg, outside the building as a place where National Theatre audiences could gather.

This "strategic" alteration entailed changing the appearance of the north fašade, which until then had been a mere secondary entrance. The asymmetrical and relatively austere fašade needed alteration to suit its new role. Pa°ik changed its appearance, turning it into a strict, monumental historicist neo-Renaissance fašade. In addition to these formal changes to the fašade, Pa°ik introduced a range of new features which have been retained to this day.

As regards the layout of the interior, the principal concern was for the quality, appearance and size of the main auditorium where performances were to be held.

The main stage was enlarged and boxes were added on two levels, increasing the seating capacity of the auditorium. The stalls were raked, enhancing audience amenity.

The cloakrooms and foyers were enlarged to suit the new audience capacity of the National Theatre.

Another two staircases were added, and central heating was installed. The staircase to the north-east of the building, leading to the boxes and to the balcony above, was particularly necessary.

The storerooms were moved to the basement, freeing up considerably more space on the ground floor. This altered the original plan, which provided for a bar, bowling alley and caretakerĺs flat and a small storage area in the basement(30).

As regards the use of materials, the structural system of the National Theatre was supplemented by reinforced concrete, used for the floor joists of the mezzanine boxes and also in the stalls and elsewhere.

Since these alterations, carried out in the first half of the 20th century, no major works have been conducted resulting in any essential changes to the appearance or use of the building. Most works have been of the nature of routine buildings maintenance, with possibly some minor technical rectifications.

After World War II, in 1951 and 1952, routine building and interior maintenance works were carried out on the National Theatre, which were necessary even though the building had suffered no immediate damage during World War II(31).

In 1980 rather more extensive works were carried out on the National Theatre(32). This project is officially entitled ôProject to Restore the Auditorium ľ Interior.ö The project bears the signature of architect Nedeljko KosiŠ, and was carried out under the auspices of the Sarajevo Institute for Architecture and Town Planning. It entailed an extensive refurbishment of the interior of the public areas of the National Theatre. The approach was mainly restoration, with no essential changes, except that damaged plaster and other decorative elements were replaced or repaired. The woodwork and plasterwork in the interior was painted, as were the inside walls. The floor coverings (fitted carpets) were replaced and the wooden floors were polished. The toilets and other ancillary premises were completely renovated. The fašade of the National Theatre was also restored.

Judging from photographs taken at that time, the entire repertoire of sculptural figures at the level of the roof cornice and tympanums was already missing, as were the acanthus leaves, vases and pointed finials. It is not known what happened to the originals, but it would be possible to identify them from the original project documentation, although the project for the renovation of the fašade in the 1970s provided only for the fašades to be restored in their present form(33). 

During the 1992-1995 war, the National Theatre suffered considerable damage, though not of a kind as to threaten the integrity of the building as a whole.

The most serious damage was to the broad cordon-style cornice above the entrance arcade of the south fašade, where damage to the mouldings extended over much of the surface. This was at its worst at the points below the poorly-executed joints of the stone facing of the balcony.

The east and west fašades also emerged from the war with only minor damage from shell shrapnel.

The north fašade suffered mechanical damage, and parts of the fašade rendering were missing, as well as of the fašade wall. In 1996 and 1997 these were patched up using lime cement mortar. This was carried out to the parapet below the second-floor windows of the west wing, but the badly damaged or destroyed uprights of the balcony balustrade were not replaced.

There was major damage to the side staircase wings of the east and north fašades, where the entire structure above the stone socle was to a great extent shattered and unconnected.

On 23 February 1998 the management of the National Theatre therefore submitted a request to Centre Municipality for emergency scaffolding to be erected.

The Municipality rejected this request, despite the urgency, but once a renovations plan had been agreed, on 21 August 1998 planning permission was granted for the fašades of the National Theatre to be repainted.

The restoration of the fašades began only in 2005(34), after detailed preparation of the project documentation, which was completed in 2003. The action plan was extended and the following works were planned, and later executed:

-          replacement of the dilapidated and damaged sheet metal flashings with pieces of sheet copper

-          making the uprights for the balcony balustrade using reinforced concrete, and installing them on the parapet area of the extreme left-hand window on the second floor (left of the central projection) on the north fašade

-          repairs, impregnation and protection of the authentic woodwork

-          specific fašade works: replacement fašade mouldings were made (metope and rosettes of the cornice between the second floor and the topmost balustrade railing),

-          the grilles on the basement windows were treated with protective paint.


In addition, the serious damage to the steps of the central projection on the south fašade, the entrance portico and steps of the central projection on the north fašade, and the steps of the central projection on the east fašade was repaired.

Provision was made for the paving stones of the steps on the south, north and east fašade to be dismantled, replaced and injected. On the north fašade, the deformed wings of the central projection of the stone socle were to be dismantled and renovated, and the moulded parts of the balustrade uprights were to be restored, as were the badly damaged stone slabs of the earthen channels to the sides of the central projection. On the east fašade, the balustrade of the steps of the central projection were to be renovated to the stone socle, after taking impressions of the moulded parts and the balustrade uprights(35).

These final works were preceded by partial emergency works in 2002 under the auspices of the Institute for the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo Canton, when the dilapidated roof was made good. The current roof cladding of plasticized sheet metal was laid at that time, and new downpipes were installed. These works prevented further deterioration of the fašade and stopped the roof leaking. When the downpipes were installed, the projecting moulded cornices were clumsily and heavy-handedly broken through and not made good on completion of the works, but left in their rough, battered state. It was only with the final works in 2005 that these cornices were properly made good.

The 2002 works also involved replacing the roof frame. A steel grid structure was installed on the high central roof of the National Theatre, and the roof frames of the other roofs were reconstructed with timber. The lightning conductor was not replaced at this time, even though provision was made for it in the project, so the National Theatre is currently without any lightning conductors.

In 2007 interior works were carried out to the second floor of the south wing, mainly housing the theatre offices. The electric wiring was also replaced. The dilapidated flooring was replaced by wooden parquet flooring. The walls were painted, and the toilet block was also made good.


5. Current condition of the property

Following all these works, the National Theatre is in relatively good structural condition. There is no threat to the basic structural system or to the roof system. The physical damage caused during the war was made good in 2002 and 2005. There remains, however, some serious damage and technical shortcomings that will require repairs in the future to avoid any threat to the normal operations of the National Theatre.

            The ground floor is at risk from damp. There are two reasons for this. The first is the absence of a ventilation system. The ballet dressing rooms of the National Theatre are in the basement, with the toilets and showers next to them. There is no system for ducting away the steam produced by the use of the showers, which is one of the causes of damp in the basement.  For various reasons, too, it is impossible to open the basement windows, so that there is no way of airing the premises in this manner. 

The second cause of damp is the dilapidated state of the water and drainage pipes, which are leaking in places.

In addition, the walls are faced with unsuitable panelling, which has become warped by the damp.

The flooring of the basement consists of worn-out Heuga tiles (a type of heavy-duty carpet tile), which need replacing.

On the ground floor the most serious problem is the fire prevention system, which is not working at all, and the fire curtain in front of the stage is out of order.

The fire prevention system of the entirely building is in very poor condition and needs to be replaced as a matter of urgency. The same is true of the electric wiring, which could be the cause of a fire or electric shock.

The mains water and drainage systems are in relatively poor condition. The same is true in the rest of the building.

The National Theatre has no lightning conductors.

In the main auditorium, the seats in the stalls are dilapidated and shabby, carcases ôfatiguedö and coverings worn. The seats have not been replaced or repaired for almost thirty years.

The lift leading to the upper floors is not working.

The first floor, consisting mainly of rehearsal rooms, needs interior refurbishment.

The office and other premises on the second floor are currently undergoing routine interior maintenance, and it is unlikely that other works will be required on this floor in the near future.


6. Specific risks

-          poor condition of the fire prevention system

-          absence of lightning conductors

-          poor condition of the electrical wiring

-          dilapidated mains water and drainage installation

-          damp in the basement



Applying the Criteria for the adoption of a decision on proclaiming an item of property a national monument (Official Gazette of BiH nos. 33/02 and 15/03), the Commission has enacted the Decision cited above.

The Decision was based on the following criteria:

A. Time frame

B. Historical value

C. Artistic and aesthetic value

C. i. quality of workmanship

C.iii. proportions

C.iv. composition

C. v. value of details

D. Clarity (documentary, scientific and educational value)

D.iii. work of a major artist or builder

D. iv. evidence of a particular type, style or regional manner

F. Townscape/ Landscape value

F.ii. meaning in the townscape

F.iii.  the building or group of buildings is part of a group or site

H. Rarity and representativity

H.i. unique or rare example of a certain type or style

I. Completeness

I.i. physical coherence

I.ii. homogeneity

I.iii. completeness


The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

-          Copy of cadastral plan

-          Copy of land register entry and proof of title;

-          Photodocumentation;

-          Drawings



During the procedure to designate the monument as a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina the following works were consulted: 


1897     Periodical Nada, Sarajevo 15 October 1897.


1988     B. SpasojeviŠ, Arhitektura stambenih palata austrougarskog perioda u Sarajevu (The Architecture of Austro-Hungarian Mansions in Sarajevo), Svjetlost,Sarajevo.


1995     Samija SariŠ, äAnalitiŔki inventar o osnivanju Narodnog pozoriÜta u Sarajevuô (Analytical inventory of the founding of the National Theatre in Sarajevo), Jnl. of the Archives and Archivists' Society of BiH, XXXIII/1994-95, Sarajevo.


1997     N. Kurto, Sarajevo 1492-1992, Oko, Sarajevo.


1998     N. Kurto, Arhitektura Bosne i Hercegovine ľ Razvoj Bosanskog stila (The Architecture of BiH ľ Development of the Bosnian Style), Cultural Heritage series, Sarajevo


N. Kurto, Graditelji Sarajeva, arhitekt Karlo Par×ik (1857-1942) (The builders of Sarajevo, Architect Karlo Pa°ik [1857-1842]), Cultural Heritage series, Sarajevo


2005     Decision of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, 15 March 2005, designating the historic monument of the DespiŠ house 


2006     Z. Kreho and G. Gojer, Spomenica, Narodno pozoriÜte Sarajevo, 1921-2006. (Commemorative Volume, the National Theatre in Sarajevo, 1921-2006), National Theatre Sarajevo


2007     J. Kudela, B. DimitrijeviŠ, I. Vacik: Karl Par×ik 1857-1942, ╚eh koji je gradio evropsko Sarajevo (Karl Pa°ik, 1857-1942, a Czech who built European Sarajevo), Embassy of the Czech Republic in BiH, Sarajevo.


2007     B. DimitrijeviŠ, A. SulejmanagiŠ, Arhitekt u BiH, Karl Par×ik 1857-1942 (An Architect in BiH, Karl Pa°ik 1857-1942), Unioninvest plastika, Sarajevo.


Technical documentation

1896     K. Pa°ik, Original design for a Social Centre, Historical Archives of BiH


1896     K. Pa°ik, Original blueprints for the Social Centre, Planning Institute of Sarajevo Canton


1921-1925  K. Pa°ik,  Blueprints for conversion into the National Theatre


1978     Blueprints for installations and layout of premises associated with the 1980 reconstruction of the National Theatre, Archives of the National Theatre, Sarajevo


1980     Nedeljko KosiŠ,  Design for the restoration of the auditorium, interior, Institute for Architecture and Urbanism Sarajevo, Institute for the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo Canton, Sarajevo 2003


1993     Private photographic collection of the exhibition "The Silence of the Centuries", held in the National Theatre during the siege of Sarajevo, December 1993


2002     Project for the reconstruction of the roof and lightning conductor, National Theatre in Sarajevo, Institute for the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo Canton


2003     Amira RadonŔiŠ, Project for repairs and renovation of the interior decoration of the National Theatre. Stage: Architecture ľ architectural repairs and conservation, Institute for the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo Canton


(1) N. Kurto, Graditelji Sarajeva, arhitekt Karlo Par×ik (1857-1942), p. 395, Cultural Heritage series, Sarajevo

(2) This first ordinance stipulated that new building works could be carried out only with the permission of the relevant authorities, to whom a design of the appropriate scale was to be submitted. This first building ordinance issued by the Austro-Hungarian authorities also touched on town planning and the prescribed manner of widening and regulating streets and creating new squares and quarters. A separate section governed the construction and method of building foundations, walls, roof cladding, chimneys etc. (B. SpasojeviŠ: Arhitektura stambenih palata austrougarskog perioda u Sarajevu, p. 13, Svjetlost, Sarajevo 1988.)

(3) B. SpasojeviŠ, Arhitektura stambenih palata austrougarskog perioda u Sarajevu, p. 13, Svjetlost, Sarajevo 1988.

(4) Ibid, p. 16. i 17.

(5) Karel Pa°ik was born in 1857 in VeliÜ near JiŔin, Czech Rep. After attending secondary school (specializing in civil engineering), he studied architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts, Architecture Department, in Vienna in 1882. At the time the young Pa°ik was studying in Vienna, the use of only one historical style was advocated when designing a given building; within the context of this rigid academic historicism, the neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance were particularly favoured. While at the Academy, Pa°ik attended the Special School for Antiquity and its Continuation in the Renaissance, under Prof. Theophil von Hansen, who specialized in the neo-Renaissance, but ľ in line with the principles of romantic historicism, also combined architectural forms and decorative elements from Byzantine and Islamic architecture.

Pa°ik came to Sarajevo in 1884, and remained there until his death in 1942. Here his career took off, and he designed numerous major buildings: the Shariah School (1886); the City Hall (an adaptation of Wittek's design) (1894-1896); the Beledija (1896); the National Theatre (1896); the Evangelical Church (1898); the National Museum (1907); the Law Courts (1911) and so on.  He left an indelible mark on the architecture of Sarajevo. He designed mainly in the full historicist spirit, the style in which he created his greatest works, but also designed major buildings in the pseudo-Moorish style. While studying the traditional heritage of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he also came into contact with the Bosnian style  (B. DimitrijeviŠ, A. SulejmanagiŠ: Arhitekt u BiH, Karl Par×ik 1857-1942, p.3,5,7; Unioninvest plastika, Sarajevo 2007)

(6) N. Kurto, Graditelji Sarajeva, arhitekt Karlo Par×ik (1857-1942), p. 395, Cultural Heritage series, Sarajevo

(7) A performance was given at the opening ceremony of Medea, by Franz Grillparcer, an Austrian dramatist who blended the Austrian baroque and elements of German classicism. The play was performed by the Croatian National Theatre of Zagreb, and began with a prologue by S. S. KranjŔeviŠ, "Vili prosvjeteô (To the Nymph of Education). (N. Kurto, Graditelji Sarajeva, arhitekt Karlo Par×ik (1857-1942), p. 395, Cultural Heritage series, Sarajevo)

(8) N. Kurto, Graditelji Sarajeva, arhitekt Karlo Par×ik (1857-1942), p. 395, Cultural Heritage series, Sarajevo

(9) N. Kurto, Sarajevo 1492-1992, p.54, Oko, Sarajevo 1997.

(10) J. Kudela, B. DimitrijeviŠ, I. Vacik: Karl Par×ik 1857-1942, ╚eh koji je gradio evropsko Sarajevo, p. 116. Embassy of the Czech Republic in BiH, Sarajevo 2007.

(11) Historicism as an artistic period in BiH should be regarded with reservations, because of certain limitations arising from the simple fact that it was a phenomenon introduced into a milieu that had until then had an entirely different cultural focus. Historicism is primarily a philosophical mode of thought, defining the features of identity and human existence in historicity. This mindset sees the world as history, and calls for the historicization of knowledge and action as a whole, with historical thinking and its products taken as a world view and philosophy.

In architecture, historicism is a stylistic term, characterized by the imitation of all historical styles and associated with the 19th century, specifically from the 1820s to the early 20th century. Theoretically, historicism belongs to the previous period of classicism, which first turned to historical styles, rediscovering antiquity ľ specifically, Greek art. Since there was no classicist period in BiH, the basic prerequisite for historicism ľ historical continuity ľ was missing, and its artistic credibility is therefore in question in the light of European artistic trends. There is no doubt, though, that in Sarajevo in particular, historicism is of major documentary and historical value. (N. Kurto, Arhitektura Bosne i Hercegovine ľ Razvoj Bosanskog stila, p. 18  Cultural Heritage series, Sarajevo 1998.)

(12) During his youth, Bohemia was experiencing a period of rapid growth, which had a particular impact on architecture. A talented generation of architects emerged, associated with early historicism, including Jozef Zitek, V. I. Ulman, Viktor Barvitius, Jozef Schulz and others. In the early 1870s these architects designed and built many edifices in the pure vocabulary of historicism. Worthy of particular attention is the design of the National Theatre in Prague, "RUDOLFINUM NARODNI DIVADLO". There is no doubt that this historicist building, built ten years earlier, in 1873, was the model for Karl Pa°ik's 1886 design for the Social Centre in Sarajevo.

(13) J. Kudela, B. DimitrijeviŠ, I. Vacik, Karl Par×ik 1857-1942, ╚eh koji je gradio evropsko Sarajevo, p. 55, 59,60. Embassy of the Czech Republic in BiH, Sarajevo 2007.

(14) B. DimitrijeviŠ, A. SulejmanagiŠ, Arhitekt u BiH, Karl Par×ik 1857-1942, p.10, Unioninvest plastika, Sarajevo 2007.

(15) Going back a few years, it is clear that the new authorities were attempting to mark the start of their rule with a universal, monumental architectural expression. The choice fell upon the historicist neo-Renaissance style, which is simultaneously classical, universal and symbolic. Major government and other public representative buildings were erected in this style throughout the Austro-Hungarian period.

The first government building, designed in 1884 by Josip VancaÜ, was the Government Hall. It was designed in the neo-Renaissance style, its architecture directly influenced by the Renaissance palaces of Florence. It was given an additional storey in 1911, to a design by Karl Pa°ik. The same architectural style was used for the second Provincial Government building of 1895, under the auspices of architect Karl Panek. (N. Kurto, Sarajevo 1492-1992, p.51,52, Oko, Sarajevo 1997.)

(16) Periodical Nada p. 396,397,398; Sarajevo 15 October 1897.

(17) Back in 1881, at an early stage of his work, the architect Hans Niemeczek designed and built a theatre in Ferhadija street, which no longer exists. Particularly as regards the interior, this building can be regarded as a romantic precursor to the pseudo-Moorish style. Theatrical performances were also held in the garden of the former Hotel Austria. A theatre managed by Heinrich Spira was maintained in Sarajevo for much longer, and in September 1882 the first opera was performed, Friedrich von Flotow's Alessandro Stradella, in the main hall of the Officers' Casino (Club), which served a similar function to the Social Centre. The idea of building a permanent theatre dates back to 1881, when Heinrich Spira, manager of the theatre company, entered into agreement with the owner of the Hotel Austria under the terms of which the latter would erect a solid building on the site where theatrical performances had until then been performed, so that performances could also take place in winter. However, the owner, Salom, changed his mind about the location, and the theatre was built closer to the town centre, in Ferhadija street. It was this building that was Hans Niemeczek's early work referred to above.  It had 250 seats and consisted of two parts: an inn, and the theatre itself. The spacious gallery in the main auditorium included 13 boxes. Interestingly, the building went up in just three months, so it is hardly surprising that it soon turned out to be unsuitable, and the decision was taken to demolish it (N. Kurto, Sarajevo 1492-1992, p.23, Oko, Sarajevo 1997).  

However, the first local theatre in Sarajevo ľ indeed in Bosnia and Herzegovina ľ was established in the DespiŠ family house. The first performances were held in about 1870, and continued until the introduction of Austro-Hungarian rule. In recognition of this significant cultural event, the room in the east wing of the DespiŠ house is still called the theatre room (Historic building of the DespiŠ house, Decision of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, 15 March 2005, section headed Historical information)

(18) The designer studied modern European edifices of this type and carried out the alterations and extension in line with his findings.

(19) Samija SariŠ, AnalitiŔki inventar o osnivanju Narodnog pozoriÜta u Sarajevu, p. 162, Jnl of the Archives and Archivists of BiH, XXXIII/1994-95, Sarajevo 1995.

(20) Ibid, p. 165

(21) Z. Kreho and G. Gojer, Spomenica, Narodno pozoriÜte Sarajevo, 1921-2006, p. 75,  National Theatre Sarajevo, 2006.

(22) Op. cit n. 17, p. 166

(23) Ibid, p. 170

(24) J. Kudela, B. DimitrijeviŠ, I. Vacik, Karl Par×ik 1857-1942, ╚eh koji je gradio evropsko Sarajevo, p. 120. Embassy of the Czech Republic in BiH, Sarajevo 2007.

(25) In the original, 1896 version, this was to be a public area with a bar, conference room and bowling alley, as well as containing the caretakerĺs flat. There was an entrance direct from the street into the basement area from the east, from KuloviŠ street (Periodical Nada, p.398; Sarajevo, 15 October 1897)

(26) The maximum number of tickets sold for regular performances in the National Theatre is 445.

(27) In the original version of Pa°ikĺs design, these premises were to be used by the club. As well as the salon they included a billiards room, a dining room, a conference room and the ôusual officesö.

(28) Periodical Nada, p. 396,397,398, Sarajevo 15 October 1897.

(29) B. DimitrijeviŠ, A. SulejmanagiŠ, Arhitekt u BiH, Karl Par×ik 1857-1942, p.10, Unioninvest plastika, Sarajevo 2007.

(30) J. Kudela, B. DimitrijeviŠ, I. Vacik, Karl Par×ik 1857-1942, ╚eh koji je gradio evropsko Sarajevo, p. 120. Embassy of the Czech Republic in BiH, Sarajevo 2007.

(31) Z. Kreho and G. Gojer, Spomenica, Narodno pozoriÜte Sarajevo, 1921-2006, p. 18, National Theatre, Sarajevo 2006.

(32) A stone plaque mounted on the covered north entrance area records that this reconstruction officially began in 1977, although the blueprints date from 1980.

(33) Historical details, architectural and stylistic features, National Theatre in Sarajevo, p.1; Institute for the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo Canton, Sarajevo 2003.

(34) A stone plaque mounted on the covered north entrance area records that this reconstruction officially began in 2004. The reconstruction was carried out under the auspices of Sarajevo Canton.

(35) Bill of quantities, National Theatre, Sarajevo; Entrance portico and steps of central projection on the north facade, National Theatre,  Sarajevo; Steps of central projection on the south facade, National Theatre,  Sarajevo; Steps of central preojection on the east facade, National Theatre, Sarajevo; Institute for the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo Canton, Sarajevo 2003.

National Theatre National Theatre after 1899Eastern prospect Northern prospect
Detail of  the eastern facadeDetail of  the eastern facade, entranceDetail of the eastern facadeDetail on northern facade
Interior of the theatre , old photo   

BiH jezici 
Commision to preserve national monuments © 2003. Design & Dev.: