Page B1.1 . 18 July 2001                     
ArchitectureWeek - Building Department
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Roofs of Dubrovnik

by Steven Allan

Walking on the ramparts of the walled city of Dubrovnik feels like being part of a Renaissance painting. It is so picture-perfect that even George Bernard Shaw's over-quoted observation of Dubrovnik being "paradise on earth" seems like a British understatement.

From the viewpoint on the ramparts, the homogeneous architecture of Dubrovnik is distinct; every single building in the old city bears clay roof tiles, red and honey rooftops that glitter in contrast with the turquoise sea.

Dubrovnik is a medieval walled city on the Dalmatian coast in Croatia. Perched on a peninsula jutting out into the Adriatic Sea, it was an independent powerful merchant republic for over 700 years. It maintained close ties to the Far East and Africa and for many years competed with Venice as the principal commercial center on the Adriatic.

Rising directly from the sea's edge, massive limestone walls encircle the old city. Pierced by two gates, the wall dates from 1466, and remains virtually unchanged to the present day. It is the best-preserved medieval city wall in the world.

Building Codes through History

But it is not just the walls that have survived intact for 500 years; the streets, houses, and churches are much the same as they were centuries ago. This conservation is largely due to a municipal bylaw from 1272 that dictated building standards to respect the original structures.

The regulation moderated the impact of changing architectural styles on Dubrovnik. In the reconstruction that followed the earthquake of 1667, there was no radical change in the scale and design of the new structures.

 

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ArchWeek Photo

Dubrovnik as seen from the hills above. It was from here that the Serbs bombed the city in 1991.
Photo: Steven Allan

ArchWeek Photo

Western wall of the old city built in the 15th century.
Photo: Steven Allan

 

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