Fort Muzil | An Inhabited Military Area in Croacia

Muzil is a 180 hectares big location which still has the status of the military area closed to citizens. Army has left this base two years ago but it remained closed. Government and the municipality intend to privatize the area and official plans had been made for it to become an exclusive golf resort thus closing the territory for wider public.

The construction of the round fort started in 1852, it has 35 meter in diameter, with an inner court and an outer entrance court. From 1883/4 to 1909, the new polygonal coastal cannon batteries was constructed, hidden and sheltered by a strong embankment toward the sea, and connected to the fort by a hidden underground corridor – potern. A track was built to the fortress for food and ammunition supply. Tunnels were excavated beneath the fort and used as storage of sea mines and torpedoes for laying sea barriers. A torpedo workshop was used to prepare sea mines and torpedoes for embarkation. On December 20, 1897 a mast was erected on the fort for the purpose of radio-telegraphic communication.

The Muzil peninsula became a military and naval strategic point only after the fall of Napoleon in 1813 and the return of the eastern coast of the Adriatic under the Austrian governance. In the year 1820, the defense line of was transferred to the entrance of Pula bay, while Muzil, as its highest point, became of strategic importance and got its first fortifications.

We can read at the Muzil ELABORAT [A project where a team of experts and students from Zagreb measured existing situation and buildings on Muzil] document:

After the decision was taken to make it the main army harbor of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Pula was fortified by rehabilitating the existing fortifications and constructing a chain of 15 new forts. It was then that the fort Marie Louise in Muzil got its final form and became the largest round fort in the Adriatic. During the construction of the breakwater, underground depots were hollowed out in Muzil for the storage of the sea mines and torpedoes. [...] Although it was ready for a world war, the fortifi ed Pula, with Muzil as the strongest point in its chain of defense, never got the chance to reveal its battle capacity.

After the capitulation of Italy, on September 12, 1943 the German military forces took over the control of Pula, which got the status of a fortified city and due to this came under direct command of the Führer. Due to the rapid construction of lines of defense during the fortification of Pula as a submarine
base, the Germans used the fortification heritage of Austro-Hungary.

Throughout the Anglo-American governance, the area of Muzil lost its major importance and military equipment was deposited there. Because of the inappropriate storage of naval underwater mines, Pula’s largest post-war tragedy occured in August 1946 in Vargarola bay by the military zone, Muzil, when an explosion killed over 116 people.

Allies bombing of Muzil

In the autumn of 1947, Pula was adjoined to Croatia and Yugoslavia, and the area of Muzil came under the command of the Naval forces which declared it a forbidden zone. In the time of Cominform (1947-1956) on the south side of Muzil, a system of batteries connected with underground corridors was constructed, which made Muzil unconquerable from sea.


Aerial view of Muzil

It is interesting to see how “military architecture” develops and transform itself. We’re used to think about architecture as a cool and almost “sexy” practice, but architecture has often been used to produce fear. The round shape, so commonly related with the panopticon statements was an strategic part of these kind of forts and designs since the early Middle Ages and the decentralized sociopolitical structure of the Feudalism. Now it’s time to look at architecture as a means to reflect on politics and social issues -as they are subjects of space, as Brian Finoki says, how landscape could be devised into a kind of weapon?

Has the “War On Terror” started on 9/11 or have we been living in a state of terror always? Shimon Naveh, a retired brigadier general, was until May 2006 the co-director of the Operational Theory Research Institute once told to Eyal Weizman talking about the theoretical references on the Institute:

We have established a school and developed a curriculum that trains ‘operational architects’.”

Again: “operational architects”?
What for?

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