Electroprivreda | reconstruction and “freespace” by Lebbeus Woods


Elektropriveda Building by Ivan Straus in 1978

The building of the The Electrical Management [Elektroprivreda] Building in Sarajevo, Bosnia was designed by architect Ivan Straus in 1978 but was destroyed when the city of Sarajevo was under blockade and military siege from 1992 to 1995. The Siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege in the history of modern warfare, conducted by the Serb forces of self-proclaimed Republika Srpska and Yugoslav People’s Army (later transformed to the Army of Serbia and Montenegro), lasting from 5 April 1992 to 29 February 1996.


A map of the JNA attack on May 2, 1992.

We can read at the wiki that reports indicated an average of approximately 329 shell impacts per day during the course of the siege, with a maximum of 3,777 on July 22, 1993. This urbicide by shellfire extensively damaged the city’s structures, including civilian and cultural property. By September 1993, reports concluded that virtually all the buildings in Sarajevo had suffered some degree of damage, and 35,000 were completely destroyed. Among buildings targeted and destroyed were hospitals and medical complexes, media and communication centers, industrial targets, government buildings, and military and UN facilities.


Elektroprivreda Building.


Elektroprivreda Building under siege in 1992


Damaged Elektroprivreda Building under siege in 1993

Lebbeus Woods travelled to Sarajevo in November of 1993, when he went invited —as a ‘journalist’—at the invitation of Haris Pasovic, head of the Sarajevo International Film and Theater Festival, who was aware of Woods work from a lecture he has given in Sarajevo two years earlier.

As he writes at his blog:

The Electrical Management Building, along with the Post Office, Parliament, National Library, mosques and churches were symbolic of the civic life of the city, and therefore were especially targeted by the besieging Bosnian Serb army. I met the architect of the building, Ivan Straus, one of the most respected architects in Yugoslavia, who was also very supportive of my presence and ideas. It was he, during a later visit, who asked me to design a reconstruction of the Electrical Management Building […] The design for the reconstruction of the Electrical Management Building is a case study in the application of this theory. Most of the building would be restored to accommodate corporate offices of the known kind. However, in the space that had been literally blasted off by artillery fire, would be constructed a freespace, to be inhabited by those who, in the reinvention of ways to inhabit space, would open the way to the future.

Lebbeus asked himself how could architecture play any positive role in all of this? When buildings vital to the social and economic functioning of the city were damaged and unusable without extensive reconstruction and whit the people of the city suffering years of deprivation, terror, and uncertainty. His answer was that architecture, as a social and primarily constructive act, could heal the wounds, by creating entirely new types of space in the city.

These new spaces would be what Woods had called ‘freespaces’ spaces without predetermined programs of use, but whose strong forms demanded the invention of new programs corresponding to the new, post-war conditions. His hipothesis is that “90% of the damaged buildings would be restored to their normal pre-war forms and uses, as most people want to return to their old ways of living…. but 10% should be freespaces for those who did not want to go back, but forward.

As Deleuze and Guatarri quoted: “Only the extreme forms return – those which, large or small, are deployed within the limit and extend to the limit of their power, transforming themselves and changing one into another.”

Here is Lebbeus Woods proposal for the Electroprivreda building reconstruction:


Reconstruction Design by Lebbeus Woods in 1994


Reconstruction Design by Lebbeus Woods in 1994. Computer rendering by Carlos Fueyo 2004.

The complete post by Lebbeus Woods at his BLOG.
More images about the Electroprivreda building here.

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