An archetypal symbol of the hearth transformed into a modern architectural expression

The health center, built back in 1938, was burned in the Storm, and now self-organized locals, led by enthusiasts from the association “Žegar u srcu”, are turning it into a social home.

The Social Home building is located in Dalmatian village Žegar not far from the City of Obrovac, and its renovation was done according to the project of a Belgrade architect Miloš Ušljebrke, who now works in the Zagreb office of 3LHD.

The place is located at the foot of the mountain Velebit, on the river Zrmanja, and near the Orthodox monastery Krupa. It’s a village devastated and completely deserted In 1995 during the military operation Storm. After the war, Žegar went through a process of very slow and very reduced renewal.


A place of gathering, permeation and completion of life; photo: Miloš Ušljebrka

Between several devastated public buildings, attention is focused on the former health center.

That there is hope, they showed recently self-organized locals, led by enthusiasts from the association “Žegar u srcu”, when they decided to establish a social home – a space which, as Ušljebrka says, was conceived as a place of gathering, permeation and completion of life, a place common issues and needs.

Among several devastated public buildings, attention is focused on the former health Center, and its selection is, according to the author, primarily symbolic, and guided by the fact that the building was built by the joint voluntary work of locals back in 1938..

At the same time, he adds, the burned ambulance with its position, area and relative well-preserved construction meets other requirements.

The premises of the Community Center as an exhibition space; photo: Miloš Ušljebrka

And the diaspora is helping to rebuild

After the facility was purchased from the local self-government, extensive work began by cleaning and arranging the ruins, which the locals joined voluntary work.

“Part of the former population, now displaced around the world takes part in and participates in reconstruction in various ways, and is one of the important sources of financing for reconstruction “, notes Ušljebrka, who originally related to this Dalmatian village.

Also, the renewal is recognized by Serbian minority institutions in Croatia, which allocate funds so that Žegar, and thus other Obrovac villages, get their own Social Home.

The situation; photo: Miloš Ušljebrka

The task of the project was to see the needs of the locals, and turn them into a multipurpose space.

The building itself was taken aback in a state of ruin. After the ignition, the complete floor and roof construction collapsed in the basement of the building and remained so for 20 years.

After clearing, the previous assumption that the construction of the stone walls was confirmed was almost undamaged, and that the building could be rehabilitated.

A project was set up which had the task of saw the needs of the locals, and transform them into a multipurpose space.

Concept; photo: Miloš Ušljebrka

People left the hearth, but they also returned to it

As a conceptual guide, the project takes the notion of hearth. According to Usljebrka, this, almost archetypal symbol, remains present in the memories of the locals in various ways.

“People were sitting by the fireplace, telling stories, cooking, eating, napping.” People left the fireplace, but they also returned to it. It takes up almost a mythical place in tradition as a symbol of people’s familiarity with people. The project seeks a foothold precisely in these relations, which it reinterprets in contemporary architectural expression“, Says the Belgrade architect for

Basement; photo: Miloš Ušljebrka

Different ambiences adapted to the required function

The central zone of the building becomes multipurpose space, around which other contents and activities are arranged. That’s how we meet the gallery, stage and auditorium, space for socializing and gathering, projection hall, work space.

The entire space is served by the kitchen (inn) and bathroom area, and the project also envisages space village through the necessary trade.

The home is designed as an open space, which levels and semi-levels form different ambiences adapted to the required function. The spaces are connected emphasized communication, which frames and emphasizes the zone of the “hearth”, the author notes.

Ground floor; photo: Miloš Ušljebrka

It was decided to preserve the existing collapse, and to clearly indicate the intervention with new materials.

According to Ušljebrka, the biggest design challenge was the need to preserve what the building brought with it – a kind of place spirit, which carries accumulated memories but also the need for a new life.

It was decided to restore the approaches almost archaeologically. To the existing collapse is preserved, and to clearly indicate the intervention with new materials.

It has been performed so far static remediation of buildings, which was certainly the most demanding endeavor, says Milos.

Attic; photo:

Completion of works depending on good will

The roof is planned to be installed in the next period. After that, all other works of interior and exterior decoration follow, and how it is located in the immediate vicinity old Turkish tower, will strive to form a single spatial whole.

According to the Belgrade architect, the exact end of the works is difficult to predict, because they are many depends on finances which are collected voluntarily.

However, the object has already received the outlines of its essence. This is the case during the summer period in the facility itself held a series of activities, such as exhibitions, cultural programs and other gatherings of locals, we learn in the end from our interlocutor.

The object has already acquired the outlines of its essence; photo: Miloš Ušljebrka

About the author

Milos Usljebrka graduated in Belgrade in 2016, worked for a time in Dublin, and recently worked in a well-known Zagreb bureau 3LHD.

Photo gallery


  • Object name: Social home Žegar
  • The city: Village Žegar, territory of the City of Obrovac, Dalmatia, Croatia
  • Investor: Association Žegar in the heart
  • Authors of the original project: Unknown
  • Year of design: Unknown
  • Year of construction: 1938.
  • Reconstruction author: arch Miloš Ušljebrka
  • Year of design: 2020.
  • Reconstruction start year: 2020.
  • Total area: 341 m2
  • Floors: Su + P + Pk
  • Performer: Kamen Golubić doo

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Source: Gradnja by

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