Meet Architect Bobo Mitrovic, Protecting Montenegro's Architectural Heritage

By , 14 May 2018, 10:01 AM Meet the People
Meet Architect Bobo Mitrovic, Protecting Montenegro's Architectural Heritage Screenshot

The architect Slobodan Bobo Mitrovic is one of the most competent experts in the spatial planning and protection of Montenegro's architectural heritage. 

At the same time with the development, which is happening without control and strategy or in opposition to the adopted strategies, there is a process of the devastation of the inherited natural and cultural values in Montenegro, which has lasted for two decades now. Since the adoption of the Law on Spatial Planning and Construction of objects last October, an entirely centralized spatial planning system is enforced in an "ecological state", which almost wholly deprives local governments of the right and ability to manage their space. As a result, especially in coastal areas, we have interpolations that do not communicate with the cultural landscape into which they are embedded, and many of these interpolations represent rough examples of urbicides and ecocide.

The architect Slobodan 'Bobo' Mitrovic is one of the most competent experts in the planning of the spaces and protection of the architectural heritage in Montenegro. He has done many renovation projects at valuable cultural heritage sites, but also in the period when, from the position of the Director of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments, known today as the Institute for the Protection of the Cultural Property, insisting on laws and scientific approach, tried to establish a functional protection system in Montenegro, which should be the basis of future development. Because of this approach, the former Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, thanked Mitrovic for the cooperation after only three years at this critical and responsible function. Bobo Mitrović is one of the area protection and planning experts who, due to the complete marginalization of the profession in spatial planning, joined the NGO Society of Boka Heritage Friends.

"In this association, we're all in love with our jobs. We think we do it very professionally. Some of us, like Marija Nikolic and me, are already retired. But somehow, some of the last atoms of our energy are being triggered so that we do not allow everything that is happening, which is, of course, difficult to stop. Our goal is to give the voice of reason at least, because there are always new, young people who can do it in their wavering lengths, because of biology, youth, cleanliness and honesty in life. And there is a reaction. Of course, everything is measured by the results. The results are weaker because government, city and republic administration have their fantastic mechanisms to achieve their interests and this apparatus is almost impossible to master," explains Mitrovic, an eminent expert regarding the motives of his public activities. 

The processes happening in Montenegro are no longer a matter of spatial policies, but the identity and survival of the local community. Decision makers, in the opinion of the architect, do not see that. "Montenegro, like all the countries of the region, is now establishing continuity with some of its missing, outdated identity. It's the same story, and it's fragile - they do not seem to understand it. Parallel to the story of identity, the current elite performs their own, entirely other interests. Throughout the words of political privatization, where everything in one country has to be in the hands of capital and capitalists, they hold that political capital. Those are not the real capitalists who have been born out of their talent, entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, but through political clutches, bonds, adjustments. We have been in such a duality for more than 25 years. I do not see how this new, capitalist system of social planning is, as it is in America and Western Europe. This is called transition in science. I think we did not need all of this in this way. Wherever the privatization project is, even non-specialists see it as being set up only for a class of people and their friends, business partners, where they set up their rules. It is only about twenty people, and we will continue to be slaves, with no money and whose children have no prospect of development."

Although the institutions of the Montenegrin system have been captured for 25 years, the question is why society as such still tolerates the elites that have established such practice. "There is no justification for us as a society. These are things that history will never explain. When this time gets analyzed in 30 or 50 years from now, all this will be relativized. We have tremendous drama in our society for the past hundred years. We have terrible social divisions, on white and green, Chetniks and partisans. All these social traumas we leave to our children. We have not solved either of them. The essence of a healthy society is to be happy with its picture in the mirror, to objectify the history as it is to explain to the young generations that are to come. We have no mature politicians, we do not have mature statesmen who are capable of seeing it in a healthy way. They know they only see money and that is the only god they trust. Through that money they measure everything. There are so many examples in the world, we are not specific about it. After great reversals, such as the transition from socialist to capitalist systems, people from the profession explain that such processes are normal. I cannot agree that this is normal when the topic of area arrangements is in question. How can it be normal for you to cast, to destroy, to corrupt, and ultimately to endanger yourself?"

There are hundreds of thousands of illegally built objects in Montenegro, and now we have a new case of illegally planned facilities. The Law on mapping the area for buildings in construction came into force in October 2017. "It is one of the most brutal laws that will put a seal on our destiny if it lasts for a long time. I think that they have been tactically adopted for a short time because it already shows that the Chief Urbanist of Montenegro allows things worse than the local communities predicted through their spatial plans. They probably have to maintain this Law to have virgin sites like Solana, Port Milena, St. Nicholas Island, a location on Lustica, Buljarica, as cash-back system for them. And then they will see that this system is anti-democratic, and such law is anti-European. With such a law, you cannot enter Europe because Europe's biggest ideal is the democracy of the local community and participation in managing matters of importance to the local community. The Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, which stands behind the Law on Spatial Planning and Construction of Facilities, has been conducting State Site Studies for the most attractive locations along the Montenegrin coastline for years, which includes numerous projects that caused the devastation of natural and cultural heritage. According to Marija Nikolić, who spent her entire life on responsible area planning positions, the facilities we have as urbicides and ecocide are only a small part of the devastation we have in our plans. "When in the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, which brought the State Studies of the Site and various other plans, they saw that all the plans under the previous law had to pass public hearings and that it was a very complicated process in which people were making comments and triggering administrative processes, and that the Spatial Plan of the Coastal Area of 2016 has attacked the entire coast from Ulcinj to Herceg Novi, then they decided to completely amend the law, which is reflected in the fact that the Government does not have to ask anyone, especially the local community and local government. Now we are watching how these State Study Locations and various other detail plans are coming to surface. The role of the Chief State Architect has been activated, and now the realization of these plans will be made in galloping pace," explains Mitrovic.


The best example is Boka, where, at the time when the moratorium for construction is enforced, and while UNESCO decides whether the area remains on the World Heritage List or not, we have urbicides in Perast, Dobrota. All this happened at the time of the moratorium for construction in the protected area, suggesting that the Montenegrin government wants the Kotor area to lose the status of universal value for humanity because, in such dealing with this space, the status of world heritage represents an obstacle.

"This can be assumed. This is logic because UNESCO criteria do not imply such a degree of urbanization as it happened in Kostanjica, Turski rt, Dobrota, Perast. This UNESCO criteria does not support, which the World Heritage Committee warned us about two years ago in Istanbul. Now, our Government has submitted its Report on the state of the area whereby we, in the Society of Friends of Boka Heritage, are very reserved," said Mitrovic, whose association as a response to the national report reacted in writing to UNESCO and ICOMOS, in which they introduced with detailed description and photographic documentation these organizations with the real situation of the area and pray for their professional assistance. 

"What citizens most often do not know, and unfortunately many colleagues in the administration institutions - UNESCO is neither a policeman nor an inspector. UNESCO is the largest social elite that only gives recommendations. UNESCO does not interfere with the national policies of certain countries. He only assesses you, by evaluating your cultural assets. What is crucial for being on UNESCO list is that your good has components of a universal good and therefore has world significance and is authentic. It should not be altered, re-shaped, because it is no longer authentic and is not in the category of universal goods. What some people see as green holes in Kostanjica, Verige, UNESCO sees it as much deeper and more complex areas. "

"Above all, we are guilty, as well as the profession as such, it is the Cultural Heritage Management's fault, who did not educate this culture about why Verige are important, why Glavati are important, why Kostanjica is important, whose chestnut woods were written about in the scientific papers hundred years ago? Instead, in the general campaign that has been practiced for years, a bar is set to be ideal, in which our politicians meet and take photographs, and thus it develops a collective psychology, which is not developmental, but serviceable. The service is not a development component. The development is led by the profession, science, engineering. We know what Arsenal meant for Tivat, not only in the economic but also in the social sense, the quality of it, the quality of personality and psychology, and we brought ourselves to the service level, where the idea is to tie up ships as if it is science, a success in life, an indicator of the town’s development," Mitrovic concluded.

There are only a few months until the summit of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Bahrain. UNESCO will undoubtedly send experts to Montenegro to evaluate the situation in Kotor. Mitrović says the question is what we can hope for. "There is politics everywhere. And for a while, UNESCO itself has been receiving complaints that it is Eurocentric, and that in its research it needs to turn to the Eastern, Byzantine culture. Hence, we can hope that this global trend of preferring small endangered cultures, because UNESCO is most opposed to globalization, can help us make the Committee be a little more tolerant for us."

"We're losing Boka. We are losing all of the qualities and specifics of Boka. Who can be satisfied with this?" says Mitrovic. "If the cultural heritage is matured anywhere, it is matured in Boka. In Boka, there is still a very layered and non-material cultural heritage, which is the soul of architectural and natural heritage. But, unfortunately, we do not have people who can integrate all these segments - non-material and material heritage, archaeology, movable cultural heritage, museology. In Boka, we continue to preserve the individual goods, but it is necessary to integrate all the legacies at the scientific level. Institutes for cultural heritage have been transformed into some administrations, in some forms of command, and above all, they have to be scientific institutions, and that science is the result of management. Cultural heritage is inspirational for permanent life and development, but we need young and capable cultural managers who will rely on science to create sound foundations for them," concluded one of the most significant architects and planning experts in Montenegro.

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