At the Emotheo Heritage Hotel in the small Croatian town of Imotski, the new building with its limestone façade blends in perfectly with the old house next door

Emotheo Heritage Hotel, Imotski.Emotheo Heritage Hotel, Imotski.

The design came from Studio Ante Murales, based in Zagreb

Everything in this small Croatian town has to do with stone, and perhaps the building blocks think up the stories at night that the residents tell each other during the day. Imotski is the name of the town with just under 10,000 inhabitants, surrounded by mountains and situated in a karst landscape where some streams suddenly disappear into the ground or parts of the earth suddenly collapse. This is what the team from Studio Ante Murales, namely founder Ante Nikša Bilić and architect Anamarija Šimunović, told us. The team members have added a new extension to the old hotel and, in some way, their work is deeply connected to poetry, too.

The work was awarded one of the Tripun-Bokanić prizes for 2023.

It is remarkable how the architects have fitted the new building into the long row of houses in the place of a garden and yet have given it the unmistakable character of the new or added. The numerous details in which the above-mentioned stories can be read are remarkable.

Photo: Studio Ante Murales

Of course, only a façade cladding with local limestone was an option. After all, the entire old town, from the street paving to the top floors, is built from it. The façade slabs here are eight cm thick and their surface is bushhammered, just like the neighboring buildings, so that they may develop a patina. “The linguistic of these stones is poetic,“ Ante Nikša Bilić expresses it with an artistic tone.

So much for the correspondence between old and new. However, the design of the façades is clearly different, based on the windows: in the old building, which was last a residential building and has now been restored, the reveals are traditional; the new building, on the other hand, has striking slopes above or below the openings.

The way the shadows move depending on the position of the sun gives the façade great dynamism.

Despite all the independence of the design, the link to the old building remains through the material.

The windows on the first floor are designed differently in the two buildings. There are seven of them, which Ante Nikša Bilić associates with the poet Petar Gudelj, who described Imotski as a city with seven gates. “Through the seven gates comes and passes all things: the Sun and the Moon, flocks of migrating birds and stars, winds and clouds, wolves and vipers, lightning and fairies, surface, and underground waters. People come and go,“ she quotes his writings.

Emotheo Heritage Hotel, Imotski.Emotheo Heritage Hotel, Imotski.

The hotel rooms do not have balconies facing the street, even if the old building does have one in front of a window. Of course, there is a story about this, namely that of a child who could not walk and could at least get some air from the balcony and thus participate in city life from above.

Emotheo Heritage Hotel, Imotski.Emotheo Heritage Hotel, Imotski.Emotheo Heritage Hotel, Imotski.

The horizontal top edge of the building, slightly higher than the old building, contrasts with the pointed roofs around it.

The hotel is located on the town’s main street and connects two sights: the market square on one side and the Blue Lake, so named because of its striking color, on the other. It is a sinkhole, a karst cave that has collapsed and filled with water. Not far away is the Red Lake, about 500 m deep and formed in the same way. It takes its name from the rock of the vertical cliffs surrounding it.

Finally, the town has a soccer stadium worth seeing, albeit a small one, but built into such a funnel below the old fortress.

Studio Ante Murales

Emotheo Heritage Hotel

Imotski

Companies involved: NEIR, Znaor

Photos: Srðan Tutić

Emotheo Heritage Hotel, Imotski.Emotheo Heritage Hotel, Imotski.

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(11.12.2023, USA: 12.22.2023)