author: Breda Bizjak
magazine: Kontrast Magazine
volume title: Identity
volume: 03/07, September 2007, pg.82-84


Some 50 years ago, Saint Tropez, the celebrated jewel of the French Riviera, was still an anonymous fishing town. Then it was discovered by Picasso, Prevert and Brigitte Bardot and everything changed. Half a century later, the fabulous Côte d'Azur is confronting widespread environmental devastation – together with a marked decline in popularity. Instead of any spontaneous Mediterranean feel amongst enchanting natural surroundings, the coast now comprises swaths of huge hotels, asphalt shoreline, and polluted beaches alongside a asphyxiated sea.

Now the world's tourists are turning toward the last, largely-untouched and already mythical Adriatic as the latest site for mass global consumption. The Croatian coast is condemned to be Europe's next big swimming pool, and those in the know are already heading for the Istrian Riviera, Dubrovnik, and the necklace of sun-drenched islands off the country's sparkling coast. Today you can choose from among 1119 uninhabited islands in the Adriatic and buy one on the internet for up to £1 million.
Recently the Government of the Republic of Croatia and the Istrian Region signed the Public Contract on the Foundation of the Society "Brijuni rivijera". The project, whose goal is “enhancing“ and exploiting the full potential of the Brijuni islands and the Istrian coastline, will permanently transform the current tourism situation as well as the cultural iden
tity of the Istrian peninsula. Numerous new hotels, apartments, camps, marinas and golf courses, with tens of thousands of new beds, are foreseen along the western shoreline between the towns of Pula and Rovinj. Once the megalomania of “Brijuni Rivijera” is completed, there will be no intact natural coastline in Istria left. But for the government of the Istrian Region it appears a reasonable price to pay for entering the global marketplace.
Currently there exists no credible study, no spatial strategy for this project. It has no long-term vision, no sustainable spatial development, which would indicate any environmental awareness.
The initiators of the project did not consult any public opinion; this was exclusively a political decision. The “Brijuni rivijera” is already reviewing investors' project proposals according to the BOT model (“build-operate-transfer”) enabling them to build almost anything, giving rise to enclosed tourist enclaves and cultural elitism. The only limit placed on future investments is a ceiling on the number of beds for specific areas.
Ironically enough, the ad-slogan Croatia has been running for some time now offers “The Mediterranean as it used to be”.

The only serious study of spatial development for the Istrian coast has been made for the Bale region. The village of Bale was teetering on edge of demographic catastrophe and needed to find a long-term solution to keep local inhabitants there, which initiated a sustainable strategic development plan which includes agricultural, economic, cultural, educational platforms as well as one dedicated to tourism. 
With its nine kilometres of untouched coastline, Bale municipality (which covers a surface area of approx. 450 hectares) is a pristine region of Istria that has not been developed for a variety of historical and social reasons.
As part of the study-strategy, the municipality is looking into ways of tapping into the available resources of the Bale shoreline; and the proposed revitalization would pioneer positive trends of economic growth of the area, and motivate community participation and involvement.
The urbanists, however, together with most architects largely reject the scheme. Tasteless, even obviously ill-conceived developments are scarcely acknowledged by anyone, let alone countered with imaginative strategies. Exemplary, sustainable projects are few and far between, in a situation which clearly calls for reaching visions. And its up to architecture to take an imaginative look at – and stand on – possible new coalitions with the social, cultural, political and commercial spheres. For this to happen, architects/designers will have to take a critical look at their own “tourist” behaviour.