Bosnia and Herzegovina - Mostar


Mostar is a city and municipality in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the big- gest and the most important city in the Herzegovina region and the ce- nter of the Herzegovina-Neretva Ca- nton of the Federation. Mostar is si- tuated on the Neretva river and is the fifth-largest city in the country. The city of Mostar is situated in a beautiful valley bedded between hi- gh mountains of Herzegovina. It is thanks to the river Neretva that Mostar was able to develop as a city in the desert-like landscape of Herzegovina. Neretva’s size turned Mostar very early in to a trading centre of the region. What makes this city known is it’s famous bridge.

The Old Bridge was built by the Ottoman empire in 1565. It was the great architect Mimar Hajrudin who had succeeded with the impossible mission to cross the Neretva river with a single span stone bridge. Mostar got its name after that same Bri- dge, or more precisely after the bridge keepers. They used to guard the bridge and were called “Mostari”, thereby the city got its name. With its hot summers and mild winters, Mostar is also one of Europe’s sunniest cities.

Mostar began as a small hamlet at a strategic crossing of the Neretva River. Its hinterlands consisted of a broad agricultural plain on the west bank and steep terraces on the east bank surrounded by barren mou- ntains. A multi-ethnic and multicu-ltural settlement, the city possessed an independent political identity si- nce the twelfth century. By the six- teenth century, Bosnia had become part of the Ottoman Empire and was ruled by a provincial governor. In a matter of decades, Mostar was tra- nsformed from a minor river crossing to a thriving imperial crossroads. As the Ottoman administrators strove to extend their influence and integrate local inhabitants into their empire, their architecture became an important symbol of the social and economic changes in the city. Constructed from 1557 to 1566, the Stari Most (Old Bridge) replaced a precarious wooden suspension bridge and facilitated travel, trade and the movement of military troops, becoming a symbol of the benevolence and power in the Ottoman Empire. It is known for the graceful elegance and engineering ingenuity of its slender single-span masonry arch that was recently rebuilt after its destruction during Bosnia's inter-ethnic conflict.

The Ottomans used monumental architecture to affirm, extend and co- nsolidate their imperial holdings. Administrators and bureaucrats - many of them indigenous Bosnians who converted to Islam - founded mosque complexes that generally included Quranic schools, soup ki- tchens or markets. The grandest mosques were characterized by a large single dome, like the Koski Mehmet Pasa Mosque on the east bank of the Neretva River or the Karagöz Mosque, bearing many hallmarks of the famous Ottoman architect Sinan. New and existing neighborhoods deve- loped quickly on both banks of the Neretva during the Ottoman period with one and two-storey wooden houses that were simple at the street level but rich and expressive within. A street-level entry would access the courtyard. The Biscevica house is a surviving example: an austere entrance belies interiors with painted built-in cabinets, elaborately carved wooden ceilings and a room that cantilevers over the Neretva River.

Bosnia was made a crown land of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1878. Mostar’s City Council co- operated with the Austro-Hunga- rians to implement sweeping refo- rms in city planning: broad avenues and an urban grid were imposed on the western bank of the Neretva, and significant investments were made in infrastructure, communi- cations and housing. City administrators like Mustafa Mujaga Komadina were central players in these transformations that facilitated growth and further linked the eastern and western banks of the city. New monuments and architectural styles reflected the aspirations of Mostarians and the Austro-Hungarian administration.

By the end of World War II, Mostar was part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, a republic of the new socialist Yugo- slavia. During this period, the industrial base was expanded with the construction of a metal-working factory, cotton textile mills, and an aluminum plant. Skilled workers, both men and women, entered the work force and the social and demographic profile of the city was broadened dramatically; between 1945 and 1980, Mostar's population grew from 18,000 to 100,000. Because Mostar's eastern bank was burdened by inadequate infrastructure, the city expanded on the western bank with the construction of large residential blocks. Local architects favored an austere modernist aesthetic, prefa- brication and repetitive modules. In the 1970s and 1980s, a healthy local economy fueled by foreign investment spurred the recognition and conservation of the city's cultural heritage. An economically sustainable plan to preserve the old town of Mostar was implemented by the municipality, which drew thousands of tourists from the Adriatic coast and invigorated the economy of the city. The results of this ten-year project earned Mostar the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1986.


Mostar - City map