two renovated palaces now form a modern nexus of art and culture in croatia

two renovated palaces now form a modern nexus of art and culture in croatia

creating a new cultural hub in zadar 


Led by Iva Letilović and Igor Pedišić, the Providur’s Palace is the most recently renovated part of an integrated architectural complex in the historic center of Zadar, Croatia. Together with the previously renovated Rector’s Palace, it now forms a newborn and well-connected nexus of art and culture (Two Palaces) that stretches over an area of ten thousand square meters — offering a sort of cultural living room for the city. The final step of unification will be completed within the project’s scheduled third phase.


Today, most of the interior of Providur’s Palace is dedicated to gallery spaces. Along with exhibition and educational activities, the building also hosts a branch of the Zadar City Library and two concert halls.

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all images courtesy of Letilović Pedišić | © Bosnic+Dorotic



the renovation of the Providur’s and Rector’s palaces


The overall task for architects Iva Letilović and Igor Pedišićwas was to create a new and multifaceted interior within the historical compound. However, having endured continuous expansion, reconstruction, partitioning, and destruction in the past centuries, both palaces have ended up with badly-integrated and fragmented interiors. ‘In fact, they had become a labyrinth which, as a tangled web, extended not only horizontally, but also vertically,’ share Iva and Igor.


The highly heterogeneous conditions were unsuitable as a museum space and had to be transformed to welcome the different departments of the Zadar National Museum, each required to host an autonomous exhibition space while sharing a supporting infrastructure. Furthermore, as work on the project progressed, the city’s needs changed, pushing the complex to also accommodate a concert hall, a multifunctional hall, the Zadar Concert Office, and the city library.

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the atrium’s multi-level volume -the most monumental section at Providur’s Palace | image © Bosnic+Dorotic



With those changes and challenges laid out, one of the architects’ main tasks was to design a clear route through the space and make the labyrinthine structure appear ‘readable’. That said, while renovating both palaces, the architects decided to preserve the existing spatial structure — offering a frozen image of all the transformations and traumas the architecture experienced across history.


When comparing both buildings, visitors will immediately notice how neat and revamped the Rector’s Palace looks as opposed to the Providur’s Palace, with its discreet exhibition spaces and walls left rough, bare, and untreated. ‘There were no stone wall sculptures nor other ornaments that could be put on view in the Providur’s Palace. The most valuable find were the frescoes revealed under more recent layers of paint. Fragments of all the uncovered remains have been preserved and placed into dialogue with the most recent architectural intervention, straightforward and noncompetitive in its materialization. The original texture of the walls and the old layers of plaster stand in contrast with the minimalist architectural elements and with the black or white natural rubber floors,’ explain the architects. 

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a former balcony accentuated by its red color, now a trademark of the Palace | image © Bosnic+Dorotic



a dynamic overlap of old and new 


The large atrium of the Providur’s Palace, one of the former open spaces, has become a covered passage, a central zone connecting both buildings. The spacious multilevel volume of the atrium is the most monumental part of the complex, now serving as the main entrance, exit, and space from which a visitor can approach every section of the Two Palaces. ‘By means of visible overlap of historical layers and new architectural elements in the atrium, the encounter of old and new has been made most apparent,’ the duo continues.

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two bridges cross the open space of the atrium | © Bosnic+Dorotic



The renovated space is dominantly white, and the light coming through the translucent polycarbonate roof draws the visitor’s eyes upwards to the steel framework. The latter extends into large white staircases that cut through the atrium like feelers, lightly touching the ground where a stone floor hides and protects ancient containers now serving as water tanks for sprinklers. In addition to the stone floor, an old well cover has also been preserved.


Other ‘hero’ features of the project include two bridges — one newly constructed, one found on-site — that cross the atrium’s open space. Together, these structures link the opposed concepts of the palaces’ respective interior organization. One of the two bridges, a former balcony, is accentuated by its bright red color and has become a trademark. ‘This ancient steel framework was discovered during the renovation process under layers of plaster. An engineering gem, the bearing structure is a design particular to 19th-century architecture in Dalmatia,’ notes the duo.


Although intended for demolition in the original renovation plans, the architects recognized the value of the structure and decided to keep it. The steel floor of the red structure now includes a ramp, suitable for visitors with disabilities, and serves today as a bridge connecting both palaces. With its vibrant coloring, it has also evolved into a sculpture — a dynamic red element in a monochromatic atrium.

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an interior dominanated by white surfaces and light | image © Bosnic+Dorotic



Moving from the pronounced and overwhelming white space, visitors can climb up to the highest level, where they will be welcomed by sky views and the surrounding red rooftops of Zadar. This kind of glazed corridor/ belvedere comprises a steel grid that serves as a structural backbone crucial for the building’s viability; it hides all installations, including numerous built-in air-conditioning units, ventilation channels, and supporting infrastructure.


This surprising parasite penetrates, connects, and revives the historic structure it leans on, hiding all of its technological equipment while leaving its fifth facade intact. The old stone relics, the two palaces, have thus been connected to a machine that ‘keeps them breathing’ — an architectural superstructure concealing new layers which the original palaces were never intended to incorporate. This structure also performs a major tectonic function: the steel grid, leaning on the palace walls, supports the translucent roof of the atrium, the staircases, and the glass corridor with its scenic view,’ add Iva and Igor. 

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the highest level exposed to blue sky and Zadar’s red rooftops | image © Bosnic+Dorotic


image © Bosnic+Dorotic

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overlapping of historical layers and new architectural elements | image © Bosnic+Dorotic

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a steel grid on the roof hides all installations, ventilation + infrastructure | image © Filip Brala


image © Filip Brala




project info:


name: Providur’s Palace in Zadar

location: Petar Zoranić Square, Zadar, Croatia 

completion year: 2022 

investor: City of Zadar
architecture: Iva Letilović and Igor Pedišić@letilovic_pedisic 

co-architects: Ante Grbić, Luka Fatović

construction: Berislav Medić 

mechanical engineering: Marinko Zečević

electroinstallations: Srećko Stavnicki

water and sewage: Sanjin Stošić 

fire protection: Josip Radeljić

contractor: Krekić Avangardi

photography: Bosnić+Dorotić | @bosnicdorotic

drone photography: Filip Brala



designboom has received this project from our DIY submissions feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom

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