Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in 2015, Bania Region, Croatia, Landscape architecture Posts, Memorial, NFO

How Gordan Lederer Memorial Makes a Tragedy Beautiful

Article by Kaila Johnson

Gordan Lederer Memorial, by NFO, in Čukur Hill in, Croatia.

What comes to mind when thinking about a memorial? Most would perhaps say a statue, plaque, or some other singular structure aimed at commemorating a specific person or event. Memorials are erected to commemorate people, events, and significant happenings of times past.

The Gordon Lederer Memorial is no different in that it commemorates a specific person and event: a Croatian photo- and videographer who was killed by a sniper while filming soldiers in the Čukur Hills. However, it does so by using the whole landscape as the memorial itself.

In this particular location, photographer Gordon Lederer was killed by a sniper on August 10th, 1991, while filming Croatian soldiers in action on Čukur Hill in the Bania Region.


Opening ceremony. Photo credit: Boris Kovacev

The Story

The memorial was created as part of a design competition, put on by Croatian Radio Television (HRT), as a plan to commemorate all locations where HRT photo and videographers were killed during the war in Croatia in the 90’s.

So what, exactly, does this have to do with landscape architecture? Well, the winning design, by NFO, turned the landscape into the memorial itself by injecting it with art, architecture, and sculptural elements, with a main emphasis on the breathtaking natural landscape surrounding this space.


Opening ceremony. Photo credit: Boris Kovacev

The Materials

The materials used in this landscape are especially interesting, in that they don’t actually focus on the vegetation, but on the hard, human-fabricated materials used within the design.

In fact, the only vegetation actively featured in this design is the grass that surrounds the walkways. This allows the sculptural and architectural elements of the site to stand out, as well as the beauty of the surrounding natural environment to be highlighted.

Gordan Lederer Memorial

Gordan Lederer Memorial. Photo credit: Daniel Pavlić

The Journey of Lederer’s Life

The surrounding landscape of the Čukur Hills features dense willow and poplar forests along the rolling hills. The whole design is aimed at being a pathway, which illustrates Lederer’s life as a photographer.

The path is constructed out of concrete slabs which are framed by black steel, mimicking film negatives and representing significant events in Lederer’s life.

Gordan Lederer Memorial. Photo credit: Ivan Dorotić

Gordan Lederer Memorial. Photo credit: Ivan Dorotić

Symbolism in Design

It begins with small blocks of concrete, spaced apart at varying distances by crushed limestone gravel and appearing to be “broken”; but as one moves along, the slabs become closer and closer together until they are strung together in a continuous pathway.

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Gordan Lederer Memorial. Photo credit: Ivan Dorotić

Gordan Lederer Memorial. Photo credit: Ivan Dorotić

The Camera Lense and the Bullet Hole

It continues along and meanders strategically across a plateau, and culminates in a large, circular glass frame that serves as a vantage point and lookout on the incredible natural landscape surrounding this space.

This glass frame is encased in stainless steel, resembling a camera lens and representing the circle of life, and showcases the exact location where Lederer died taking his final shots.

The glass has an imitation bullet hole within it, to undeniably illustrate the historically tragic event that took place on the site. Upon approaching the lens, the pathway splits and one section rises up beside the walkway.

Opening ceremony. Photo credit: Boris Kovacev

Opening ceremony. Photo credit: Boris Kovacev

Breathtaking Views 

Here, the visitor is free to experience the lens and the landscape from the raised portion, which can act as a bench, or they can continue across the grass to the sculpture itself for a close-up view.

Once the site visitor reaches the glass lens, they are welcomed by breathtaking views of the Una River Valley, where they can reflect on the events that occurred through the sculptural elements, while appreciating nature in its raw beauty.

Gordan Lederer Memorial. Photo credit: Daniel Pavlić

Gordan Lederer Memorial. Photo credit: Daniel Pavlić

The Landscape as the Memorial

In this design, the landscape is the memorial. There are architectural and sculptural elements that add to the design, and though the vegetation isn’t the primary feature of the site, the lack of vegetation allows the visitor to experience just how important the human-made features are, without detracting from the fact that it is a memorial.

NFO further develops this idea by creating an experience for the visitor, with a pathway that acts as a journey, telling a story, until one comes to the end where they can see, think about, and reflect on the “end” of a life, while sharing in its beauty.

Gordan Lederer Memorial. Photo credit: Ivan Dorotić

Gordan Lederer Memorial. Photo credit: Ivan Dorotić

A Memorial that Stretches the Boundaries

The Gordan Lederer Memorial by NFO is a special memorial, both for whom and what it represents, and for how it is physically represented.

It serves as a constant reminder of the devastating effects of war, but celebrates the life of someone who dedicated their life to capturing the beauty in their surroundings and showcases this beauty in an everlasting, unique, and well-thought-out memorial that uses the entire landscape as part of its story.

This design shows that memorials can stretch the boundaries of what they’re traditionally thought to be, without losing sight of the person, place, or event that they are commemorating.

Do you think this is an effective way to commemorate someone or something? Let us know in the comments below!

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Gordan Lederer Memorial. Photo credit: Ivan Dorotić

Gordan Lederer Memorial. Photo credit: Ivan Dorotić

Full Project Credits For Gordan Lederer Memorial:

Project Name: Gordan Lederer Memorial
Čukur hill, Hrvatska Kostajnica, Croatia
Authors: NFO (Kata Marunica, architect, Nenad Ravnić, architect.) + prof.Petar Barišić,sculptor
Project team: Sandra Perić, NFO architect; Nikica Pavlović,NFO architect; Filip Vidović, NFO architect; Dragan Mileusnić; Željko Serdarević
Investor: Croatian Radiotelevision – HRT , project manager prof. Milan Bešlić
Contractor: Beton Lučko d.o.o., Piletić staklo d.o.o., Šurba d.o.o., Telektra d.o.o.
Photographers: Bosnić+Dorotić, Boris Kovačev / CROPIX, Daniel Pavlić
Completion: August 2015

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Article by Kaila Johnson

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