Friday, November 4, 2011

A few Joinery Doors in Croatia.

A recent visit to Croatia was fascinating. Amongst the wonderful sights and smells of this ancient and very much alive land with its layers of history, my eye was of course often drawn to joinery and furniture. Not the modern stuff, but the older stuff which oozes history and story.

Zagreb. So many amazing doors. Never mind the wheelie bin...
The thing about these fantastic wooden doors is that they do not exist on their own. The context is important, and that context is usually the doorway, which is almost always made of carved stone, which was the building material of choice for centuries before concrete took over in the modern era. With so much marbleine limestone around the place throughout the country, it makes sense that so much of this stone was used. Being so hard, it also has weathered really well. Hence you find buildings that are well over a thousand years old and still standing. This, for an Australian, is a certain fascination and cause of much wonder!

This door pictured in Zagreb isn't really that stunning, but it was the first one that I saw. I included it here as it marks the start of my journey of fascination with the joinery doors...

As we travelled from Zagreb down through Istria and the Dalmatian Coast and on to Dubrovnik, I found many interesting joinery doors which took my fancy.
Buccari. Not grandiose, needing maintenance, but oozing stories.

Buccari. Nice metalwork to compliment the beautiful wooden doors.
Buccari. Different door style, housed in a once-grand doorway with pediment.
Zadar. Interesting door panels. Fantastic stone surround! 
Oh yeah. Great door panels in the doors pictured above.
A closer view again ... to check out the methodology in the raised panel.
The technique known as "frame and panel construction" has been around for centuries, and continues to this day to be one of the most reliable and durable ways to construct doors, furniture, panelling, and a wide array of other joinery. Panels housed within a fixed frame are able to move independently as they respond to changing moisture content of the air. Very effective and very smart, offering structural stability and durability. In the closeup above, you can see that the whole raised panel is carved from one piece - with the exception of the beads in the small triangles, which are "planted". ie. fixed on. The different grain direction is the giveaway when it comes to investigating the construction methodology. The horizontal pieces of planted bead in the small triangles are not able to shrink in length as the width of the panel decreases in drying out. This has most likely lead to the splitting of the big panel which is visible down the centre right side of the panel. Interesting...
Zadar. Less fussy in design, and obviously being maintained.
Trogir. Beautifully detailed and ornate doors. Delicious. Nice surround, too!
Dubrovnik. Never mind the doors, check out the approach stairs!
Dubrovnik. Four big carved panels. Nice job.
Dubrovnik. The fan-like overhead panel is wonderful.
Dubrovnik. Nicely different decorative door panels.
Dubrovnik. Diminished glory, showing a recent minimal repair job. Please fix me up!
Another pair of doors screaming for maintenance. Bottom rails needing replacement!

While some door scream out for maintenance, others speak of modifications that have taken place to them. These are not always beautiful or good for the doors, but do speak of a need for practical or creative solutions required by the householder.  Looking closely at the door tells us a lot...

Dubrovnik. Mis-modified? Bottom of the doors chopped off to make them fit into the doorway

Dubrovnik. Also modified. Bottom sections have been added on to the  original doors.
Dubrovnik. Another pair of doors modified at top and bottom rails.
Note how the doors have been scribed around the doorway. Unusual modification to make the doors fit doorway.
Dubrovnik. Nice detail, metal grill, and detailed planted stop down the centre.
Detail showing the top of that planted stop. Lovely scroll, eh?
Dubrovnik. This pair more modern and unusual in that the stiles do not go full length.
Yes, I have many more pictures of doors and doorways. Just a few are shown here.

What is it about doors and doorways? Each is an entry statement in itself, and speaks of the many owners and occupants of those buildings over the centuries or decades. As the principle point of entry and exit to a building, they take a lot of wear and tear. This activity produces scars which tell stories. The modifications also speak volumes. Many of the doors around Dubrovnik would have been damaged during the relentless shelling of the city in 1991-95 during the conflict, so it is not surprising that there were so many modified doors, from the rebuilding of the city in the aftermath. 

Ultimately, a good pair of doors will last almost indefinitely, so long as the construction is sound, they are out of the weather, and the maintenance is carried out. |Long live the beautiful doors and doorways in Croatia!


  1. Nice Blog. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. G'day mate.

    The doors of Dubrovnik look superb. My sister often takes photos of doorways, not cos of the wood, just general design and interest.

    Hope your travels are going well. I'm heading to Kabul to see the Sparrows in a couple of weeks so when you get back we'll have to have a cuppa and swap some stories.

    See you,