A Big House as a Traditional Response to the Challenges of Modernity: Tensions and Pardoxes of the Villas of Ethnic Minorities in the Western Balkans

GA ČR 20-28848S, board n. P410

In rural parts of the Western Balkans in recent decades traditional folk architecture has disappeared and grandiose villas have been springing up everywhere, often not only bigger than their Western models but excessive in form. They eclectically mimic medieval and classical palaces, as well as elements of local architecture, and syncretically mix tradition with modernity. But many such houses have remained unfinished for years, or empty because the owners are working abroad. Meanwhile villages are changing into small towns facing big hygiene, environmental and planning problems. It is not just an architectural matter. The big house here is a reaction, and adaptation, to (post) communist modernization, globalization, and the marginalization of ethnic minorities where the phenomenon is the most striking. The project involves fieldwork in parts of the south-west of former Yugoslavia that are famous for this sort of building. At its core is a set of anthropological-ethnological depth studies of typical groups of such houses, each of the group built and owned by one extended family.