Mećavnik is a traditional village that the Serbian film maker Emir Kusturica built for his film “Life Is a Miracle”. It is located two hundred kilometres southwest of Belgrade, Serbia. The town was built entirely out of natural materials with traditional construction in mind, but the wood shingles which were used proved not to be the ideal choice and had to be replaced with something more durable.

Project details

Reference object
Mećavnik Hill, Užice, Serbia
Architect
Prof. Emir Kustrica
Client
"Lotika" d.o.o., Mokra Gora
Clay roof tiles used
Tondach Biber Extra Plus flat grey engobed

Mećavnik Hill, Serbia, Užice

Mećavnik Hill, Serbia, Užice

Mećavnik Hill, Serbia, Užice

Mećavnik Hill, Serbia, Užice

Mećavnik Hill, Serbia, Užice

Mećavnik Hill, Serbia, Užice

Mećavnik Hill, Serbia, Užice

Mećavnik Hill, Serbia, Užice

Mećavnik Hill, Serbia, Užice

Mećavnik Hill, Serbia, Užice

A town out of natural materials

To realise his concept of a traditional village, professor Kusturica had to overcome many administrative challenges and complex technical problems from the outset. However, that was clear to him from the start is that in such a location, the only settlement that can be built and survive is one which relies entirely on the traditional construction methods in this area. This also had to harmonise with its natural surroundings. This concept, and the commitment, to build a town out of natural materials, obtained mainly by buying abandoned and derelict cottages, barns, and other buildings in the immediate vicinity and surrounding area, resulted in a successful outcome. The Philippe Rotthier European Architecture award received in 2005 honoured the architectural solution of this original reconstruction of an ethnic settlement. After completion of the filming project, it is now used as a tourist complex.

Weaknesses of wood shingles

However, the effort to build the buildings in the settlement on the hill as an authentic replica and make them a monument devoted to the national style of building, characteristic for that area, revealed its first weak points after only a few years. The wooden shingles on the roofs started to dry out and warp under the influence of the weather. After a time, when the substructure of bitumen sheets and coatings lost its function due to exposure to heat,
the roofs started to leak.

A new roofing solution

Therefore in 2012 a renovation was decided, starting with the roof of the reception building. The roof tiles had to imitate the appearance of the wooden shingles. The grey engobe roofing tiles in combination with sub-roof, rear ventilation and safety components, were an example of well performed roofing, in accordance with the technical regulations and rules of the trade. This choice also ensured that the visual harmony of the settlement was not disturbed. Instead the clay tiles perfectly blend into the concept of the original architecture while giving it a new and modern dimension. Due to the success of this result the mountain house at the “Iver” skiing site, near Mećvnik, was also roofed with clay tiles. These have also been tested by the commission of roofing experts, to qualify for use on the roofs that will be continuously exposed to the critical eye of the public.

Work in progress

Since 2014 ten renovated and two new buildings have been covered with 250,000 clay roofing tiles, equivalent to a surface of 8,000 m2, adding to the unique appearance of the buildings. The work is still in progress and will probably be finished by the end of 2018. But this time the roof solution will last for 50 years and more!

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