The building of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina was designed by the architect Josip Vancaš. Vancaš opted to make the buildings facade in the style of Florentine Early Renaissance. The building is 70 meters long and 65 meters wide, with a total area of 3.082 m2 and a total of 203 rooms. At the time, it was anticipated the ground floor would house officers, guards and doormen, as well as banks, forestry departments, cadastral archives, National Bank, steward's office and apartments for guards. The first floor houses a Ceremonious salon 2 floors high. The second floor was supposed to house the other four departments of Government, Supreme Court, Tobacco Inspectorate, Accounting Department and Mining Department.
The groundbreaking ceremony was held on 19 March 1884 and work proceeded according to schedule for exactly two years. The building was opened in March 1886.
Until 1941, the building of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina was the seat of Drinska Banovina. From 1945 it was the seat of the President of the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and from 1974 it was the seat of the Presidency of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995, the Presidency of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the most important units of the command structure in the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina functioned inside the building. After the war, the interior and façade was partially restored because the building had suffered significant damage in the conflicts. At the constituting of the first convening of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in October 1996, the Members of the collective Head of State continued to reside in this building. It is now the seat of the Cabinets of the Bosniac, Serb and Croat Members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Cabinets of the President and Vice-President of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as some Government Ministries and state institutions. The ground floor houses the Archives of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In close proximity to the building of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the Gazi Ali-pašina Mosque built in 1561. It represents one of the most successful achievements of Bosnian-Oriental culture.
Construction of the Building
Soon after the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878, the problem of housing the occupational army and central command bodies of the occupational government in Sarajevo arose. The Turkish Administration built Konak as the only building foreseen to house state organs, that is, the seat of the valija. Thus, the Austro-Hungarian army was housed in barracks and private houses, while central government organs in Bosnia and Herzegovina were scattered throughout the city in worn buildings and rented private houses.
Beginning in 1879, that is, after a short period of military administration, the National Government began to function in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since then, each year, after the budget was adopted, a request was submitted to build an adequate building to house government bodies. However, due to needed investments of the occupational administration in making the cadastre, building roads, railways for military needs, investments for the Presidency building were postponed for a few years. During that time, old Turkish buildings were adapted, but none of them were appropriate for the needs of these bodies, and there was always the threat of fire. The Government pointed out this threat, and especially the consequences that could follow if the archives were destroyed, to the Joint Ministry in Vienna, which had jurisdiction over Bosnia and Herzegovina. That fear was not unfounded, since a good portion of the old part of Sarajevo burned in a catastrophic fire in 1879. Besides that, it was very expensive to pay high rent for private buildings and cover expenses for repairing worn buildings, scattered offices all over the city and the like. Such conditions did not allow further expansion of the administration, which the Government always demanded.
Upon the arrival of Benjamin Kalaj as Minister of the Joint Ministry of Finance in Vienna in 1882, preparations were accelerated for constructing the building of the Presidency in Sarajevo. The same year, he wrote to the National Government that no funds can be approved for the year 1882, but he is sure that already in 1883 a part of the investment funds will be approved for constructing the building of the Presidency and, thus, he requested that technical preparations begin immediately.
At the beginning of his mandate, Kalaj insisted that certain central organs of the government in Bosnia and Herzegovina conduct their affairs unified. However, during a visit to Sarajevo, he was convinced that was not possible given conditions where the financial, political and judicial administrations were separated from one another. Therefore, in his proposal to the czar, he claimed that unified and effective functioning of the government could be achieved only if all departments and officials of the National Government spatially unite and if mutual and written correspondence is replaced by regular, daily and personal contacts between chiefs of particular departments and their officials. In this manner all bodies of the government would merge into one body.
While convincing the czar of the need to construct the building of the Presidency in Sarajevo, Kalaj also stated political reasons for doing so. Considering the poor, and in part shameful seat of the central organs of government, the inhabitants of this country will conclude that the new government is of temporary character. If someone should seek protection from the government, they will have difficulty orientating themselves because the government's departments are scattered throughout the whole city, which, Kalaj also thinks, destroys the government's reputation.
During preparations, Šmid, a high-ranking construction advisor recommended Kalaj hire Josip Vancaš as the main architect and Kalaj immediately accepted. Vancaš was to receive a fee of 16,000 Forints (1 Forint = 2 Crowns). He would receive monthly payments of 500 Forints for two years and the rest would be paid after the opening of the building.
In choosing the building style, Vancaš recommended three variations:
- Florentine Early Renaissance
- Italian Gothic
- Italian Late Renaissance.
Since funds for construction were rather limited, Vancaš decided to construct the façade in the Florentine Early Renaissance style because construction would cost less in relation to the other options, which would required the middle front of the building to have antique pillars, which would significantly raise construction costs. Although simpler and less costly, the chosen style was dignified (brick, decoration and details in stone) and the most appropriate for a government building.
The designed building encompassed a space 70 meters long and 65 meters wide, with a courtyard 48 meters long and 16 meters wide. Only the main staircase, meeting salon and offices for higher officials were supposed to have somewhat richer decorations, while everything else was supposed to be modestly furnished. The total area of the building is, according to the design, 3,082 square meters with a total of 170 rooms on the higher floors and 32 in the basement.
On the ground floor, to the left and right of the vestibule, accommodation was provided for officers, guards and doormen, as well as for banks, the forestry department, cadastre archives, national guard command, national bank, steward and apartments for guards. The first floor holds the Ceremonial Salon two floors high, to the left was the office of the civil adlatus (chief of civil administration), and the rest of the space was taken up by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd departments of the National Government. The second floor provided accommodation for the other four departments of the Government: The Supreme Court, Tobacco Inspectorate, Accounting Department and Mining Department. Part of the space was reserved for future expansion of the administration and was temporarily leased. One immediately notices the new building did not have an office for the Chief of the National Government. His seat was in Konak and in the command of the 15th Corpus, since the Chief of the National Government was also simultaneously the commanding general, that is, the commander of the 15th Corpus stationed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Chiefs of the National Government were: Virtemburg, Dahlen, Apel, Albori, Vindyor, Varešanin, Potjorek and Sarkotiæ, all with the rank of general.
Even earlier, the area called "musala" was chosen as the most suitable place to construct the building of the Presidency. As the name itself indicates, it was a place of prayer, since a mosque and cemetery were in direct proximity. However, about twenty years before the end of Turkish Administration, the Turkish Army performed exercises here, and the Austro-Hungarian Army also used this land for the same purpose for a few years. The Ishakbeg's vakuf in Sarajevo offered "musala" to the Chief of the National Government Virtemburg for construction of a public building in exchange of payment of a certain amount which would be spent for religious purposes.
Although the question of ownership of this land, regarding its use for military purposes, was not entirely clear, the Government did not wish to quarrel with the vakuf over the land for a few thousand forints. It paid 4,000 forints to the Vakuf, even though the true value was around 25,000 forints. "Musala" was judged as the most suitable place, because, according to the building design, the front of the building faces Èemaluša Street, the busiest street in the city and the place around which the city will develop in the future. Part of the space behind the building would remain for the doormen's booth. For a long time Sarajevans referred to the building as "High musala."
According to the budget of architect Vancaš, the total expenses for constructing the building of the Presidency would amount to 321,000 forints, under the condition that the rock (2,300 cubic meters) is received at no cost from the quarry on the Dariva River and the lumbar from forests in Vuèja Luka. The most expensive item listed for obtaining material was bricks because more than 3,100,000 pieces of baked brick were needed. Vancaš thought that brick in Sarajevo, by Braun, was expensive and that it would be best to open a brickyard headed by the Government, which would save a considerable amount.
The suggested amount, according to Kalaj's recommendation to the czar, could be reduced if the basement and ground floor are vaulted with metal crossbeams, if the ornaments are dropped from the first floor and if bricks come from their own production. In any case, the amount should not be less than 300,000 or more than 325,000 forints. Construction was to begin in the spring of 1884 and last two years.
Kalaj also proposed the method of financing to the czar. For the years 1883 and 1884, 110,000 forints, earmarked in the budget for the needs of the cadastre, would be set aside for construction of the building. The second third of the costs would be secured in 1885 and the third would be secured through the sale of the forests and land or through rent, which would come back from the budget.
On 5 December 1883 the czar approved the construction of the Presidency building in Sarajevo according to the proposed modalities.
During the invitation for acquiring certain types of materials and negotiating work, before construction had begun, the guaranteed amount for construction was increased to 400,000 forints. The main reason for the increase was the rise in cost of the expert work force, since this was a period of intensive construction in Sarajevo. 300,000 forints were approved from the budget and Union Bank approved credit for twenty years with an interest rate of 3%. A Construction Board was formed in order to observe the whole process of construction and managed the construction funds, but only within the framework of approved resources and according to the adopted project. Approval was to be sought from the Joint Ministry of Finance in Vienna for the very least excess of costs or change in the project.
The company of Karl Shwartz from Vienna was chosen as the contractor. Bricks were acquired mostly from Braun's brickyard and from the company Finci and Baniæ in Sarajevo.
The groundbreaking ceremony took place on 19 March 1884 in the presence of the civil adlatus Baron Nikoliæ and many other high-ranking government officials. Construction proceeded according to plan, even faster, and already in August construction of the first floor began. The Construction Board regularly reported to the Joint Ministry of Finance in Vienna how construction was proceeding. The builders encountered difficulties in placing the foundation for the southwest side, which raised construction costs. Following a stronger earthquake, which occurred in Sarajevo during the night between 18 and 19 July 1885, a committee reported that the almost completed Presidency had a crack, but they weren't sure if it was from the earthquake.
The commendation committee began inspecting the building on 21 November 1885 and moving into the building began that same month, four months ahead of schedule. Remarks by the commendation committee were not significant and in the cost analysis of certain work, the guaranteed amount of 400,000 was reduced to 393,359 forints. The contractor complained about this committee decision and required an additional 4,442 forints, but only a part was honored.
The final amount spent on constructing the building was a total of 420,000 forints, or 840,000 crowns. With the construction of the Presidency building began intensive construction of public buildings in Sarajevo, which coincides with the so-called Kalaj era, even though much was after him.
The original appearance of the building remained until 1911. After the opening of the Bosnian Parliament in 1909, new space was needed, and by a decision of the Parliament, the third floor of this building was built in 1911. 453,000 crowns were spent.
Due to the constant enlargement of the central administrative organs and also the greater number of officials, in 1886 the occupational administration was forced to begin constructing in close proximity to the Presidency building a new administrative building (Railway Direction, which now houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) with a functional area of 2,300 m2. Construction costs for this building amounted to 732,000 crowns.
A third administrative building, considerably smaller than the first two, was built in 1903 and 1904 for the needs of the Financial Direction (now Canton Sarajevo and City Assembly). Construction costs were 220,000 and at the time it had a functional area of 904 m2.
The rest of the buildings from the Austro-Hungarian period were built somewhat later, until the First World War.
The current address of the building of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina is Tito Street number 16 (ceremonial entrance) and Musala Street number 9 (official entrance).