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About Raša

Raša, Arsia, Hrvatska

It took only 547 days to build the youngest Istrian town of Raša, as one of the newly built-up towns (città di fondazione) during the Italian reign, i.e. the fascist era. The construction works begun at the end of April in 1936, with the majority of buildings completed within a year so the first inhabitants started to move in their new homes, and the new town of Raša was officially inaugurated on November 4th 1937 before the government emissary Horst Venturi and the king’s envoy Duke of Spoleto and other highly ranked state officials. A year later the new Raša municipality was established.

During the construction the new settlement was called Liburnia, but afterwards the name Arsia (Raša) prevailed, after the river Raša that runs near-by. The river Raša (Arsia flumen), known since Antiquity, was on several occasions a significant border boundary between various state entities, including the 10th century Croatian state.

Between 1928-1934 prior to construction works, a comprehensive land reclamation works organized by a special consortium ran by the baron Giuseppe Lazzarini from Labin, were done in the Krapan and Raša valleys.

The mining industry in this area started to develop in the 17th century, during the Venetian rule. The first recorded concession for coal exploitation in the Krapan valley dates back to 1626. During the 18th century coal was continually exploited, with some 40sh miners producing 560 tons of coal annually. The overall industrialization and wide use of steam engine enabled a significant development of the coal mine, therefore during the Austrian government, at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century the annual production grown up to 90.000 tons, with approximately 1,500 employees. At that time Krapan has flourished with a number of new objects built, both industrial and residential, all related to the mine. In 1905 a small church dedicated to St. Barbara, saint patroness of miners, was also built there.

Because of its autarkic industry the Italian government has been working on a significant increase in production, so the same in 1936 resulted in 735.610 tons of coal with plans towards a million tons and 7000 employees and a tendency to grow steadily. Therefore the coalmining company ‘Raša’ (‘Arsa’ Società Anonima Carbonifera) and its legal successor A.Ca.I. (Azienda Carboni Italiani) ordered the construction of a new settlement.

The project of a new town and construction supervision were given to an architect from Trieste named Gustavo Pulitzer Finali and his studio STUARD (Ceppi, Lah, Kosovel). Pulitzer had a unique opportunity to plan an entire town and to design each object in it. He has also designed numerous interiors, especially those of public spaces, and has made drawings of furniture, thus interpreting in his own way the principles of total artwork (Gesamtswerk) which he mastered at Munich University. Pulitzer has divided the town hierarchically into a workers and officials part and the main square serving both as a meeting place and a separation spot of the two entities. The workers part includes houses with four two-bedroom flats, each with a separate entrance and a garden area. Pulitzer has also designed a coal burning furnace that could keep the entire flat warm. The apartments for officials and managers are more comfortable and their heating system was organized through a town heating plant. The total of 96 houses was built. The town, planned for 2000-3000 inhabitants, included all the necessary facilities, the town hall and a police department, a primary school and a kindergarten, a post office, a café, a restaurant, a hotel, several shops, a cinema, a hospital, sports grounds and even a large outdoor swimming pool. The infrastructure was also remarkably well-resolved: water supply system and sewage net, town lightning and asphalted roads, hot water in all objects.

Pulitzer has paid a special attention to the main square, which serves as the heart of the town. The square is dominated by an impressive church of St. Barbara with a specially designed roof construction made of reinforced concrete ribs set in such an order that they resemble a mine pitch hallway, as well as the squared bell tower resembles the mine lamp, which is also shown in the municipal coat of arms. The church interior is modern with simple, yet sophisticated details of the marble altar and stoups, spiritualized with side ceiling lightning, two high glass windows in the front façade and very interesting light effects in the side sacristy with a glass dome. A covered loggia, object often seen in many Istrian towns, is located right next to the church. Its vaults should have helped the airflow on the square during summer. The front façade of the church includes a stone relief depicting St. Barbara, made by a Trieste sculptor Ugo Carà. The square was once decorated with a supernatural statue of a miner warrior created by a famous Trieste sculptor Marcello Mascherini, but the statue was demolished soon after the end of World War II. Pulitzer followed the principles of nature and therefore placed a round stone fountain in the center of the square. The leading thought in his design was that of rationalism, following that time European architectural flows. He used simple strong lines and bright clean surfaces. Respecting the Mediterranean tradition, he used a semicircular arc along with rectangular solutions, making his architectural compositions playful not only linearly but also deeply thanks to light and shadow play. However, Pulitzer was not satisfied only with the above. He added traditional, local, Istrian elements to the modern and contemporary, European style, as can be seen in the usage of baladur element (a covered outdoor corridor) and a skillful use of the local stone. Because of all that Pulitzer’s architecture, consisting of all important rationalism and modernist features seen in the example of Raša, became a sort of a model for urban planning of the new settlements, which was later used in Carbonia, Sabaudia and across Italy.

The post-war Raša experienced a sort of a paradoxical fate. On one side, due to its unintentional fascist history it was systematically neglected and  left to decay, whereas on the other it was celebrated and respected as the production site of the precious black gold, always aiming at its maximum exploitation. In the former Yugoslavia Raša was part of the municipality of Labin, returning its municipal status in the Republic of Croatia. Since then continuous efforts are being made in order to valorize this significant mining center.