Ivan Štraus' Legacy

Ivan Štraus, the architect responsible for many symbols of BiH’s capital city, passed away in late August 2018 at the age of 90.


His buildings have had a tremendous impact on the skyline of the city where he spent most of his life. Very few architects since the time of the great Josip Vancaš have managed to do the same.

While walking around Sarajevo, it’s impossible not to notice the monumental objects he designed: Hotel Holiday Inn (Holiday), the UNIS skyscrapers (UNITIC), the Elektroprivreda BiH building, the skyscraper and shopping center in Grbavica, the Church of St. Francis in Dobrinja….

Active during a period of political stability and economic growth, his works followed the Socialist Yugoslavia Modernism style, which was much more open than the architecture of the Eastern Bloc and closer to styles used in Western Europe.

Useful sculptures

Architectural theorists called Štraus’ works “useful sculptures.” Perhaps this can best be seen in a building from 1978. In the shape of dam, it symbolized the production of electricity and is home to Elektroprivreda BiH.

The building was damaged during the Siege of Sarajevo, and, in 2001, Štraus had a chance to re-build it, keeping the concrete construction in place up to the second floor and redoing the rest in green instead of copper.

When his yellow-brown Holiday Inn Hotel was built at Cirkus Plaza in 1983, just a year before the XIV WOG were to be held, everyone thought it was a joke and that his idea was too extravagant.

Štraus imagined it as “a city in a hotel, which you have no need to leave,” and his vision came to fruition during the Siege of the 1990s, when the hotel was home to international peacekeepers and war correspondents.

In 1986, only two years after the Olympics, Štraus’ UNIS commercial skyscrapers-twin buildings popped up near Holiday Inn. The towers were known to Sarajevans as “Momo and Uzeir.”  

The 97-meter-high concrete skyscrapers, with 25 floors and thermal reflective glass, were in keeping with the architectural trends of contemporary BiH construction. Despite the heavy damage caused during the Siege, they were not demolished and they now house commercial spaces, shops and hospitality facilities, a congress hall….

Awards and recognition

Štraus was unable to see the completion of his final project, the opening of the renovated Olympics Museum of BiH, which will open its doors in 2019.

Ivan Štraus (1928-1918) was born in Kremna, a village in Serbia, he grew up in Banja Luka and studied architecture in Zagreb and Sarajevo.

He received the City of Sarajevo April 6th Award, as well as around 30 major architecture awards. He was a regular member of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of BiH and a foreign member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.