It would appear that this small and lovely square was destined from the very beginning to be the subject of contention between interest groups. Below is a short overview of the stormy history of Cvjetni Square.
150 years ago, Mr. Josip Siebenschein, a wealthy trader and head of the Jewish municipality requested a permit from the City Assembly for the construction of a home on the southern side of what was then
Margaretska Square. In 1865, the City Assembly granted Mr. Siebenschein a permit for the construction of a palace. However, Franjo Hranilović, a retail trader, contested the permit before the Assembly and requested the permit be revoked and Mr. Siebenschein be forbidden to build his palace. Mr. Siebenschein also filed an appeal, which the Assembly accepted, and with this Cvjetni Square received the first contours of its present day appearance. Construction of the palace was finally completed in 1877.
Theatres and banks
At that time, the idea arose to build a theatre on Margaretska Square, though in the end the project was moved to the city lands on today’s Maršala Tita Square. Instead of a theatre building, the future Cvjetni Square receive a bank palace that had an octagon, pedestrian passage between Ilica and the future square, connecting it with Siebenschein’s palace and the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Holy Conversion.
The construction of two monumental palaces, the Croatian Discount Bank and the First Croatian Saving’s Bank began in 1898. The palace of the First Croatian Savings Bank is one of the largest architectural complexes erected in the Lower City in the 19th century and is an example of a new urban element, a lovely pedestrian connection between the main trading street, Ilica, with Preradovićeva (Cvjetni) Square.
At the end of the 19th century, when the remaining houses between the Siebenschein palace and the Orthodox church were torn down, Preradovićeva (Cvjetni) Square received its present day appearance.
Square without a monument
Several years later, the citizens proposed that the square named after poet Petar Preradović should also feature his monument. Milan Lenuci, head of the City Construction Office was against the proposal of the monument, considering that “there is no structure on Preradovićeva Square that could be a suitable background for a monument which, in the large square space of the square, would lose all impressiveness”.
In 1913, a public competition was opened to modernise the square, which included the idea of raising a monument to Petar Preradović, then standing in front of the Art Pavilion. Of the four concepts submitted, two were awarded, but none were realised. After World War I, the Metropol cinema, later called the Kaptol cinema, was built on the square at number 12. In 1924, a two-part house was built on Samostanska Street, today’s Varšavska Street, at numbers 2 and 2a, on the designs of Hugo Ehrlich. With its narrow façade, the house defined the corner of that street with Preradovićeva Square, and in 1933, an adaptation devastated the Siebenschein house on the southern side of the square. The monument to Petar Preradović was not transferred to the square until 1954.
Changes on the horizon
In summer 1996, Preradovićeva Square was remodelled after the award winning design by architects Mihajl Kranjec and Berislav Šebetić. It became a pedestrian zone and took on an appearance similar to a Parisian flower square, which aroused very conflicting reactions of the citizens. The restless spirit of the square suggested that new changes would soon take place.
The City of Zagreb was informed of the intent to realise the Cvjetni project on 9 May 2006. From that point on until its opening in spring 2011, when Cvjetni was handed over to its owners and lessees, the dispute between those for and against the project multiplied. It took almost four years to obtain all the required permits, and less than two to complete construction.
Today, when Cvjetni is an uncontested part of the urban fibre of Croatia’s capital, it can be assumed that most of what has happened on Preradovićeva Square in the recent past will soon be forgotten, as its distant past has also been slowly forgotten.