The rebuilding of Zadar was a major talking point for Croatia’s post-war rulers. An initial plan put forward by architects Zenko Strižić and Božidar Rašica envisaged clearing much of the Old Town on the peninsula and building a modernist-inspired city in its place. However there was a competing desire among Croatian intellectuals to preserve as much of the city’s historical heritage as they could, and the radical plan was never enacted. The urge to revitalize Zadar’s cultural inheritance was another important plank in the city’s post-war reconstruction. Writer and intellectual Miroslav Krleža was sent to Zadar in 1949 to oversee an exhibition entitled Gold and Silver of Zadar, based on the artistic treasures salvaged from the city’s churches. Not only did this exhibition lead to the establishment of the The Gold and Silver of Zadar museum that still exists in the city’s Benedictine Convent of St Mary’s, it also helped create a Croatia-wide wave of interest in Zadar, boosting the reconstructing city’s morale.
It was Krleža that presided over the competition for a new urban plan. The winning proposal, by Bruno Milić, left more room for Zadar’s historic buildings, but again portrayed Zadar as a utopian city of the future, filled with rectangular blocks of concrete. Milić’s Zadar plan definitely caught the spirit of the age and was turned into an exhibition that toured Europe, visiting Paris, Milan, Moscow and London - before being shelved by the Croatian authorities as far too costly and ambitious.
However the architectural visions of the Fifties, however over-optimistic, played a major part in determining contemporary Zadar’s appearance. Leading modernist architects were the ones who got the job of designing most of the new buldings. It was Rašica and Milić, for example, who built the boxes-on-stilts buildings that line Zadar’s main street, the Kalelarga.