Small is beautiful
After 11 years of work and struggle by the Jovicevics, the Watchman’s Hut finally received official recognition as “a building of local cultural significance” in 2015.
 “If we do not honour our past, we lose our future. If we destroy our roots, we cannot grow.”

                                     Friedensreich Hundertwasser



As active civilians, volunteers and donators Janko and Caroline Jovicevic have made a significant contribution to Montenegro and continue to set an example of what can be achieved by committed, passionate individuals who are willing to fight for a cause they believe in


  Creating new standards


Janko was born in Cetinje. When he was 18, he left his hometown to attend university in Belgrade, where he subsequently worked and married. During the war in 1991, he left Belgrade to start a new life in USA. Caroline was born in Zimbabwe, grew up in Tanzania and Kenya, was educated in UK and travelled the world. When they met in Los Angeles, the bond was immediate between these two unusual individuals from such different backgrounds. Qualities they immediately recognized they had in common were courage, passion for making a positive contribution, high standards and a love of adventure and wild places. When Janko and Caroline came to Montenegro for a family visit in 2003, they had no plans to build a home here.


The watchman's view: Photo: Lazar Pejovic

Is it possible for a person to feel an immediate bond with a building or a place?


I wanted to find out what made them decide to build their unique house in a very isolated spot on the shore of Skadar lake in Skadar Lake National Park. They harmoniously created a place for themselves and their unique home in the landscape and followed a lifestyle that was in balance with the existing ecosystem.  Not only did they build their home, but they also made a relentless effort to protect one special building, the Watchman’s Hut as well as successfully completing ten projects to protect the environment in the immediate area from illegal building and exploitation. As active civilians, volunteers and donators, they have made a significant contribution to Montenegro and continue to set an example of what can be achieved by committed, passionate individuals who are willing to fight for a cause they believe in.


Photo: Lazar Pejovic

They were invited to exhibit a panel of photographs of their house at the Belgrade International Week of Architecture (BINA 2010) alongside other buildings representing Montenegro. The Jovicevic House received rave reviews.



I am one of a few fortunate people who has visited their extraordinary house, along with professors of architecture, anthropology and sociology from Washington DC, Berlin, London, Belgrade and Ljubljana who have also had that privilege.


The Watchman's Hut and the Jovicevic House: Brothers in stone. Photo: Vladimir Vojvodic

What follows is the story of Janko and Caroline Jovicevic and their great love for the places they chose to protect and cherish in the Karuc area. It is this passionate love that inspires their saga and has given them the strength to battle the ignorance, bad times and greedy people whose agenda is to turn a quick buck at nature’s expense. With profit as their mantra, these people unwittingly but irrevocably damage our natural and cultural heritage and bequeath only ugliness to the future.


Instant chemistry between Janko and Caroline and the Watchman’s Hut


Of course. It’s very like falling in love at first sight with a person”, was the unhesitating reply to my question. “There is instant chemistry. You recognize that place as a friend and bond with it instantly. You know that you would do anything to be close to it and take care of it. The first intuitive commitment comes straight from the heart and is often not logical. But after that you start to use reason and understanding to rationalize the relationship and to ground it in practical reality.


The Watchman's Hut and the Jovicevic House: Brothers in stone. Photo: Lazar Pejovic

We came from Karuc by boat and when we rounded Karucki krs into Kaludjerovo oko and Djurovo oko, we saw a little stone building nestled into the rock like a small lake bird that had settled there to roost. It belonged completely and authentically to the environment. Its local greystone walls and weathered tile roof blended with the surrounding rock. It had such a natural, unpretentious integrity. It simply took our breath away. It really was love at first sight.


The Watchman's Hut looks like a small lake bird that has settled on the rock to rost. Photo:Lazar Pejovic

Two blue-framed windows look out like watchful eyes. The watchman would have looked out of these to protect Kaluderovo oko to the left and Djurovo oko to the right from poachers. (The “okos” - which translates as eyes - are places on the lakebed where freshwater springs bubble up. The fish love to congregate there.) It faces South to catch the sun. It is built high enough above the lake to avoid flooding. It is shielded from the wind by willow trees on the crescent island of Osredak in front and protected by the rugged karst which rises sharply behind.”


                     The battle to protect the Watchman’s Hut


Janko and Caroline never questioned whether or not the Watchman’s Hut was worth protecting. Right away they felt and knew that it was a uniquely important and valuable building. Caroline wrote several newspaper articles about it in Vijesti and a magazine article in Monitor. The stand taken by the Jovicevics resulted in it being registered as a building of local cultural significance by the Directorate for the Protection of Cultural Property. It took 11 years to get the building protected. It was finally officially protected on 27th March, 2015, after the law had changed to allow this. Before that the Jovicevics saved it from some people who wanted to make use of its tiles and stone, and when a powerful person wanted to knock it down and build a weekend house on the site, they rallied well-known figures (architects, artists, university professors, lawyers and others) to support their initiative to protect it. They battled to get its ownership registered in the name of City Hall Cetinje so that it would not be usurped by speculators, which has been the fate of many of the 16 other watchmen’s huts on Skadar Lake. It has been a constant battle. What made it worth such a fight?


After 11 years of work and struggle by the Jovicevics, the Watchman’s Hut finally received official recognition as “a building of local cultural significance” in 2015.


“The Watchman’s Hut has cultural, historical, aesthetic, architectural and touristic (economic) value,” assert the Jovicevics “and it is valuable as part of the ecology of the Karuc lagoon. These are some of the reasons it was worth fighting for.  The Watchman’s Hut is a starting point from which to recount the historical story of the fishing culture on the lake. It has a value for tourism because of this and as a place for families to come and enjoy a day out swimming and having a picnic or rest after kayaking. It is a great place from which to watch birds and enjoy nature. And it is an example of appropriate architecture in a natural setting. Unfortunately, there are so many illegal, badly built and inappropriate buildings on the shore of Skadar Lake. The Watchman’s Hut - and our home - are refreshing exceptions to this negative trend.


The Watchman's Hut. Photo: Lazar Pejovic

We immediately understood and respected the person who had built the Watchman’s Hut around seventy years ago. We admired his discretion and instinct for architectural appropriateness. He built to meet the watchman’s needs and took just enough from nature to achieve that end: he made a place big enough for a cot, table, chair and stove. We thought about the example this building could set for those whose ego drives them to build buildings that are too big and too ostentatious for human comfort; who use materials and colors that clash with the natural surroundings; who pollute and devastate nature without a care.


A love of nature passed on to the nextgeneration. Photo: Janko Jovicevic

We came back to explore the area further and found a beautiful site not far from the Watchman’s Hut. It already had a broken-down fisherman’s house on it, which set the precedent for us to build our home legally in that location and to obtain a use permit upon completion. We started to think about building a home that would complement the Watchman’s Hut and fit in with the natural surroundings. Our plan incorporated all the same sound principles that were applied in the Watchman’s Hut and included more of our own. For example, we used recycled materials to create an authentic, weathered look. We built an ecological grey water filtration system for the household water that does not pollute the lake and we installed a Swedish composting toilet so that we did not need to dig a septic field that might seep into the lake.”

 Interviewed by: Radmila Krgovic


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