Liquid architecture: the sea organ of Zadar

Don’t you love it when art exceeds your expectations?


We knew what we were looking for, having traveled to Zadar, Croatia just for this purpose, but still we were surprised as the lilting, moaning music emerged through the misty afternoon on the coastal promenade.

The Sea Organ is a perfect work of art.  (Or is it architecture?  A musical instrument?)  However you label it, Nikola Bašić’s  2005 Sea Organ is flawlessly installed.  The inventive organ pipes imbedded in marble stairs leading into the sea on the outermost edge of this walled city are activated by waves hitting the openings of the organ.

I bet you want to know what it sounds like, huh?

(Listen carefully and you can hear HOB hiss at me “Turn off the camera!” at the end of the video.  His need to micromanage my use of electronics is one his more endearing characteristics).

As you can see in the video, we visited during a placid day, though as we lingered boats would occasionally pass by, whipping up the organ into a fortissimo frenzy.  The resulting sound is a haunting and lovely composition scored by chance operation (I felt the smile of John Cage, somewhere close by off the pastel, dusky horizon).

The Sea Organ is also an urban planning and tourism win.  Zadar, a dynamic city bursting with Roman, medieval and Baroque era  architecture, was bombed more than 70 times during WWII.  Replacing the post-war brutalist reconstruction with an art installation of extraordinary caliber is not only drawing in tourists but pleasing locals as well.


Adjacent to the Sea Organ on Zadar’s promenade, but only visible at night, is Bašić’s Greeting to the Sun.  This instillation is another ingenious invention, which stores up solar energy during the day using it to produce an after-dark spectacle of randomly illuminated colored lights.


Just like the Sea Organ, Greeting to the Sun is a wonderful work of public art—needing no explanation, meditative and most of all, fun.

All you urban planners and city council suit-wearers out there (because I know you’re all reading this blog, right?); take note.  This is what progressive design looks like.  Great art wins for everyone.


How we got to Zadar: bus from Zagreb.

Where we slept: Apartment Bagi.  Price: €40 for a double.  Recommended: highly.



  1. Hello
    Loved reading the piece on travel.I am one of those arm chair travelers. Some day I hope to make it for real … thank you. How I wish Indian architects could think of using public space for some thing so attractive..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you adhyapika. Believe me, I do plenty of arm chair traveling myself!

      I haven’t been to India yet but I am eager to see the gorgeous architecture there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is the first time I’ve heard of a sea organ. Is it the first of its kind? 🙂 I love it!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love it too! Yes, I do believe this is a one of a kind organ.

      I’m collecting one of a kind organ experiences, my other favorite being the John Cage organ installation in Halberstadt, Germany, which is set to play one piece of music for over 600 years:

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for sharing information about the John Cage organ installation. I think it’s amazing that it’s set to play just one piece of music for over 600 years. Definitely worth the visit!!

        We have a Spanish-era bamboo organ in the Philippines. I hope that you and the Husband of Bath can check it out one day: 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. For a few months in the 90s, I traveled almost weekly from dreary (under sanctions) Knin to Zadar for meetings with authorities. Gloomy times and lots of damage and heartbreak between those two places – but we always looked forard to an amazing cappuccino and a glimpse of the sea. Now I’ve added it to one of the places I’d like to return. Looks like they’ve done amazing things to that little gem on the Adriatic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So heartbreaking to think of this culturally rich area with all that destruction. Agreed, you need to come back in more optimistic times and have a cappuccino. Can you still speak Croatian?


      1. I was never really could beyond shopping and weather small talk! I’m a pathetic American in that way.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Croatia has been on my list for a few years now, but I keep pushing it off in favor of travel to more “typical” cities (London, Paris, Munich, etc). Your posts always remind me that great cities exist outside the popular tourist destinations and that I really do need to broaden my horizons! I think our next trip will be to Spain/Portugal, but after that – Croatia/Slovenia.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Erin–I am happy that I’ve encouraged you to visit Croatia. It has definitely been discovered by tourists, though, esp. Dubrovnik!


  5. I was there earlier this year, definitely my favourite spot in Zadar!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was fun to see the children interact with the art, wasn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it was really entertaining! ;P

        Liked by 1 person

  6. What an inspired idea! Thanks for posting the video: it sounds lovely and unpredictable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading, I. J. Khanewala. It must be wonderful for people who live in Zadar to hear the organ in different weather conditions and as a background to their spectacular sunsets.


  7. I just read about this! Glad to hear that it’s as awesome as it sounds. I wonder if the sound affects the nearby marine life–sounds like whales gossiping.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whales gossiping—I love it!


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