New Belgrade: no man's land -> alternative capital -> housing without urbanity (Blagojevic)

posted by istanbul on 2009/08/03 11:10

[ City, art, and architecture in Tito's Yugoslavia ]

An interesting piece on New Belgrade by Ljilijana Blagojevic, author of Modernism in Serbia: The Elusive Margins of Belgrade Architecture, 1919-1941 (2003, reviews: 1,2,3; excerpt), can be found at the site of the Croatian e-mag art-e-fact: strategies of resistance (here). It is, in fact, the English original of an article published in German in 2004 here. She argues the following: New Belgrade was a modern city built after WWII on former no-man’s land - a “cordon sanitaire” and “no-connection-zone” - between the (once Ottoman) Belgrade and the (once Habsburg) Zemun. Construction for what was then perceived as having the potential as the new capital city of Socialist Yugoslavia, or rather the capital of central state power belonging to no city, started in 1948. (Belgrade, after all, had a prehistory as the capital of a South Slav state.) New Belgrade was planned as architecturally self-referential and predominantly administration-focused. Its centre, in the first project, was the railway station around which were grouped governmental buildings and foreign embassies. Housing became only a part of the project for New Belgrade when, following Tito’s break with Stalin in 1948, the first concept was questioned and rethought. Construction resuming in the 1960s, New Belgrade became largely a site of housing, not of centralist governance. State policy now was “de-centralization”, in which climate such concentration was not found agreeable anymore. With housing as a “right” subsidized by the government, New Belgrade failed to emancipate itself from the state and long harboured no internal economic dynamics. "Today, in the conditions of contemporary change of socio-political paradigms,” Blagojevic concludes, “the unfinished open plan of New Belgrade is being rapidly filled by what is simplistically understood to have been lacking in the socialist epoch, namely, commercial and business development on the one side and orthodox churches on the other.”


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