July 21, 2008

New Belgrade - the future?

New Belgrade was a no-man's-land between the borders of the two empires: the Ottoman's Orient and the Austro-Hungarian Occident. The potential of this " tabula rasa site" was that it could be completely planned from scratch. The first post war plan of New Belgrade, "Sketch for the regulation of Belgrade on the left bank of the river Sava", was designed in 1946, by one of the most prominent modern yugoslavian architects, Nikola Dobrović (I already posted about him here and here). He planned a radial plan (starting at the new railway station) of administrative sector with some twenty buildings for the federal ministries, Presidency of the Government and the Communist Party headquarters, and that plan for the left bank was used as a basis for the major architectural competitions held in 1947. Dobrović's radial plan was rejected by the competitors, they proposed a functional organisation of orthogonal urban structure with the two main state and party buildings as the centre pieces of the urbanistic composition. So for exemple buildings like the SIV and like the USCE Tower were part of this plan. But in 1950, the whole process of planning and construction of New Belgrade abruptly stopped as a consequence of the political and economic crisis arising from the break-up of Yugoslavia with the Soviet Union and the Eastern block. When New Belgrade was eventually, largely realized, in the 1960s and 1970s, it was not as the complex centre of the Federation, but as a city of another predominant function, that of housing.

For the housing the CIAM's concept of functional city (and primarily Le Corbusier's ideas of a city as an idealised image of a new social model: soleil, espace, verdure) were used. While the housing blocks largely followed the urbanistic Plan, the architectural expression differed according to changes in design paradigms of the time. It was a monumental showcase of prefab flats. The housing function followed the ideological premise that a place of residence/apartment (here comes the socialism) is not only a commodity, but a universal right to the common public good (like free apartment and free social services for all). As a consequence, New Belgrade was realized as a city in the public/common property, and, over a long period, a city with no internal economic dynamics. Depending entirely on the state intervention, it was totally cut off from the conditions of its own reproduction. Instead of harbouring vital urban functions, the centre of New Belgrade, remained an economic, social and physical void. Failing to integrate collective social housing into a coherent urban space, it actually became an empty field of disjunction.

Today, in the conditions of contemporary change of socio-political paradigms, 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.
But instead to see some concepts being discussed, we are witnessing how rampant economical growth and demand bring us some noteworthy situations:

Extentions on top of the buildings

new commercial buildings

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