November 23, 2008

Balkanology in Switzerland

Picture: Tom Bisig, Basel

Saturday I visited the Balkanology Exhibition in the Swiss Architecture Museum (SAM). A very nicely done exhibition that shows projects in pictures and films and probably it's the first time that an exhibition is dedicated to the Balkan region (reduced to Jugoslavia and Albania) in Switzerland. Here the press release.

What I liked, it's that an exhibition of this little-known architecture was presented to a broad audience here in Switzerland and it gives good explanation about the socio-poilitical changes in the region and their impact on the architecture.

From architectural masteripieces of the past with "iconic" effect like: The Museum of Modern Art in New Belgrade, 1965 (Ivan Antić und Ivanka Raspopović), The Federal Ministry of Defence in Belgrade, 1963 (Nikola Dobrović), the National Library in Pristina, 1983 (Andrija Mutnjaković) or the Yugoslavian Pavillion in the World Exhibition in Brussel of 1958 (Vjenceslav Richter) to new projects that are about to be realized like: The reconstruction of the Usce Tower in New Belgrade, 2006 (Slavija biro and ARCVS), A Media Center for Novi Sad, 2007 (Srdjan Jovanović Weiss / NAO) or the new proposal for the terazije Plateau, 2010 (Re:act), the exhibition covers a lot of outstanding buildings.
(The buildings above are already covered or will be soon covered on this blog, that's why I mentioned these)

Another part of the exhibition is dedicated to Urbanist Studies: of Belgrade (from Dubravka Sekulić und Ivan Kucina), of Zagreb (from Platforma 9,81) and of Prishtina (from Archis Interventions) and to Urbanist Interventions: of Tirana (Co-Plan) and Kotor (EXPEDITIO).

What I didn't like so much about this "Balkanology" is, that from several points of few, it ends up always to the same conclusion, that the Balkan Region can get rid of its "negative image" and its problems by adopting more of a Western approach of planning and to learn to be avare of the devastation of environment by inadequate building.
Is this environment adequate behavior?

On one side it's pretty ridiculous, to pretend that for instance a country that got bombed and some of its most significant buildings got destroyed should understand the meaning of "environment adequate behavior" and on the other side, it's questionable if the "balkan"-image is really just a negative identity that needs to be broken down.
random improvisation (from LHE)

Isn't the diversity, the exotism and the improvisation that comes with the "balkan" word even an advantage that could make a brand, the "balkan brand", an instrument to give this region an identity back, a positiv fascinating identity, without necessarily using Western benchmarks ?!

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