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Designing Tito's Capital

Designing Tito's Capital: Urban Planning, Modernism, and Socialism in Belgrade

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    Designing Tito's Capital
    Book Description:

    The devastation of World War II left the Yugoslavian capital of Belgrade in ruins. Communist Party leader Josip Broz Tito saw this as a golden opportunity to recreate the city through his own vision of socialism. InDesigning Tito's Capital, Brigitte Le Normand analyzes the unprecedented planning process called for by the new leader, and the determination of planners to create an urban environment that would benefit all citizens.Led first by architect Nikola Dobrovic and later by Miloš Somborski, planners blended the predominant school of European modernism and the socialist principles of efficient construction and space usage to produce a model for housing, green space, and working environments for the masses. A major influence was modernist Le Corbusier and hisAthens Charterpublished in 1943, which called for the total reconstruction of European cities, transforming them into compact and verdant vertical cities unfettered by slumlords, private interests, and traffic congestion. As Yugoslavia transitioned toward self-management and market socialism, the functionalist district of New Belgrade and its modern living were lauded as the model city of socialist man.The glow of the utopian ideal would fade by the 1960s, when market socialism had raised expectations for living standards and the government was eager for inhabitants to finance their own housing. By 1972, a new master plan emerged under Aleksandar Ðordevic, fashioned with the assistance of American experts. Espousing current theories about systems and rational process planning and using cutting edge computer technology, the new plan left behind the dream for a functionalist Belgrade and instead focused on managing growth trends. While the public resisted aspects of the new planning approach that seemed contrary to socialist values, it embraced the idea of a decentralized city connected by mass transit.Through extensive archival research and personal interviews with participants in the planning process, Le Normand's comprehensive study documents the evolution of 'New Belgrade' and its adoption and ultimate rejection of modernist principles, while also situating it within larger continental and global contexts of politics, economics, and urban planning.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7954-8
    Subjects: History, Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

    (pp. xi-2)

    At the end of the Second World War, the city of Belgrade lay in ruins. Having been subjected to eleven separate Allied bombing raids, it incurred further destruction from the occupation forces as they retreated during the Belgrade offensive that ended with the liberation of the city. By November 1944, the fighting had completely destroyed the city’s rail network, damaged 80 percent of its tramway network, wrecked nearly all of its trams and buses, and rendered 18 percent of its water supply and sewage lines unusable. Nearly half of its buildings—12,889 out of 30,000—were either damaged or destroyed.¹...

    (pp. 3-24)

    The first step to understanding the rise and fall of modernist functionalist urban planning in Yugoslavia is to survey what scholars have written about other contexts. First, these studies can provide hints of what to look for in the Yugoslav case. Second, modernist functionalist planning is fundamentally an approach that transcends national boundaries, because it was developed collaboratively by an international (if heavily Eurocentric) group of architects; because architects the world over put it into practice; and because its success or failure was bound up with economic, political, and cultural trends that were global in nature.

    A variety of thinkers,...

    (pp. 25-72)

    The partisan regime that had newly secured its hold on power did not merely want to recreate the Belgrade of the past—it wished to profoundly transform the city and to refashion it in the image of the new political and social order. Tito’s regime was patterned on the Soviet Union, and as such its main goal was to transform Yugoslavia into a modern, industrialized state based on an egalitarian social order. The Politburo, which controlled policy, had a particular understanding of what form that modernization would take, one that echoed Stalin’s “revolution from above” of the late 1920s and...

    (pp. 73-102)

    The conceptualization of a transfigured socialist Belgrade took place during a particularly difficult period characterized by severe material shortages and political instability. Until 1947, the Yugoslav Communist Party concentrated on rebuilding the city’s shattered infrastructure and industry and securing basic housing for a swelling population, while consolidating its power. That year, Tito’s regime officially transitioned from reconstruction to building socialism, launching the state’s first five-year plan, based on the hypercentralized Stalinist model for modernization. It was in this context that urban planners began to work on Belgrade’s master plan and that architects began to imagine how workers might live in...

    (pp. 103-146)

    Belgrade’s first master plan of the socialist era, adopted in 1950, promised to turn the city into a beacon of modernity by putting into practice modernist functionalist urbanism, as described in the Athens Charter. Because it advocated the more or less exclusive building of collective housing, this approach was well suited both economically and ideologically to Tito’s regime, which aimed to modernize Yugoslavia but disposed of limited resources. But even though town planners in a socialist state were equipped with a transforming vision and seemingly unprecedented power to determine the shape of the city, the process of developing the master...

  6. FIVE PLANNING UNDONE: “Wild” Construction and the Market Reforms
    (pp. 147-188)

    As belgrade entered the major construction boom of the 1960s, planners designed settlements that were mostly variations on the same theme. Whether in New Belgrade or in Miljakovac, Julino Brdo, or Braće Jerković, new developments were designed according to similar principles. This included the selection of one or a few building models that were then strategically disposed on a particular site, according to its relationship to the sun and prevailing winds and to important elements in the landscape. In New Belgrade, the river, the skyline of old Belgrade, and preexisting structures were all features that influenced the design of particular...

  7. SIX MODERNISM UNDER FIRE: The Changing Attitudes of Social Scientists and Urban Designers in 1960s Yugoslavia
    (pp. 189-212)

    The difficulties encountered in the construction of New Belgrade and the struggle against rogue construction in the 1960s highlighted the difficulties Belgrade’s urban planners faced in applying the Athens Charter to the Yugoslav context. The charter had not turned out to be the panacea that town planners had promised in 1950. Although many of the problems that compromised the success of New Belgrade and other new settlements on Belgrade’s periphery, such as the insufficient and late provision of landscaping, shops, and community centers, could not be blamed on modernist planning principles, this planning approach came to be equated in the...

  8. SEVEN MODERNITY REDEFINED: The 1972 Master Plan
    (pp. 213-242)

    In 1966, the city of belgrade mandated the development of a new master plan. After pursuing the Athens Charter ideal for sixteen years, the Town Planning Institute opted for a new approach. It hired Wayne State University to complete a land use−transportation study that would guide the new master plan. The Town Planning Institute was motivated to do this for a number of reasons. For one, the experience of the past decade had highlighted a number of weaknesses in the Athens Charter model as it had been applied in the case of Belgrade. In 1950, the Belgrade Town Planning Institute...

    (pp. 243-248)

    The story of modernist functionalist planning in Belgrade, from its initial adoption and interpretation, through its reinterpretation, to its ultimate abandonment, provides a number of insights about urban planning in an evolving socialist state. While there are many evident similarities with urban planning in the Socialist Bloc—in particular the state’s handling of housing provision, the ensuing endemic housing shortage, and the concentrated efforts to resolve it—the parallels between the trajectory of modernist planning in Belgrade and in the capitalist world are perhaps more striking. As in Western Europe and elsewhere around the world, the emergence of a national...