New Belgrade, the virtual capital of the Yugoslavia of Titus | Jelena Prokopljević

“We are happy to be able to realize your great idea of constructing New Belgrade and ready to use all our forces to expire with this great duty…”,

the letter was saying that on April 11, 1948 the juvenile brigades read to the Marshall Titus in the holiday of beginning of works in New Belgrade. Near 150.000 voluntary young persons they took part until 1950 in the construction of what he was imagining as the new capital of Yugoslavia. The human deployment was enormous: it is calculated that more than 30 million tons of sand were doomed to consolidate the area, which was raised artificially approximately 5 meters of average, to avoid the floods.

Sondeo de terreno en Nueva Belgrado, Boža Ilić, oleo de 1947
Poll of area in New Belgrade, Boža Ilić, flutter of 1947

Though the urban development plan of 1923 already was foreseeing the extension of Belgrade to another side of the river Sava and the first constructions were realized in the 30s, the change of regime after the World War II gave the impulse decisive to construct the new capital on the marshes of the confluence of the Sava in the Danube, between Belgrade and Zemun. The city was going to grow in former enemy territory: until 1918 of the Austro-Hungarian empire until 1945 of the State pro-Nazi of Croatia. The space that was offering that marsh, in spite of not having almost firm soil, was ideal for the architectural experimentation, because it was not forcing to formal commitments with the historical heritage not functional with the daily life of the city.

The creation of the new socialist company in a reunified multicultural Yugoslavia was looking in this area for his maximum representation. Behind the historical capital damaged in the bombardments of the World War II, at the end of 1946 the architectural contest was summoned to give form to three key buildings: the headquarters of the federal government, the building of the central committee of the Communist party and a hotel of the first category. There existed neither an urban development definite base nor a clear idea on how one would communicate the new city with the historical cores of Belgrade and Zemun.

The governmental headquarters and the hotel were subordinating themselves to the functionality, whereas the headquarters of the Party were imagining as a monument to the new power:

“the expression of the creative force, the powerful symbol of the Communist party, leader of the Yugoslavian peoples”.

It was going to be a skyscraper placed in front of Kalemegdan, the most ancient citadel of Belgrade, local version of the Utopian Palace of the Soviets of Moscow. The difficulty of the challenge did that the first prize was remaining desert, but it had 3 seconds and 5 third prizes. Other two projects were awarded to equipments of Croatian architects: the headquarters of the government to the architect Potocnjak and the hotel that would be call itself Yugoslavia the architect Horvat.

In the first years of postwar period the Yugoslavian culture was following the socialist realism and the architecture was formulated as “native in the form and Socialist in the content”. The Soviet model was coexisting with the language of the modern movement and the project that was started constructing for the headquarters of the government was next the socialist realism though with the inspired plant the famous Tsentrosoiuz, the only Le Corbusier´s building of in Moscow. After the break of relations with the USSR in June, 1948, Yugoslavia did a draft desestalinizador and the architects’ conference of Dubrovnik of 1950 was anticipated to Jrushchov’s speech of 1954 that he was condemning to the Stalinist monumentalismo. The new architecture would incline increasingly towards the socialist version of the international, simple style and funcionalista, that prioritizes the construction industrialized across prefabricated systems and projects type.

After years of stagnation of the construction in New Belgrade and projects repeated for the central committee, in the second half of the 50s there was awarded both this project and the ending of the headquarters of the government to Mihailo Jankovic, architect of the regime. The result, the CK tower  – or Ušće tower, since it was re-baptized after losing his political use in the years 90-, is a skyscraper funcionalista of influence Miesiana, inaugurated in 1964 as the highest building of Belgrade. In 1999 he remained damaged by the bombardments of the NATO, was reconstructed as part of the biggest mall of the region and still it waits for the construction of his “twin tower”. The first conference of the countries Not aligned of 1961 took place in newly inaugurated headquarters of the government. The building lost much of the monumentalidad and of the classicism of the initial project. Him gangplanks and lateral wings were added to underline his horizontal deployment, porches and colonnades to break based on shades his immense volumetry.

Tito con los autores del plan urbanístico del centro de Nueva Belgrado 1959
Titus with the authors of the urban development plan of the center of New Belgrade 1959

New Belgrade is today the district more settlement of Belgrade. His urbanism and his architecture incorporate ideas of the modern movement, as green spaces, light, air and the network viaria simple and tidy. The urban development organization in blocks of 400x400m is a fruit of the urban development plans of the 50s. In New Belgrade there worked the architects of more renown of Serbia and from the profession always his similarities have been highlighted by new cities as Brasilia or Chandigargh.

The most persistent critiques speak about the superhuman scale of his avenues of more than 80 meters of width, endless rows of housings and total contrast with the cozy historical center. 60 years ago New Belgrade was imagining as the new socialist capital. It does 30 bedroom was working like little more than a city. And today his big offices have there banks, companies of telecommunications and energetic, hotels of high category and both bigger malls of the region.

The socialist city modélica of the Yugoslavia of Titus already has two churches and residential enclosures of luxury. Though New Belgrade never managed to start the headquarters of the political power of the old city, it is turning today into the new business capital.

Proyecto para el centro comercial Ušće de 2003 con las torres gemelas
Project for the mall Usce of 2003 with the twin towers

Jelena Prokopljevic. PhD Architect
Barcelona. December 2013

Jelena Prokopljević

Arquitecta e investigadora serbia, titulada por la Universidad de Belgrado, y residente en Barcelona, miembro del Comité de Expertos del Premio Europeo del Espacio Público Urbano desde la edición del 2014. Se doctoró en 2006 en la ETSAB, ciudad en la que reside y trabaja. Ha colaborado con la plataforma Eurasian Hub en proyectos de transformación urbana y ha sido responsable del área de arquitectura y urbanismo en la Casa del Este, organización radicada en Barcelona y dedicada a promover la cooperación con la Europa Central y Oriental. Entre sus publicaciones más destacadas, consta el libro Corea del Norte: Utopía de hormigón; arquitectura y urbanismo al servicio de una ideología (escrito con Roger Mateos, 2012) y el artículo «Espacio público en la ciudad socialista: entre la abundancia y la indefinición», publicado en URBS, revista de estudios urbanos y ciencias sociales. Además, suele impartir conferencias y participar en coloquios en lugares como la ETSAB, la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB), la fundación Amigos de la UNESCO de Barcelona o la Universidad Ion Mincu de Bucarest. Prokopljević es miembro del Comité de expertos del Premio Europeo del Espacio Público Urbano desde su edición de 2014.

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