Consequently, in 1965, an architectural competition was launched for an 8.2-hectare center in the heart of the third and fourth districts, the most pop-ulated area of New Belgrade, on the flanks of blocks 11b, 11c, and 9a, serving a population of forty thousand. Each block would handle a different function, with block 9a serving cultural, leisure, sporting, and health needs; block 11c providing a department store, shopping mall, hotel, restaurants and cafes, and a movie theater; and block 11b addressing administrative needs such as offices, a police station, and a post office.
Block 11c was imagined as a center for modern consumerism, where every need and desire could be fulfilled in a retail paradise that would reflect the lat-est advances in marketing science. The Office for the Progress of Retail, Hos-telry, and Tourism (Zavod za unapredenje trgovina, ugostiteljstva i turizma) had drawn up a precise list of shops that would need to be included, based on the norms set out in the regulation plan. The retail and service boutiques (tai-lors, hairdressers, dry cleaners, etc.) alone would occupy more than sixty-eight hundred square meters of surface area, not including service areas. Even the covered farmers’ market would become the site of a modern shopping experi-ence. It would encompass “the widest assortment of a variety of goods, large-scale offer and demand, and the most efficient layout for commerce overall.”71 The competition guidelines put emphasis on efficiency, on creating a space that allowed buyers to see and evaluate all the goods available at a quick glance and that allowed sellers to efficiently market their goods. Thus, the market’s purpose would be twofold: to provide a favorable environment for commer-cial transactions and to socialize buyers and sellers into particular patterns of behavior that were associated with modern consumerism. “This,” the shopping center would proclaim, “is how people shop in a modern society.”72 Once it was built, the shopping center came to be known by the name of the depart-ment store that dominated it: Mercator.
Contemporary observers referred to the deficiency in New Belgrade of all those facilities that are central to urban life stores, restaurants, repair shops, schools, movie theaters, and so on as a “lag,” implying that, in time, these places would be built. However, these absences continued to plague New Bel-grade throughout the socialist era. Perhaps most glaring of all was the failure to ever realize the highest-order center of New Belgrade, the three central blocks. These blocks, intended to act as a spine for the settlement and an at-traction for the entire city, remained vacant, a powerful symbol of the regime’s inability to materialize its promises.
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The dearth of public gathering spaces, beyond the objectively vast land-scaped outdoor spaces that were realized, handicapped town planners in their objectives of giving physical expression to self-management and providing workers the opportunity to live a modern life. If citizens were not able to experience the local community by gathering at the local community center, it was unlikely they would ever identify with this political and administrative unit. They were equally unlikely to meet their neighbors at the nonexistent shops on the ground floor of their building. Moreover, their environment seemed to discourage sociability and encourage households to live private lives, confined to their apartments. They would not learn to shop in the modern way by traveling halfway across town to provision themselves at a faraway farm-ers’ market. Nor would they learn about modern life at the movie theater, the cultural circle, or the library. To the dismay of town planners, who had envisioned something far more complex, the “human needs of the little worker” were narrowed down to one simple element: the modern apartment.
Even had the town planners been able to deliver on all their promises, would the citizens of New Belgrade have been entirely satisfied? There are in-triguing hints that they did not entirely embrace the vision of the modern city thrust upon them by town planners. When plans were announced to erect a large-scale garage with a service station on an empty lot facing the “Na-Ma” department store at the corner of Pariska komuna and Narodni heroji ave-nues, neighboring inhabitants organized opposition to the project. They were afraid of the noise and traffic that would result. The author of a study of New Belgrade in 1968 marveled at the response, noting that “citizens in this way not only expressed lack of trust toward town planners and architects, who care about the peace and quiet, needs and comfort, of inhabitants and the appear-ance of buildings, but turned down a necessary building for tens of their own cars, which now stand in front of their building.”73
In addition to shedding light on the deficiencies of the economic system that framed the development of new settlements, New Belgrade also provides in-sight into the long-term impact of market socialism. Starting in 1962, the fed-eral government began to introduce market mechanisms into the economy in order to improve the competitiveness of Yugoslav industry. In the housing sec-tor, economic policy makers assigned an increasingly central role to consum-ers in driving the economy. In the words of Momcilo Markovic, “an apartment is a consumer good a possible object of personal ownership, and it’s helpful to aid every person who has the means to build or buy an apartment.”74 It was thought that, if construction companies had to compete for clients, the cost of housing would be brought down. In March of 1964, Svetozar Tempo Vuk-manovic warned that personal incomes had not increased sufficiently to allow personal consumption to stimulate the economy. That summer, the Chamber for the Economy and the Social Plan of the Federal Executive Council reiterated this point and resolved to “increase the role of personal consumption in the satisfaction of the standard of living” and “create the conditions for eliminating direct and gradually lessen indirect subsidies.”75 In Belgrade, municipal councilors adopted legislation in 1964 enabling individuals to purchase their own apartments with the help of loans from their employer. This possibility was made available to all Yugoslav households in 1965 as part of the economic reforms of the same year.76
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