The SKGJ pursued these various paths of inquiry in 1956 with the organization of the First Yugoslav Congress on Housing Construction and Habitation in Cities and the exhibit “A Dwelling for Our Conditions, ” both held in Lju-bljana. The congress approached the problem of housing construction from multiple perspectives: the legal framework of housing ownership and usage, selfmanagement within apartment buildings, the financing of construction, the production of construction materials, urbanism, decorating, and research activities. It reaffirmed the state’s central role in the production of housing and the concomitant importance of reducing the cost of construction. This would be accomplished through the mechanizing and industrializing of building, the development of new materials and building concepts, and the careful lim-itation of city size.
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The 1956 exhibit “A Dwelling for Our Conditions” provided a graphic representation of the architectural profession’s idea of what a home should be like: modern, compact, efficient, and relaxing. The exhibit showcased the power of.
The exhibit held in Ljubljana in 1956 sought to demonstrate that Yugoslav socialism could, in fact, provide an attractive way of life to its citizens. The very title of the exhibit “A Dwelling for Our Conditions” conveys restraint. The cover of the exhibit catalog is eloquent: modern graphics are used to de-pict a giant ant superimposed over a stylized floor plan including a toilet, a stovetop, and a sink. The ant was to convey the ideas of the tireless worker, the highly organized living space, and the disciplined and highly efficient society, while the floor plan called attention to the modern conveniences of the late twentieth-century apartment. 50 But this was not the Yugoslav equivalent of the Soviet response to the American propaganda offensive, which Castillo de-scribed as “a more disciplined alternative” focused on producing time-saving appliances. 51 Echoing the advertising campaigns for washing machines de-scribed by Patrick H. Patterson, the exhibit skillfully wove a stylish fantasy of the “good life. ?52
A photo essay in Arhitektura magazine featured images shown in the ex-hibit, depicting small but fashionably furnished rooms with a modernist ur-ban aesthetic, designed by Yugoslav applied-design firms. The photographs project a feeling of cool sophistication, of leisure, even of understated glamour. In one, a woman in a demure black dress glides from the terrace into the living room, showcasing a sleek wall shelf unit, chair, and floor light. In another, an elegantly dressed woman flirtatiously leans over her chair’s backrest, smiling at a man in a collared shirt seated across the room in a modernist chair, as they share afternoon drinks. The scenes feature one or two models or none at all, preventing the tiny spaces from looking crowded there are no children, ei-ther. These images capture the design community’s interpretation of the home as a private oasis, where the worker could recharge his batteries. The designers refrained, however, from incorporating any elements of working-class culture. This was a fantasy of middle-class living, a sort of IKEA catalog of the 1950s,
Home Design 3.2. The exhibit “A Dwelling for Our Conditions” featured a winning apartment design for a townhouse or “terrace house” by Janez Lajovic, Vladimir Music, Anton Pibernik, and Savin Sever. From Stan za nase pnlike: izlozba = Housing for Our Conditions; Exhibition (Ljubljana: Izdanje Stalna konferencija gradova Jugoslavije, 1957), exhibit catalog. Complete with a sensual, presumably stay-at-home wife. The familiarity of the designs and the images illustrates the extent to which the Yugoslav idea of the “good life” used the United States as a point of reference. 53 The portrayal of women is particularly remarkable, given the regime’s efforts at the time to in-clude women in the workforce. Other photographs focused on the clever use of space. Readers could see elaborate modular shelving systems that also displayed artwork and a fold-away desk. The desk was very discreet, however: the point was not to distract from the ambiance of leisure. In the kitchen conspicuously empty of activ-ity ingenious and stylish cabinetry organized and concealed the wife’s cook-ing paraphernalia. Living in a modern way also included taking advantage of Home Design 3.3. Garden and living room furniture designed by Niko Kralj, Mirjana Simanovic, and Janez Lajovic, as part of the exhibit “A Dwelling for Our Conditions. ? From “Izlozba Stan za nase prilike, ” Arhitektura 10, nos. 1-6 (1956): 33.
What was socialist about this version of the good life? Or, more to the point, was there anything specifically socialist about it? Perhaps the only iden-tifiable difference from the American exhibits described by Castillo was the.