The strategies pursued by actors below (rogue builders) and the response by actors above (the party leadership) posed a serious challenge to urban plan-ners. The latter espoused a view of socialism, and of town planning’s place in state socialism, that emphasized collectivist solutions and gave a strong role to the state. In their estimation, the state needed to coordinate growth if it wanted the capital city to expand in an orderly manner and if it wanted to bring about an egalitarian social order. The approach best suited to accomplishing this task remained the collectivist Athens Charter model. Inflexible in their modernist belief that collective housing was the only realistic solution to urban poverty, urban planners staunchly resisted the development of single-family housing. As always, given their relative lack of power, planners attempted to negotiate an acceptable compromise. The outcome, however, signaled the beginning of the end of the Athens Charter’s hegemony.
Belgrade’s urban planners were forever chasing the ideal of “living within one’s means.” Because it was thought to make the most rational use of space and materials, the Athens Charter embodied the notion of living within one’s means. The new consumer orientation of the economy in the 1960s continued to emphasize the idea of living within one’s means, but it redefined this as an individual rather than a collective choice. Equality took a back seat to freedom of choice, and the egalitarian spatial order of the Athens Charter was called into question. Planners objected, however, to policies targeted at coopting rogue builders, because, in their mind, they were contrary to the idea of living within one’s means. Those builders did perhaps acquire shelter at a fraction of the cost of an apartment in one of the new settlements, but this solution came at a high social and infrastructural cost. Town planners were convinced that the municipality risked replicating the failures of the previous capitalist order through foolish policies.
The ongoing problem of rogue construction also reveals better than any other episode in the city’s development policy makers’ and urban planners’ fears of an invasion by peasant hordes, bringing with them obsolete and primitive lifestyles and social habits. New Belgrade and other such settlements were modernization projects, intended to socialize Yugoslavs into a modern way of life. To the horror of Belgrade’s political elite, peasant migrants were threat-ening this civilizing enterprise, importing their traditional way of life into the city. These anxieties surely contributed to planners’ resistance to the inclusion of individual family homes in Belgrade. While their central argument re-mained that providing parcels with minimal infrastructure to the urban poor would perpetuate the very kinds of backwardness and social inequalities that planners had committed to eliminating, the tone of their statements also sug-gests that they wished to keep this troublesome population on the margins of the city.
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Yugoslavia was not alone in Europe in encouraging some of its population to abandon their dream of moving into a state-subsidized home in favor of acquiring their own house through favorable loan schemes. However, whereas in Western Europe, this policy was part of an effort to roll back the social housing sector and was therefore aimed at middle-class families, in Yugosla-via, this policy took the place of a social housing scheme and was directed at the city’s poorest. Interestingly, while Belgrade’s policy makers had devised
The coalescing of this unflattering image coincided with increased schol-arly and professional scrutiny. Yugoslav scholars, particularly sociologists, tak-ing a cue from their colleagues abroad but also motivated by local discontent, began to question whether people should live in towers at all and to ask ques-tions about the social inequality perpetuated by these housing developments. Journalists then spread popular awareness of these criticisms and debates. Ar- chitects and urban planners themselves began to critique and propose modifications to the modernist planning approach after taking stock of what had been realized.
The various criticisms that town planners confronted fell into three categories. Some accepted the essential correctness of the Athens Charter approach but acknowledged that the resulting neighborhoods were somehow incom-plete and tried to determine what those missing elements were. Town planners responded to this critique by acknowledging the compositional monotony of the “towers in the park” concept and attempted to remedy this problem by creating more intimate, atmospheric spaces. In parallel with the new global focus on promoting “reidentification” and bringing back the traditional street, they tried to introduce an “urban” quality into their plans and to pay greater attention to the aesthetic qualities of the spaces they created, while keeping established hygiene norms. But other criticism was more threatening. Some called into question the very validity of the Athens Charter, either for Yugosla-via and its specific heritage and conditions or for all societies. Others, equally damning, postulated that the Athens Charter had misdiagnosed the ills of the modern age and was thus incapable of curing them.