The planning team dealt with the lack of detailed information by focusing instead on infrastructure, such as road systems and the redesign of the railroad network. But Maksimovic advised that, even in such circumstances, urban planners could not absolve themselves of the responsibility of formulat- ing a global planning vision. He warned that it would be a grave mistake for planners to limit their plans to what could be reasonably inferred based on the information they were given. He noted that while planners had provided detailed solutions for “engineering”-type problems, such as sewage and river systems, they had refrained from situating the various cultural, employment, and other types of centers in the city. The absence of such a plan suggested that the location of what he called “social and living centers” would be resolved at some later point. However, the location of such centers had enormous im-plications for the circulation of traffic in the city, as workers traveled to and from their workplace every day. Leaving residential planning out of the mas-ter plan compromised its function of guiding the rational growth of the city.35 In the battle against urban chaos, Maksimovic stressed the planners’ inven-tiveness—in his view, they were not mere technicians, transforming raw data into two-dimensional plans. Town planners must, he felt, take the initiative, compensating for missing information with common sense and their imagina-tion, if necessary. In the specific circumstances of Belgrade’s rebuilding, town planning was far less an exercise in the rational allocation of resources and far more a visionary activity.
The planning team also had to temper its vision for building a modernist city that organized the different activities of the city in the most rational way possible, catered to the needs of workers, and took into account other pressing needs, in particular those of industry. Debates surrounding Stanko Mandic’s proposed land-use plan provide an illustration of this. While preliminary ver-sions of the land-use plan have not survived to the present, it is obvious from the discussions of it in the Planning Commission that, as a whole, this was not an extravagant project. Its designers were keenly aware of the limited re-sources at their disposal and did their best to find a happy medium between the ideal city, based on functionalism, and the possible, given local circum-stances. They saw New Belgrade as the opportunity to realize an ideal urban district, but they also concluded that they would have to limit their interven-tion in the old city to gradual piecemeal reconstruction. The old rail yards, situated on the sloped banks of the Sava, were an exception to this generaliza-tion, the sole large site in the old city that could be completely rebuilt. Thus, large-scale intervention would be circumscribed to specific areas in the city.36 Nonetheless, representatives of industry were not satisfied that the team had come up with the most realistic plan given the city’s means and immediate needs. The projected locations for industry, for example, raised concerns be- cause they required investment in infrastructure and would take a long time to be ready for construction. Where would industry be located in the next five years? Marinkovic proposed the land bordering the Danube, eastward from the Red Army Bridge that connected Belgrade and Pancevo, on the north end of the existing city. Mandic objected on the grounds that this space had been zoned for housing and did not provide any room for industrial expansion. However, after some discussion, the commission passed a resolution in favor of this solution, while also approving the originally proposed sites for industry. The best solution, understood as the one that was the most in line with the functionalist approach, often had to be sacrificed in the name of more urgent needs—namely, industrialization.
While industry was predictably given first priority, both the Town Planning Institute and the Urbanism Commission were also concerned with the wel-fare of Belgrade’s workers. Their disagreements on the appropriate approach to workers’ housing focused on location and reflected divergent views of what was most important to secure in workers’ housing: isolation from pollution, proximity to work, or socioeconomic diversity. In debating where to situate future industrial complexes, the proximity of workers’ housing to industry was a major concern. Mandic’s insistence that industry should be located on the periphery of the city, justified on the grounds that it needed room to grow, was also meant to shield Belgrade’s inhabitants from pollution. Others objected, on the basis that workers would spend too much time getting to and from work, cutting into their free time. Architect Josif Najman noted that the benefits of creating mixed neighborhoods for the “cultural uplifting” of workers would be lost if those workers spent two hours getting to work and thus spent no time mingling with their neighbors.37 The question of how to protect workers from industrial pollution while limiting their commute to work had been ex-tensively considered by theorists and practitioners since industrialization first posed the problem. Ebenezer Howard had sought to solve the first problem by creating small-scale garden cities, while Le Corbusier and Miliutin had ad-vocated organizing the city in a “linear city”— a sort of layered ribbon, where residences and factories would always be in proximity to one another but sep-arated by a green belt.38 But while innovative solutions might be considered in due course when designing New Belgrade, the constraints of building in the old city made such discussions purely theoretical.
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The limited financial resources and the prioritization of industry had other repercussions. Antonovic recalled that, although urban planners considered the existing location of industry to be unsatisfactory, “it was not always possible to escape adapting old industrial buildings or building new ones in existing complexes, because of the increased production and plan quotas that these indus-tries were assigned, although it was known that many of the existing industries could not remain in their current places. ”42 She added that, when asked to ap-prove such location requests, planners would acquiesce to temporary structures that could be torn down in the future, when construction would begin on the site for its approved purpose. At the time of the adoption of the new master plan, she warned that, “to date, this possibility of removing temporary objects is only theoretical.”43 Antonovic also noted that industrial zones were spreading in places that were detrimental to the city as a whole. The needs of industry clearly had priority over other concerns, such as the proximity of vulnerable residential areas and the desire for orderly growth.
The pressing needs for housing and industry confronted Belgrade’s planners with a conundrum. The Urbanism Commission had been informed that much of Belgrade’s short-term housing construction would take the form of low-rise prefabricated construction. It was not clear when it would be possible to begin the construction of high-rise buildings, the housing form that the commission preferred for Belgrade. Planners were faced with the puzzle of where to locate low-rise construction if their long-term goal was to rebuild the city vertically. Was it better for planners to stick to short-term planning, focusing on the needs of the immediate future, or should they focus on laying out the ideal city of the distant future? If they chose the second approach, and this ideal city was not within their grasp, was it better to remain faithful to the plan, realizing those elements that were possible and putting off the rest? Or should they instead build an alternative, less ideal city to accommodate the needs of the present, while keeping open the possibility of realizing the ideal city?
The question of how to fulfill current needs while working toward the ideal city of the future raised a lively discussion that took on philosophical under-tones, inquiring into the nature of urban planning in a country that was build-ing socialism. In this “ideal” type of planning, everything was worked out in advance so as to provide the most rational location for every element in the city. However, it was increasingly obvious that it would not be possible to work toward realizing these plans in Belgrade during the next few years given the economic perspectives and priorities.