10 Garden Design Ideas No Grass

The “Preliminary Report on Some Objectives with Relationship to the Production of the Master Plan,” issued by the Town Planning Institute in 1970, provides some insight into the concerns of the different working groups. What emerges is an all-pervasive anxiety about growth and its consequences iron-ically fueled by the specter of American suburbanization. The group working on the city center, for example, noted that Belgrade had thus far avoided the fate of many American cities, in which city centers had lost their mixed occu- pancy and were consequently deserted at night. But, were the Yugoslav capital to continue to expand, would the downtown core be able to fulfill its role as the sole city center? On the one hand, planners fretted about the pressures on this fragile and deteriorating section of the city, which boasted vulnerable her-itage buildings and in which aggressive investors competed for limited space. On the other hand, they dreaded the prognosis described by Raymond Vernon in The Changing Economic Function of the Central City, which described what had happened in American cities: the flight of retail shops from the central area, the emergence of suburban shopping malls, and the transformation of the city into an “enormous sea of low-rise family houses” connected by high-way systems. Belgrade must at all costs, they warned, avoid becoming the type of city in which “regional shopping malls form and drown themselves in a sea of amorphous, sleeping suburbia.” Such a fate was, however, not inevitable: the “hypertrophying of city centers and the extinguishing of retail shopping” in them was identified as a “deformation of the city in a ‘consumer civilization,’ ” a trend that, they argued, Yugoslavs had the duty to resist.27 As with the proj-ect to build individual family homes in Belgrade, the Town Planning Institute saw the promotion of consumerism as having a negative impact on town plan-ning.28

Similarly, the group working on the natural environment painted a bleak picture of the consequences of urban growth on the capital’s environment: the Sava and Danube rivers were so contaminated that it was unwise to swim in them, the air was polluted, and automobiles assaulted many parts of the city with intolerable levels of noise. Conditions had deteriorated to such an extent that it had become dangerous to one’s health to live in certain neighborhoods. The degradation of the environment also had implications for recreation. The group analyzing this sector noted that traditional recreational activities had become impossible due to the city’s expansion. As mentioned earlier, it was no longer possible to safely swim in the rivers. Meadows that had previously acted as venues for impromptu sporting matches had disappeared as construction swallowed up all of the city’s open spaces. According to the report, healthy rec-reational opportunities remained plentiful in the city, but the citizenry did not take advantage of them because of their poor habits. Instead, inhabitants spent their time in ways that town planners deemed inappropriate they used the terms “disorganized use of free time” and “killing time” such as outings to nearby villages where they would fritter away the day in drink and dissolute behavior.29

Home Design 7.1. Map of Belgrade from master plan draft, divided into building blocks. From Aleksandar Bordevic, “Generalni urbanisticki plan Beograda” (1972). Although the report asserted that there were numerous recreational opportunities within the city, it also noted the shortfall of forests, open spaces, and swimming places. The inhabitants of Belgrade had also sought refuge from the stresses of urban life by buying properties in nearby villages and building weekend homes, or vikendice. An estimated twelve thousand of Belgrade’s cit-izens had a vikendica, primarily in northern Sumadija, along the Danube and Sava rivers, and, to a lesser extent, in Primorje, on the Croatian coast. Planners feared that these posed a threat to orderly urban growth. The expanding city would one day reach these settlements, and at that point their unsupervised development as leisure centers would become a liability. Planners cautioned that they would become suburbs, from which people would undertake long commutes back and forth to their jobs. Moreover, they warned that a compact megacity model would further erode recreational possibilities and further fuel the vikendica phenomenon.30 The transportation-sector working group, unsurprisingly, also focused its

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The different working groups then provided a list of objectives, against which the four alternative spatial patterns for the city’s growth would be tested. Interestingly, several groups already embedded a certain idea of the ideal form of urban growth in those very objectives. Although the city’s major problems all seemed to proceed from the same source its aggressive growth in the past decade they envisioned different, sometimes contradictory solutions. For the working group dealing with the city center, the key to preventing the wasting away of the core was to maintain Belgrade as a single-nucleus city and to increase the attractiveness of the city center by offering more and higher-quality shops, services, and cultural attractions. Insofar as such activities could not be located in the crowded conditions of the city center, they should be built as nearby as possible. The planners also proposed increasing the amount of park-ing available in the center and decreasing the amount of housing, while main-taining the mixed-use quality of the downtown area.33

For the working groups working on the natural environment and recreation, however, it was crucial to rebuild the city center and decrease its population density, to reduce the pressure of the population on the environment, and to create islands of green space. The first objective listed by the natural environment group, for example, was to improve the quality of life in the densely populated parts of the city by “decreasing the abnormal density of the resi-dential zones” and “introducing natural elements through a reconstruction of the urban fabric, such as green oases and corridors, pedestrian plateaus, rows of trees, children’s playgrounds, water surfaces, etc.”34 The recreation working group, for its part, proposed that “the model of a moderately decentralized city could significantly improve the condition of natural surroundings. It offers the best conditions for consistent, daily recreation for the population and, at the same time, decreases the need for weekend homes and long trips for recre-ational purposes.”35 The goals of maximizing the concentration of commercial and cultural activity in the center while decreasing its built density were per-haps not completely contradictory, but it is clear that it would be a challenge to accommodate them both.

The working group that studied the problem of housing focused on a some-what different issue: what kind of housing would be appropriate for Belgrade as it continued to grow. In some ways, this preoccupation also reflected the planners’ dismay at their inability to control the growth of the city. Beyond this, however, it testified to their unease with the results of the past fifteen years and their growing acceptance of the need to include a greater diversity of housing and neighborhood types in the master plan than had been envisaged in 1950. The planners in the housing group affirmed that collective housing continued to be the most appropriate housing form for Belgrade’s continued growth due to its cost efficiency. They did, however, acknowledge the need to foster among inhabitants the feeling that they belonged to a particular neigh-borhood and part of the city, reflecting their belief that what Team 10 had called “urban identification” was elusive in a big city. They remained skepti-cal toward individual family housing. While the working group conceded that some experts regarded it as the healthiest housing form from a “physiologi-cal, psychological and sociological” point of view, they characterized the vast majority of family houses that had been built during the socialist era as “one of the worst forms of settlement construction.” However, they grudgingly ac-knowledged that popular demand for individual family housing existed, and they recognized the importance of including such housing in the city’s long-term development.36 interest in mobilizing personal savings, which had first found expression in the 1964 housing construction plan. While savings had accounted for 6 percent of total investment in 1956-66, economic planners wished to increase this percentage to 8.5 percent for 1971-75. The working group also accepted that there was genuine popular interest in living in family housing, although it noted that it was impossible to tell how significant it truly was, in light of the intractable housing shortage that motivated much individual housing construction. Nonetheless, some inhabitants of multistory apartment buildings had expressed a desire to live in detached dwellings, and a number of housing construction firms had begun to build entire developments of individual houses for sale on the market, suggesting that there was, in fact, a substan-tial market. The ethos of self-management, understood as the citizens’ right to make choices about their lives and work, enshrined in the statement that “each inhabitant needs to have the freedom, within the frame of his or her means, to choose his or her type of habitation,” provided a further justification for the inclusion of a greater variety of housing types.37

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