By design, it was a city built for the automobile, with broad boulevards and the partial separation of pedestrian and motorized traffic. The town planning norms for the settlement anticipated car ownership at the rate of one car per eight inhabitants an ownership rate unheard of in the Eastern Bloc. To ac-commodate those cars, 3.8 square meters of service stations were planned per automobile, as well as garage parking for 80 percent of vehicles and one gas station per four hundred automobiles.49 At the same time, New Belgrade pro-vided its inhabitants with easy access to green space, giving rise to such moni-kers as “city in greenery,” “city in the forest,” and “park city.”
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New Belgrade broke records. Measuring one kilometer in length, the accordion-shaped building in block 21 was not only the largest building in New Belgrade but also the longest in Yugoslavia. It contained 795 apartments, sixty-five entrances, and 3,500 inhabitants. 50 New Belgrade was also touted as the country’s “most electrified city” in 1968.51 What did this comparison mean, precisely, given that New Belgrade was a district rather than an entire city? The point here was that this was a place described by superlatives.
However, New Belgrade was not just a glowing success story. Its development was accompanied by a number of problems, often persistent, and drawbacks. Its high profile ensured that its failings, real or perceived, received plenty of media attention. The first sign that New Belgrade was not living up to its promise was a scathing report produced in 1964 on the experimental blocks 1 and 2. In 1957, the Urbanism Council had designated these blocks, located in the vicinity of the pavilions and the student city, as an experimental building site, for trying out new building methods, materials, and types. The new buildings were supposed to conform to the Town Planning Institute’s policy of including basic services on the ground floor of apartment buildings. Individual examples of building prototypes would be realized and evaluated for further use in New Belgrade and elsewhere.52 Branko Petricic designed the plan for the blocks, and he, along with two other architects, designed the buildings. They created five different building types using the Zezelj IMS prefabrication system.53
Seven years later, the Bureau for Communal and Housing Construction judged the experiment largely a failure. As had been the case in 1955, Petricic had felt compelled to address the dire housing crisis as an important aspect of his design.54 This focus had also led him to compromise the experimental concept behind the blocks. A basic principle of experimentation had not been respected: instead of building one example of a model for evaluation, several had been built at the same time, multiplying the mistakes, as well as creating a monotonous landscape. Even after this project was realized, a thorough evalu-ation of the results had not been conducted before several other similar build-ings were realized in other blocks.55
Home Design 4.14. View of New Belgrade in the late 1960s, showing block 1 on the left and block 2 on the right. Courtesy of Muzej grada Beograda.
Home Design 4.15. Plan for experimental blocks 1 and 2 in New Belgrade. “P+8” means “ground floor (prizemlje) plus eight floors.” Stambene zgrade are apartment buildings, stambene kule are apart-ment towers, and prateci objekti are supporting facilities. Urbanizam Beograda, no. 2 (1969).