Town planners contended with a number of problems that were systemic to socialist states. Any illusions they might have had about the scarcity of re-sources that accompanied the first postwar years were eventually dispelled as a serious housing shortage persisted into the golden years of the 1960s. Com-petition for scarce resources brought town planners into constant conflict with other state actors—a conflict that would only be exacerbated by the in-troduction of market reforms. In the early years, building councils would ig-nore building codes in order to provide housing for homeless families. In later decades, district officials would spar with planners over rogue construction, while investors would try to get site plans revised to allow them to maximize their investment. Individuals and families looking for a home would take ad-vantage of this highly fragmented state. Material scarcity was compounded
But Belgrade’s town planners also had to deal with problems that went beyond socialism. These were the challenges of a rapidly urbanizing society. Year after year, planners struggled with the dilemma of how to plan in conditions of rapid change or, in other words, how to cope with rapid urban growth. They also faced the conundrum of how to simultaneously plan for both a near fu-ture in a context of limited resources and a further time horizon of greater prosperity. They were not able to address either problem effectively, in spite of all their efforts, and this failure played an important role in the Town Plan-ning Institute’s decision that the modernist 1950 master plan was obsolete, in terms of both its methodology and its content. For the next master plan, they adopted a new approach to planning—one that harnessed new technology to-ward predicting the future.
Modernization posed other challenges. As in Western European states, modernization brought about changing ideas about the ideal home. Whatever the attractions of modern apartment living in New Belgrade in the 1950s and 1960s, the citizens of an increasingly prosperous Yugoslavia began to entertain more expansive fantasies of cottages with gardens. In addition, the state’s en-dorsement of the modernist functionalist city was contingent on a particular modernization project, in which the state took over the housing sector in order to minimize housing costs and channel investment into industrialization. The Yugoslav state’s shift in modernization strategy, embodied in the 1965 market reforms, had serious consequences for town planning, because it essentially in-troduced a consumerist orientation that undermined the collectivist planning idea at the heart of the 1950 master plan. In market socialism, the consumer was always right, and the consumer now wanted detached family homes. Mu-nicipal authorities even took advantage of newly created bank credit—unsuc-cessfully—to co-opt rogue builders into building legally. Town planners found it increasingly difficult to enforce their modernist vision in the absence of sup-port from the federal authorities. Anxieties about the consequences of mod-ernization, in particular social atomization—fears that were in no way unique to Yugoslavia—also eroded faith in the abilities of the Town Planning Institute.
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Throughout the period covered in this study, town planners struggled to maintain their authority as experts—another pressure that undoubtedly in-formed the redefinition of the profession. In the latter half of the 1960s, they were increasingly under attack not only from familiar adversaries, such as administrators, but also from journalists and social scientists, who truly undermined their credibility. But beyond this, the rapid evolution both of Bel-grade and of Yugoslavia necessarily obliged the planning profession to rede-fine itself. Planning was initially a subset both of central economic planning and of decorating—but central economic planning was gradually completely abandoned, and it became increasingly clear that the complexity and scope of the challenges that planners faced required an interdisciplinary approach. The downplaying of decorating in planning had interesting consequences. Nikola Dobrovic, who had pioneered the planning of Belgrade and who in fact supported the development of an independent planning profession, lamented the lack of attention paid to composition and symbolism in the rethinking of New Belgrade in the mid-1950s—but Bordjevic, who headed the Town Planning Institute through the heady 1960s, had captured the new ethos—that a mass housing program could, in itself, be a symbol—of a better life for all. Eventually, design would be completely expunged from the master-planning process, in favor of an entirely new discipline—cybernetics. In a way, this brought town planning back to its other origin, as a subset of economic planning, but of a very different sort than that which dominated Yugoslavia in the early postwar period. While this did not signal a complete rupture, as the same professionals integrated their assumptions and preoccupations into the planning process, it did signal the end of the heyday of the modernist functionalism in Belgrade.
My office at the top of 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan—the same office I’d occupied since the building opened, more than 44 years earlier—faced north, so on the morning of September 11, 2001. when a colleague came in to tell me that a plane had just hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center near the southern tip of Manhattan, I left my office and went to another that faces south, where a few colleagues had gathered. From there, we were able to see the North Tower, far downtown. As with most people, I thought there had been an accident, perhaps involving a small plane; since we had served as the Construction Manager for the building of the “twin towers,” I knew that they had been designed to withstand an airplane crash. One of the highlights of my career was having built the North and South Towers, then the tallest buildings in the world. And now something terrible was happening to them.
Unable any longer to view the towers directly, we turned to the television for information. As with all Americans, we were aghast when the towers fell. Knowing how well the towers had been constructed, we had not expected them to collapse, nor that Number 7 World Trade Center, a two million-square-foot privately owned building for which we had also served as Construction Managers, would also collapse. After the shock of their fall, we could only be