What would make Yugoslav decorating and urban planning truly social-ist, and what distinguished it from Soviet decorating, was its affirmation of the individual. Echoing the emerging discourse of self-management, and perhaps contemporaneous developments in global architectural culture, the texts stressed the importance of respecting the individuality of each person and household and building homes that met their needs, rather than trying to create a uniform society—a offense of which Soviet architectural practice was found guilty: “Contemporary decorating needs to build homes for a partic-ular person, in a particular social setting, for our worker—the builder of so-cialism.”7 It was time to do away with the bureaucratic approach of building to norms and standards and instead pay attention to the users of the future build-ings. “Are the families that live in these apartments [that we design] identical? Are they only different in terms of their size? Obviously not,” Macura pointed out: the unskilled miner, the doctor, the skilled machinist, and the agricultural worker all had different needs. In order to ascertain the needs of the future in-habitants, architects should “also listen to the opinions of individual citizens.”8
Macura and Ribnikar sent a clear message that architects should not undertake to transform the culture of everyday life, but rather, adapt to the existing lifestyles of the working class. This was a reversal from the approach taken in the first years after the war. Early efforts to come up with practical solutions to the need for housing recall the quest for the minimal dwelling unit by interwar avant-garde architects. A competition for the most rational apartment design, launched in 1947, provides a good example of this tendency. An article on the competition results, published in the newspaper 20. Oktobar, listed the qualities that were sought in the winning designs as the cheapest, the most standardized, the highest quality, and the quickest to build. 9 Many of the proposals discussed in the newspaper followed the lead of Soviet constructivist architects by collec-tivizing spaces that had traditionally been part of individual apartments. Some argued that infrequent activities should not be allocated space in the home, but rather, assigned to collective spaces that several families could use. For example, one submission recommended that bathrooms should be collectiv-ized because people only bathed six times a month. Several apartments might also share the same staircase, as climbing and descending the stairs was also an infrequent activity. People should be allocated only as much space as they used on a daily basis.10 Another approach was to combine spaces within the home. One competitor advocated the combination of the kitchen and the liv-ing room. He became quite ingenious at reducing the minimal necessary living space, going so far as to fit seven beds in a two-room, fifty-four-square-meter (581 square foot) apartment. He also managed to shave off fifteen square meters from the recommended thirty-eight square meters for a one-room apartment by locating beds in niches that could be curtained off during the day. 11
In the new climate that followed the break with Stalin, in contrast, Ribnikar expressed disapproval of efforts to collectivize housing, equating them with efforts to create uniform societies. 12 Rather than trying to break down the traditional bourgeois family, Macura urged architects to design buildings for the traditional three-generational family. Ribnikar assured his audience that a de-sire for one’s own private home was not a petit-bourgeois deviation, but rather a perfectly normal desire for intimacy that should be accommodated. This was especially important because the home was framed mainly as a place where workers could rest and ready themselves for another day of productive labor. Home Design would not be used to forge a new, socialist man—there was no mention of developing a socialist consciousness or teaching former peasants modern ways of living. While Ribnikar expressed annoyance with the inappropriate use of space by inhabitants of new settlements—hanging laundry on the balcony or keeping chickens or pigs in the green space adjacent to their buildings, for example—he refrained from explaining this as a lack of good manners or education. Instead, he pinned the blame on the project designers, claiming that people only hung their laundry to dry on their balconies because they did not have access to a laundry room and that they only maltreated their green space because it was poorly designed and did not invite nobler pursuits.13
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These speeches and texts signaled a change in priorities for architects—the goal was still to build socialism, but the approach had changed. The idea of using housing to create a socialist consciousness was jettisoned, and the ful-fillment of bureaucratic norms and the realization of cost efficiencies had to be balanced against the needs of the future inhabitants of the buildings. These new priorities were still compatible with the new master plan for Belgrade, which had been adopted barely a month earlier. The speeches and in particu-lar the resolutions of the first Congress of Yugoslav Architects reaffirmed their commitment to modernist functionalist urbanism. First, they perceived urban planning as a total social project, one that not only focused on the individual settlement but integrated it within a broader enterprise of municipal, regional, and national economic and spatial planning. Second, they perceived housing as the central challenge for urban planners in the modern age. Third, they im-plicitly supported the state’s agenda of providing good-quality housing for all.
Fourth, they continued to identify hygiene, as defined by access to sufficient space, light, and clean air, as a key preoccupation in this regard. Fifth, they believed that the rationalization of housing production, and particularly the harnessing of modern technology, was the key to accomplishing their mission, particularly in a context of scarce resources. Sixth, for all these reasons, they endorsed the freestanding apartment building in the park as the main form of housing that should be produced. 14
For architects to accomplish their mission more successfully, these texts made a number of recommendations. Ribnikar and Macura both called on architects to pay attention to users when designing apartment buildings. Ma-cura also argued that, if architects were to come up with thoughtful and artful designs, they needed to be freed from bureaucratic demands and given more time to complete their projects. Neither Ribnikar and Macura advocated aban-doning norms or standards—these were central to the project of rationalizing decorating. Rather, the norms had to be adjusted—Ribnikar advocated in-creasing the size of apartments, while the official conclusions called for setting both minimal and maximal standards—minimal to ensure humane—that is, hygienic—living conditions and maximal to prevent the squandering of lim-ited resources on overly luxurious dwellings. Architects should also redirect their focus from single buildings to entire settlements. All actors involved in the construction sector were urged to invest more effort into researching methods and materials. Architects were called upon in particular to investi-gate the potential applications of prefabrication in the Yugoslav context. 15