Home Design 2.20. Perspective of main transversal houlevard in New Belgrade. Note the similarity hetween the perspective adopted here and the one ahove, taken from the Radiant City. In hoth cases, the viewer’s gaze is directed down a hroad axis toward the horizon. While the overall effect is strikingly similar, the scale of the open space in the Belgrade sketch is slightly more human scaled. From Oliver Minic, ed., Beograd: Generalni urbanisticki plan 1950 (Belgrade: Izvrsni odhor Narodnog odhora Beograda, 1951). organized differently on each block, distancing the plan from Le Corbusier’s strictly regimented cruciform housing pattern. This would be a kinder, gentler version of the Radiant City, although the planners, like Le Corbusier, displayed a concern for large-scale symmetry. In addition to the greenery and playgrounds that citizens would en-joy around their apartment buildings, New Belgrade would dispose of three larger-scale recreational areas. The first, although not identified as such by
Vrbanic, was a belt of parkland that would extend along the length of the Sava River. The second was a park that would extend along the length of Bezani-jska Kosa, which ran from northeast to southwest in the southern part of New Belgrade. The third center would be Veliko Ratno Ostrvo (Great War Island), which was in reality less an island than a large sand dune that stood at the con-fluence of the Sava and Danube rivers and which would be transformed into a recreational and sporting center. In contrast to the old city, which boasted only two large parks—Kalemegdan fortress to the north and Kosutnjak on the southern periphery—and a few smaller urban green spaces, New Belgrade would be a city awash in greenery.
The remainder of New Belgrade followed the concept of the linear city. Be-low the functional zones dedicated to administration and culture, living, and leisure, a section in the south of New Belgrade was set aside for supply and distribution, and to the south of this, an industrial zone would extend to the riverbanks. Interestingly, the only reference to the economic activities that would take place in this industrial zone was a vague statement that industrial facilities “are conceived of as individual groups connected by one technologi-cal process.” 100 If we are to believe the master plan blog, the most descriptive document ever published on the master plan, many aspects of New Belgrade’s future development were still undetermined.
As the dust of the Second World War settled, Yugoslavia’s new socialist urban planners set about crafting a master plan that would transform Belgrade into a modern, efficient, and egalitarian city. The modernist functionalist city plan-ning approach seemed uniquely suited to the circumstances—it demanded a strong central authority, embraced modern technology, and promised to deliver a high standard of living to the entire population while maximizing cost efficiency. Urban planners staked out new roles as spatial managers of re-sources, righters of historic wrongs, and guardians of the common good.
The Athens Charter approach, however, proved difficult to implement in the context of Yugoslav state socialism. Urban planners struggled with the chaos and disorganization of the reconstruction, as well as with the scarcity of resources. The break with the Soviet Union also proved destabilizing on many levels. Yugoslavia found itself facing a precarious future and responded with a narrowing of its economic priorities, leaving planners wondering when it would in fact be possible to make substantial investments in housing. As ideological certainty crumbled, planners also found themselves with no reli-
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Home Design 2.21. Josip Broz Tito, center, heing shown a model from the 1950 master plan. Nikola Dobrovic is on the far right. From Oliver Minic, ed., Beograd: Generalni urbanisticki plan 1950 (Belgrade: Izvrsni odhor Narodnog odhora Beograda, 1951). able points of reference, whether from the Soviet or the European canon. They pledged to find a middle way, adapted to Yugoslavia’s unique circumstances. What this meant for urban planning remained unclear. Beyond rhetoric, the master plan adopted in 1950 was at its core an attempt to transform an old European capital into a functional city according to the prescriptions of the Athens Charter. But whereas the modernist architects who had contributed to the Athens Charter saw it as being a scientific, technical project, disconnected from politics, the creators of the master plan presented their program as fundamentally political. “Home Design or Revolution,” Le Corbusier had warned—change the way people live, or face social and po-litical upheaval. In Belgrade, this was an integral part of the revolution—the righting of historic wrongs, the erasure of social inequality, the uplifting of the working class, the rejection of capitalism and adoption of a rationally planned place during a particularly difficult period characterized by severe ma-terial shortages and political instability. Until 1947, the Yugoslav Communist Party concentrated on rebuilding the city’s shattered infrastructure and indus-try and securing basic housing for a swelling population, while consolidating its power. That year, Tito’s regime officially transitioned from reconstruction to building socialism, launching the state’s first five-year plan, based on the hypercentralized Stalinist model for modernization. It was in this context that urban planners began to work on Belgrade’s master plan and that architects began to imagine how workers might live in a society that was building so-cialism. Because the five-year plan directed nearly all of Yugoslavia’s resources into capital investments rather than the production of consumer goods, the initial focus of realizing the master plan would obviously be on infrastructural projects, while investments in improving the standard of living would largely be postponed to a later date. Yugoslavia’s expulsion from the Soviet Bloc the following year, however, further squeezed the availability of resources for ur-ban renewal and expansion. Not only was this an event of immense political significance, but it also severed Yugoslavia’s economic relations with the Bloc, creating an economic crisis. Having lost its export partners and now obliged to focus on the military threat of Soviet invasion, the regime once again post-poned investment in housing and urban development. Belgrade’s Town Plan-ning Institute was prevented from putting into practice its Athens Charter- inspired vision for Belgrade. The event also led to Yugoslavia’s ideological redefinition. After an initial period of confusion, Tito’s regime redefined itself as a different kind of socialist state. Starting in 1949-50, party ideologues de-veloped a new economic, administrative, and political model for Yugoslavia around the concept of workers’ self-management. This concept was initially applied to the economy, allowing workers to have a say in the operations of their workplaces. It was then extended to government and administration, en-shrining local self-government in a new constitution in 1953. Interestingly, the political and economic turmoil would not lead to major changes in the urban planning sphere. Belgrade’s Town Planning Institute continued to adhere to the Athens Charter approach through the period of austerity that followed the Tito-Stalin split. Architect planners seized the opportunity of Yugoslavia’s ideological redefinition as an opportunity to reaffirm the relevance of the functionalist approach by deploying the new language of self-management. As in Brasilia, the functional city proved adaptable to dif-ferent ideological contexts. In the 1950 master plan, Belgrade’s socialist plan-ners had repoliticized the functional city, which Le Corbusier and others had taken such pains to depoliticize, as a socialist concept. Now socialism itself was being redefined as self-management, and because this version of socialism placed such emphasis on the well-being of workers, the master plan took on an increased importance. Starting in 1956, policy makers adopted and promoted the concept of the residential community (stambena zajednica) as an instru-ment for implementing self-management for consumers and thereby raising the standard of living. The residential community, which had noticeable affin-ities with the Soviet microraion and the American neighborhood unit, made it possible to argue that modernist urbanism was in fact an indispensable tool for furthering selfmanagement. When the state’s economic priorities changed in 1957 to focus on increasing the standard of living, architects, urban plan-ners, and administrators were empowered to begin building the city of their dreams. The turning point of 1955-58 announced a new golden era of prosper-ity for Belgrade, during which the Athens Charter would provide the model for the city’s rapid expansion. An Era of Prolonged Austerity