This was a significant milestone not only because the plan once again authorized new construction but also because it provided a framework for the planning of Belgrade. Planning efforts in Belgrade accelerated as Yugosla- via launched its first five-year plan. The time had finally arrived to build new buildings to represent the new political order and to plan out the city’s growth in harmony with the economic plan. To better coordinate reconstruction and planning efforts, the Office of the Head Architect of Belgrade (Uprava glavnog arhitekta) was created in 1948. Dobrovic was assigned the role of head architect, and all specialists working on the plan moved to this office. 17 This institution evolved the same year into the Belgrade Town Planning Institute, an office that continues to exist to this day, finally providing some institutional stability to the planning of Belgrade. The state also legally enshrined the necessity of adopt-ing a master plan at this time. The 1948 federal “Osnovna uredba o generalnom urbanistickom planu” (Regulation concerning the master plan) decreed that cities would be built according to a master plan based on the “perspectives pro-vided by the economic plan, as well as the perspective of developing productive capacities in general, the increase in the population of the settlement, and the raising of the social life of the city.”18 The socialist regime thus saw town planning to a large extent as an extension of economic planning.
In 1948, the political leadership of Yugoslavia was apprised of and endorsed the plan to expand Belgrade across the Sava River.19 With the help of Milorad Macura, Dobrovic produced a conceptual plan for New Belgrade (Idejni plan Novog Beograda) in 1948. Borrowing loosely from various plans in the 1946-47 competition and from Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse, this plan cut New Belgrade into a grid pattern of superblocks crisscrossed by broad, automobile-friendly avenues. The superblocks would be developed in the form of freestanding buildings surrounded by green space. At the apex of the grid, the country’s most important government buildings one for the presidency and the other for the Central Committee of the Communist Party would dominate the composition. Although Dobrovic’s plan would undergo several modifications before the plan for New Belgrade would assume its final form and be included in the 1950 master plan, the broad lines of the project had been established.20
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Dobrovic was pressured to resign his position at the Town Planning Institute in 1948 and spent the remainder of his career as a professor of decorating at Belgrade University, just as the planning of Belgrade got under way. He was replaced by Milos Somborski, who had been trained as an urbanist in England. Somborski kept Dobrovic’s conceptual plan for New Belgrade and continued to develop the master plan according to a modernist concept. Mystery surrounds the circumstances of Dobrovic’s removal, allowing a mythol- ogy to develop that portrays him as a martyr to communism, a consequence of his strong personality, his unwillingness to compromise, and his refusal to play the political game. Blagojevic, however, convincingly argues that Dobrovic’s approach to urban planning was the problem. From his perspective, the architects’ vision and the logic of design ruled over all other concerns: “his presentation did not include complex statistical, sociological, economical, ecological and other aspects of planning, he always speaks exclusively of his design vision and, in the final instance, of physical planning.”21 His unwillingness to compromise his personal vision was incompatible with the organization of labor promoted by the state in decorating and urbanism, not just in Yugoslavia but also in other socialist states. Indeed, after Dobrovic, planning would be characterized by what Blagojevic calls the “deindividualization of authorship” that is, plans would no longer be associated with particular personalities but would be regarded as the product of collaborative work.22
The case of Dobrovic highlights a particular feature of urban planning in Yugoslavia during the early post-war period: it was not yet seen as a fixed dis-cipline with its own questions and methodologies, but rather as a subset of decorating. Thus, architects would be called urban planners when discussing projects that involved the relationship between different buildings and objects on a site and architects when designing particular buildings. The boundaries of these two tasks obviously overlapped, but it did not matter, precisely be-cause both were the purview of architects. Urban planning was not taught as a separate discipline in Yugoslav universities, but rather as one of the courses in an decorating program.23
In some ways, the context seemed propitious to the realization of a new capital city modeled on the Athens Charter. First, the architects who had found their way into positions of responsibility, like Nikola Dobrovic, were avowed mod-ernists.
Second, the ruling Communist Party and modernist architects in Yugosla-via shared very similar understandings of the nature and values of planning. According to British philosopher and planner Nigel Taylor, beliefs about planning can be divided into beliefs about the nature of planning, which concern the scope and methodology of planning, and planning values or norms, which
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