The state had used consumption as a way to motivate people to be better workers, but there were limits on what the population would accept. It was obvious to the average Yugoslav that such apartments were not within his or her grasp. That the state would condone luxury at the heart of the model socialist city, when workers in Belgrade still faced enormous difficulties in obtaining housing, was simply unacceptable. The inhabitants of Belgrade were surely not so naive as to believe that there was no privilege in Yugoslav society. They knew about the elite neighborhood of Dedinje, south of the old city, which had villas far more luxurious than the apartments planned for block 30. But Dedinje was tucked away from public scrutiny, and luxury there was supposed to be a matter of private initiative. The press only reported on Dedinje to disclose scandalous instances of abuse, when people obtained loans, for example, to build luxurious houses, renting out the floors they didn’t use.83 In contrast, block 30 was at the very center of New Belgrade, which had been designated as a model city for the “little worker” and was strongly associated with the state and constantly in the public eye. The settlement had already come under public scrutiny as early as 1964, as a privileged area that was inhabited predominantly by civil servants. 84 The project for block 30 seemed to confirm the citizenry’s worst suspicions.
According to urban planner Borislav Stojkov, who worked at the Town Planning Institute at this time, the plan eventually created such a scandal that it was abandoned.85 Popular backlash may certainly have played a role in this, but financial considerations seem to have been decisive. The block having been included in the five-year plan for housing construction in 1970, authorities be-gan to prepare the terrain, razing it with sand and installing a basic communal infrastructure. By the time the terrain was ready for construction, however, Yugoslavia’s economy had begun to nosedive. Based on the estimation that the demand for luxury apartments had dwindled, Martinovic was asked to modify the project. He replaced the expansive five- and six-room apartments with smaller ones that were more in line with the typical apartment distribution. Whether a victim of its notoriety, the decline of the Yugoslav economy, or a combination of the two, the project was never realized.86
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New Belgrade was the capital’s largest-scale and highest-profile construction site. It was a laboratory for efforts to implement the Athens Charter concept in a socialist context. Town planners also pursued their goal of transforming Belgrade according to a modernist vision in other sites in the city. The city center itself was the site of ambitious reconstruction projects. On old Belgrade’s periphery, on a variety of green-field sites that presented the same blank canvas as did the left bank of the Sava River, town planners erected new settlements that fulfilled the Athens Charter vision. While the majority of these settle-ments were located on the urban edge of old Belgrade, new settlements were also created on the other bank of the Danube (Kotez) and on the border of Ze-mun (Gornji Zemun). All these projects can be seen as part of a broader effort to meet the demand for housing, while lifting the standard of living in Bel-grade, but certain elements distinguish these settlements from New Belgrade.
The vast majority of the new settlements were small in comparison to New Belgrade, designed for populations varying between 2,000 and 8,500 inhabitants. A few were projected to exceed this scale, such as Gornji Zemun (50,000), Konjarnik (25,000), and Karaburma (30,000). None, however, could ever come close to New Belgrade’s projected population of 250,000. Nor did they figure as prominently in the public imaginary.
These new settlements were similar to New Belgrade in many ways. They were composed of large apartment buildings, towers, and slabs, built using modern building technologies. Like New Belgrade, they were grouped into lo-cal communities and were supposed to be equipped with local commercial, cultural, educational, sporting, social, and administrative facilities. As with New Belgrade, provision of these amenities usually lagged far behind the con-struction of housing. Some settlements differed from New Belgrade in incor-porating townhouses, such as Sumice. Once town planners accepted the idea of including such semidetached family housing in their plans, they tended to limit it to peripheral settlements, where they felt it was most appropriate.
These settlements were at a distinct disadvantage in relation to New Belgrade, for even if this official city center was called a “dormitory city” and felt somehow isolated from the hustle and bustle of the real center, the “Novobeo-gradjani,” as the residents of New Belgrade were known, were only a quick bus or tram ride away from downtown. In contrast, the inhabitants of Julino Brdo or Kanarevo Brdo faced a long ride over the hilly terrain of the city’s edge. New Belgrade, both physically and culturally, was central to the capital, whereas the inhabitants of these settlements were in the suburbs, bringing their experience much closer to that of dwellers of the Parisian banlieue.