July 30, 2008
Usce Tower was built in 1964 to serve as headquarters of the Central Committee of the League of Communists in the former Yugoslavia and was exclusively used for the Communist party. Until 2003 people called the building CeKa which stands for Centralni Komitet (Central Committee). With its 24 storeys, overlooking the Danube and Sava river it stands like a gateway to Novi Beograd. The competition projects for this building stirred up much discussion over the issues of symbolism. Until then, buildings for parties and goverment were built in the style of sociorealism, but this tower (designed also by Mihailo Janković ) was a simple aluminium and glass clad International style administrative type building of anonymous character void of any symbolism and represented the latest architectural modernity.
Destruction On April 21, 1999 NATO air strikes hit the building, setting the upper floors on fire. Several days later NATO repeated the attack. In total 12 Tomahawk missiles were fired at this building.
(A World Trade Center style destruction nearly occurred during the 1970s when Nikola Kavaja planned to board a Boeing 747 in Chicago, hijack it and hit USCE Tower to kill president Josip Broz Tito to signal the end of communism. However, minutes before he planned to hijack the plane, Kavaja was talked out of doing this by a priest, and spent 23 years in prison for his unsuccessful plan.)
Reconstruction work on the building started in early 2003 and was completed in 2005. The multi-million dollar project has now 25 stories, totalling around 25,000 square meters of class A office space. An observation deck, fitness area and restaurant are located on the last level of the building.
The planned project is much bigger thougth. It will boast two towers (the second also with 25 floors) and a multifunctional office-commerical-sports centre. The complex will be 180000 square metres and the construction will cost 160 million Euros.
There will also be one underground floor of the shopping mall, while the remaining two floors of the mall will be above ground. The shopping mall will have a total commercial space area of 36000 square metres and will feature cafes, restaurants, boutiques, stores, furniture stores, banks, and pharmacies. The third part of the complex will have a multiplex theatre and sports recreation centre.
Here some pics from beobult and MPC Holding, about the planned complex:
July 21, 2008
New Belgrade was a no-man's-land between the borders of the two empires: the Ottoman's Orient and the Austro-Hungarian Occident. The potential of this " tabula rasa site" was that it could be completely planned from scratch. The first post war plan of New Belgrade, "Sketch for the regulation of Belgrade on the left bank of the river Sava", was designed in 1946, by one of the most prominent modern yugoslavian architects, Nikola Dobrović (I already posted about him here and here). He planned a radial plan (starting at the new railway station) of administrative sector with some twenty buildings for the federal ministries, Presidency of the Government and the Communist Party headquarters, and that plan for the left bank was used as a basis for the major architectural competitions held in 1947. Dobrović's radial plan was rejected by the competitors, they proposed a functional organisation of orthogonal urban structure with the two main state and party buildings as the centre pieces of the urbanistic composition. So for exemple buildings like the SIV and like the USCE Tower were part of this plan. But in 1950, the whole process of planning and construction of New Belgrade abruptly stopped as a consequence of the political and economic crisis arising from the break-up of Yugoslavia with the Soviet Union and the Eastern block. When New Belgrade was eventually, largely realized, in the 1960s and 1970s, it was not as the complex centre of the Federation, but as a city of another predominant function, that of housing.
For the housing the CIAM's concept of functional city (and primarily Le Corbusier's ideas of a city as an idealised image of a new social model: soleil, espace, verdure) were used. While the housing blocks largely followed the urbanistic Plan, the architectural expression differed according to changes in design paradigms of the time. It was a monumental showcase of prefab flats. The housing function followed the ideological premise that a place of residence/apartment (here comes the socialism) is not only a commodity, but a universal right to the common public good (like free apartment and free social services for all). As a consequence, New Belgrade was realized as a city in the public/common property, and, over a long period, a city with no internal economic dynamics. Depending entirely on the state intervention, it was totally cut off from the conditions of its own reproduction. Instead of harbouring vital urban functions, the centre of New Belgrade, remained an economic, social and physical void. Failing to integrate collective social housing into a coherent urban space, it actually became an empty field of disjunction.
Today, in the conditions of contemporary change of socio-political paradigms, the unfinished open plan of New Belgrade is being rapidly filled by what is simplistically understood to have been lacking in the socialist epoch, namely, commercial and business development on the one side and orthodox churches on the other.
But instead to see some concepts being discussed, we are witnessing how rampant economical growth and demand bring us some noteworthy situations:
July 14, 2008
The Splavs are a specialty of Belgrade and got famous also because of it's reputation for mafia-style location. Basically they are rafts that have been turned into clubs and restaurants and are anchored at the riverbank.
Most of them are open until the the morning and gives (particularly in summer) a good location to party all night long.
The mafia stories of the 90's and from films are more or less over, what stayed are interesting unusual places to celebrate from weddings to club-nights.
Here just for a good laugh the video of "mi nismo andjeli III" from Boris Milivojevic that makes fun of the Splavovi Image!
Usually the clubs conform to the highest esthetic standards and offer modern hi-tech equippement (video/movie/slide projectors, plasma TV, wireless Internet connection, Disco & DJ Party Lights). Many have boat access, beautiful terrasses and fantastic view overlooking the beautiful Sava river.
Earlier Splavs wee old rafts improvisated into restaurants.
Today it's not uncommon to hire a classy architect and to create new and attractive interiors.
July 13, 2008
Blok 70 is well known for a couple of reasons:
Like for Blok 45, in the 70's it was popular among artists to live in this block and a documentary film was made by its construction firm to promote the pleasurable life in Block 70: Naselje sunca - Blok 70 (1974).
The flea market ("Buvljak" or "Otvoreni Tržni Centar") located in Novi Beograd (New Belgrade) has been reorganized a few years ago and now hosts stands selling everything from bicycles to house appliances and to clothing to footwear. The Blok 70 shopping mall is today dominated by small vendors from China.
This however is not so well seen by block residents, as they see chinese as dirty, crazy and uncultivated (Rapper Ajs Nigrutin made a song about it, here the text). The problem is probably that their cheap merchandise levels down prices for serbian goods.....
A lot of artsy graffity are displayed at walls and gates (for more see here)
July 3, 2008
The "blokovi" acted also as inspiration for some artistic offsprings.
In the 70's it was kind of popular for artist to live in the blocks (like Blok 45 and Blok 70) Now blok 45 stands e.g. for the artsy group around "anarxija 45" and some scenens of the movie "1 na 1" were shot in that blok.
From the 90's till now also the belgradian Hip-Hop scene gets its inspiration from the "blokovi" where it's kind of standard to choose the blocks as a location for videos.(see for exemple "Struka feat. Demian - 1001 plan")
Another rap artist got his name from the blocks and made is record label (carski rez) there: Blokovski. His entire image is built around New Belgrade's Blocks!