November 28, 2008

Terazije Plateau in Begrade

View from Terazije over to Novi Beograd

Terazije is often perceived as the center of Belgrade, with some attractive building (the Palata Albania and Hotel Moskva) and the old fountain (Terazijska cesma) in the front of the Moskva Hotel. From there is an excellent natural lookout point to the Sava river valley, Novi Beograd and further into the Syrmia region.

But what lays between it, at the moment is not very attractive: a ungroomed terraced wast area located between the upper plateau (balkanska street) and the lower plateau (kraljice natalije).

With some effort it could be an attractive trail to the Zeleni Venac pijaca (Market).

The configuaration of the terrace is a subject of public and academic debate ever since the 19th century. A first general plan for it is from 1912 by French architect Alban Chamond which envisioned it as cascades of trapezoid "piazzetas" with flowers and fountains, leaving the panoramic view intact.

The Nikola Dobrovic proposal of 1929

In 1929, Serbian architect Nikola Dobrović (who after World War II became Director of the Institute for Urbanism and, in 1948, a professor at the Architectural Faculty at the University of Belgrade) suggested two tall business buildings on the both ends of the ridge and a plateau between with several small business and leisure objects, while the slope itself would be a succession of horizontal gardens, pools and fountains.
His plans were a little ahead of the time....immagine how it would look now?

In 2006 Belgrade Land Development Public Agency invited for proposals in a architectural and urbanistic competition.

The Studio ARCVS entry

The shared first price went to "Studio ARCVS" (Partners Dragan Ivanovic, Zoran Djorovic and Branislav Redzic) and to "react" (competition: Dejan Milanovic, Grozdana Sisovic
, creative team:
Ivica Nikolic, Srdjan Tadic, design project:
Dejan Milanovic, Grozdana Sisovic,
Tanja Bajic)
After a new re-evaluation the "re:act" project was proclaimed winner of the competition in march of 2007.

The re:act entry

The re:act project took some of the concept of Dobrovic's proposal, framing the terrassed square with buildings (however low ones) and leaving an empty space in the center. Dobrovic further placed two tower-buildings left and right from the look out point, what the re:act-team replaced with two light pillars that illuminate the terrace.

The ARCVS approach was with a geomatrical arrangement of a low building and wide stairs following the straight building on the bakanska street side and with a loose set-up of trees and trails following the curvated side on prizrenska street but also without cloudying the view from the top.

November 23, 2008

Balkanology in Switzerland

Picture: Tom Bisig, Basel

Saturday I visited the Balkanology Exhibition in the Swiss Architecture Museum (SAM). A very nicely done exhibition that shows projects in pictures and films and probably it's the first time that an exhibition is dedicated to the Balkan region (reduced to Jugoslavia and Albania) in Switzerland. Here the press release.

What I liked, it's that an exhibition of this little-known architecture was presented to a broad audience here in Switzerland and it gives good explanation about the socio-poilitical changes in the region and their impact on the architecture.

From architectural masteripieces of the past with "iconic" effect like: The Museum of Modern Art in New Belgrade, 1965 (Ivan Antić und Ivanka Raspopović), The Federal Ministry of Defence in Belgrade, 1963 (Nikola Dobrović), the National Library in Pristina, 1983 (Andrija Mutnjaković) or the Yugoslavian Pavillion in the World Exhibition in Brussel of 1958 (Vjenceslav Richter) to new projects that are about to be realized like: The reconstruction of the Usce Tower in New Belgrade, 2006 (Slavija biro and ARCVS), A Media Center for Novi Sad, 2007 (Srdjan Jovanović Weiss / NAO) or the new proposal for the terazije Plateau, 2010 (Re:act), the exhibition covers a lot of outstanding buildings.
(The buildings above are already covered or will be soon covered on this blog, that's why I mentioned these)

Another part of the exhibition is dedicated to Urbanist Studies: of Belgrade (from Dubravka Sekulić und Ivan Kucina), of Zagreb (from Platforma 9,81) and of Prishtina (from Archis Interventions) and to Urbanist Interventions: of Tirana (Co-Plan) and Kotor (EXPEDITIO).

What I didn't like so much about this "Balkanology" is, that from several points of few, it ends up always to the same conclusion, that the Balkan Region can get rid of its "negative image" and its problems by adopting more of a Western approach of planning and to learn to be avare of the devastation of environment by inadequate building.
Is this environment adequate behavior?

On one side it's pretty ridiculous, to pretend that for instance a country that got bombed and some of its most significant buildings got destroyed should understand the meaning of "environment adequate behavior" and on the other side, it's questionable if the "balkan"-image is really just a negative identity that needs to be broken down.
random improvisation (from LHE)

Isn't the diversity, the exotism and the improvisation that comes with the "balkan" word even an advantage that could make a brand, the "balkan brand", an instrument to give this region an identity back, a positiv fascinating identity, without necessarily using Western benchmarks ?!

November 19, 2008

Užice - The Serbian Hong Kong

Užice is like the little Hong Kong of Serbia (here in some fantastic pictures of Pedrag Supurovic), you wouldn't really expect such a city when you start to go up the mountain region of the Zlatibor district. From here it's agood starting point point to visit some of the most exiting places of Western Serbia: Tara National Park, Zlatibor, Mokra Gora and the Kusturica Village of Drvengrad.

Located at the river of the Djetinja River, Užice has about 60'000 habitants and a florishing textile and metallurgy indutry, since the city started to developing an indutrial town at the end of the 19th century.

It's also the first serbian city with a hydroelectric power plant. Within the former Yugoslavia (established after the Second world War), Užice was renamed "Titovo Užice". From 1992, following the collapse of the pro-communist administration, "Titovo" was removed, leaving the original city name Užice.
Because it was Tito's city and had an important plac
e during the communist system, Užice received significant amounts of investments in infrastructure and local factories, which turned the city among highly developed ones of its size in former Yugoslavia.
This is probably also the reason, why it has many skyscrapers and for the summer there is a quite interesting beach "plaza".
During the 1990s Užice's economy performed very bad due to economic conditions (war, political instability, sanctions) and in 1999 the city was bombed multiple times during the NATO bombing.

Today, industry is the heart of the Užice municipality economic development. The most developed industrial branches are non-ferrous metallurgy, metal working and textile industries.
This "Textil's" commercial building that is located in Uzice's industrial zone, between the motorway, the railway, warehouses, a football field and a cemetery is a new building made by the group "NEO Arhitekti".
The architects delivered what they themselves describe as 'anti-design' in reaction to the surroundings and context. Ignoring all those external factors they are powerless to change, they concentrated on the interior.
The result is a building with an interesting perforated façade that reveals nothing of the very effi
cient spatial organization inside.

Maybe the suuroundings of the industrial zone is not very inspiring, but the center of Užice is very interesting.

Like this rocket-shaped building
which is an incredible eye-catcher!

And this H- shaped construction!
(picture by Ivan Micovic

November 10, 2008

Usce Tower - soon ready!

Not long time ago I wrote about the USCE Tower in Novi Beograd and showed here the new project for a second tower and a big Shopping Center.
In the meantime, the planned project changed, and should now look like the visualisation above.

The tower is ready and in use and the shopping center is taking shape. This it's like it looks in November 2008 (pictures from beobuilt).

Just in April 2007 the site looked lik this.

The reconstruction is made by: Dejan Sokolov and Đorđe Bobić of Slavija Biro and Branislav Redžić, Dragan Ivanović and Zoran Đorović of ARCVS, Belgrade

For the first tower, which is now ready, 30 Mio. Euro were invested. For the second tower (which is already aproved but it's still not known when realisation will start) it's estimated that 60 Mio. Euro will be invested.
USCE-tower transfomed itself from a symbol of communism (when it's still was called CK-Building from Centralni Komitet) to one of the most modern and elite business center of the balkans, though the complete oposite!

Even a comparison with the WTC in New York comes in my mind, when looking at the planned project.
USCE was attacked by NATO in 1999, it burned for several hours, but the structure didn't give up and the building was still standing.
Only 2 years later the WTC in New York was hit by a similar destiny.
What else they have in common: they were both civil building and got attacked because of their symbolic meaning.

What I particularly like about the USCE building is, when they put messges with lights on the fasade. It looks amazing how the building disapears and the sings glow in the dark.

November 3, 2008

Hotel Avala near Belgrade

Around the Avala Region there are a few landmarks that are worth visiting: the Avala Tower that will be soon ready again after NATO bombed and destroyed the tower in 1999 (I wrote about it here) the Unknown Soldier Monument dedicated to Serbian heroes fallen in World War I (described below) and the Hotel Avala an building in modern "Bauhaus"-like style.

Placed on less then 15 minutes of driving from the center of Belgrade and only 50 meters from the top of mountain Avala, which is protected natural zone, this hotel was built in 1928 on demand of King Alexandar Karađorđević for the purposes of ministry of forestry & waterpower engineering of Kingdom of Yugoslavia. It was projected by Russian architect Viktor Lukomski

The Unknown Soldier Monument
dedicated to Serbian heroes fallen in World War I
(designed by sculptor Ivan Meštrović , erected in 1938)

The Avala is a low, type of the Pannonian island mountain, though it is actually the northernmost mountain in Šumadija. Until 600,000 years ago, when the surrounding low areas were flooded by the inner Pannonian Sea, the Avala was an island, just as the neighboring mountains (Kosmaj, Fruška Gora) , thus earning its geographical classification.

Lot of events of national importance are related with this building. One of them took place here in 1929 when the First Ski Championship of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia started from today's parking lot. Also the first Ski Championship of Serbia after World War II started from here. In may 1957 the first TV signal in Yugoslavia was sent from the roof of the hotel.

Today it's working as hotel and restaurant. Here is the website.

November 2, 2008

VMA Building in Belgrade

The Vojnomedicinska akademija (Military Medical Academy) of Belgrade is a massive, modern building constructed in 1980 on top of the Banjica hill, thus visible from many lower parts of the city. It is the largest single hospital in Serbia (1500 bed, 1 medical faculty, 40 clinics and 22 operating theatres)

It is a part of the military of Serbia and is generally intended to serve the officers and soldiers (although it is open for civilians as well) and is known for its high standard in medical practice. Josip Osojnik (1923) and Slobodan Nikolic (1931) together drew up the plans for this amazing building in 1973. The structure is reinforced concrete with a 7.2 x 7.2 meter grid. The lower part is an enormous rectangular base of 4 storeys with the upper one in the shape of a cross that is 5 storeys high. From the basement to the top, including all in-between levels it adds up to 16 floors! The exterior facade finish is made of marble, aluminium and copper.

Unfortunately it's not allowed to take pictures inside, but the main hall is really amazing. With serbian documents (Licna Karta) you can enter the building (or foreign passport and friendliness or/and a good reason ...can do the trick...). Or take a glimpse on the website!