January 14, 2010

Secessionist architecture in Belgrade

Belgrade is not know as a capital of Art Nouveau (or Secession Style) like Brussels or Vienna, however for lovers of this architectural style, there a a couple of good examples of building made by great masters of this style.
I tried to put a few buildings together, that are in the city center and can be visited while taking a nice walk in the old town. Instead of taking pictures I sketched the buildings, so I had to look for pictures elsewhere (see credits).

Secession was an important movement also in Serbia,  it surfaced in many fields by the beginning of the twentieth century, predominantly in architecture. It brought about radical change in the rules of construction use and understanding of space conceptualization and, in addition, some new materials, like cast-iron, were introduced.
It was also important as a movement because it allowed the artists to draw inspiration in national heritage (mainly from the medieval period, the byzantine style). The best example is Branko Tanazevic (I wrote about his two most famous buildings in this post) who combined byzantine elements, secessionist elements and moravian style elements in his buildings and created an artistically interesting melting of national heritage and the new movement.

Smederevo Bank on Terazije (Terazije 39)

This stunning building on Terazije 39 is known as Smederevo Bank Building ( Зграда Смедеревске кредитне банке) was build in 1912 by the plans of the architects Milorad Ruvidic and Isail Fidinovic. The building was comissioned by businessman Dimitrije Milan Stefanović-Smederevac. Smederevo Bank is not anymore in this building, but the name stayed.
The exterior details are particularly rich and with intricate details. It was recently renovated and it's listed as Cultural Monument of Serbia (this beautiful picture is from their site http://spomenicikulture.mi.sanu.ac.rs)

Robni Magazin on Kralja Petra 16

 picture from rascian at skyscrapercity
(look also to this beautiful picture from Vladimir Andjelkovic)

This building was built in 1907 by a project of architect (and civil engineer) Viktor Azriel (1880 – 1936).
In this example all the high tech materials of that time are used (glass and steel) to obtain a curtain facade. Filigrane pilars holds the building and allow to obtain a front made totally of glass framed by decorations on marble covered sidepillars. The concept was to let people see and crave the things sold inside.
 This cast-iron building was one of the first department store and the investor was a rich banker. This of course changed the way of the shopping experience.
Also in the enterior Azriel used cast-iron, glass and concrete, matierial that where not used in interiors until then.

The beautiful ironwork of the staircase
(picture from http://stanart-online.com/2008/06/19/robni-magazin/)

The interior solution to unite the three levels in a single space was also a new concept.

"House with green tiles" on Kralja Petra 41

picture by rascian at skyscrapercity 
(look also to this beautiful picture from Vladimir Andjelkovic)

Also in 1907 on the corner Kralja Petra and Uzun Mirkova another building in the spirit of Secession was erected. Projected from Nikola Nestorović and Andra Stevanović, it was called "House with green tiles" (Куча са зеленим плочицама). The architect left the academic style for good and accepted the basis of secession style not only in the decorative elements but also in the entire composition. The use of colored materials (particularly the green ceramic tiles), the beautiful cast-iron balconies and roof balustrade and the combination of upright lines and floreal decoration make it a stunning building.

House of Aron Levi on Kralja Petra 39

 Picture by Vladimir Andjelkovic

This building is also from 1907 and was designed by archtect Stojan Titelbah (1877 - 1916). The exterior is richly decorated with reliefs. In the central part of the building above the balcony there is a motif of female mask with two doves in a interesting shaped background. Titelbah was also the architect for the new palace in Belgrade.

 Djordje Vuco's House Upon Sava River on Karadjordjeva 61

picture from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/8486361

This building, Djordje Vuco's house upon Sava River (Вучина Кућа на Сави) was built by Dimitrije T.Leko (1863-1914) in 1908 and with its richly decorated facades and lot of balconies in cast-iron it is a good example of secession style. Like this building, several of Leko's works were financed by one of the wealthiest merchants in Belgrade at the end of the 19th century for one of the wealthy family of Belgrade, the family of Djordje Vuco.
Leko also designed the Belgrade Meteorological Station, another house for the Vuco Family on  Slavija Square in 1893, The Military Academy in Nemanjina Street in 1899 and the Athens Palace on the Terazije Square in 1902, just to name a few.

Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts on Knez Mihailova 35

This building was built 1923-24 designed by Dragutin Djordjevic and Andra Stevanovic on the land donated by Prince Mihailo Obrenovic.
The top of this building is dominated by a sculpture of the greek goddess of victory and success - Nike. She is on the bow of a ship in a triumphant pose, holding 2 wreaths to crown Industry and Trade. Left and right of the goddess are two figures of women with children who symbolize the future.
In the wings of this building, besides several departments and institutes, there are three culturally important institutions: the archives of the Academy of Sciences and Arts, with wealth of material researching the history of Serbia, the Academy Library, one of Belgrade's best, and the Academy Gallery, where scientific, artistic and cultural exhibitions are organized.

Another secession style building is the Mihailo Petrovic House in Kosancicev Venac also called Alas House (see my post here)


  1. Great photos of important period architecture. Lovely.
    Thank you.

  2. Dear Šajkača,
    Thank you for this lovely blog. I am both impressed with and touched by your effort to get the world to know the Serbian cultural heritage. I am a middle aged Serb but I could still learn a lot about my city/country from you. Please keep up the good work!