January 28, 2010

Brankov Bridge in Belgrade

Illuminated Brankov Bridge

Belgrade has a huge problem!
The capital of the Republic of Serbia with 17 districts and 1.6 Mio habitants situated at the confluence of two major rivers (Danube and Sava) has just two major bridges (Gazela and Brankov Bridge) to connect the city to the surrounding and to swallov the huge traffic that crosses the country (Belgrade lays on the north-south corridor that connects Western Europe with Turkey and Greece) and this two bridges are cronically congested! (this is expected to be alleviated by the construction of a bypass connecting the E70 and E75 highways).
(The title foto is from www.tt-group.net)

One of this two bridges, the Brankov Bridge (Бранков мост) has became a landmark in the panorama of Belgrade. It connects basically the city center with New Belgrade.

Kralj Aleksandar I  Bridge (how the bridge
was called until it was destroyed in 1941)
with serbo-byzantine decorated pylons

The old bridge but looking on the other direction

The bridge was rebuilt in 1957 after it had been destroyed in 1941 (WW II) replacing the former King Aleksandar I from 1934.

Brankov Bridge in the 60’s 
as it was still a single span bridge
(picture from http://www.staribeograd.com)

Novi Beograd was in the beginning (in the background the USCE-tower).

The lower part of the bridge from the New Belgrade side. 
In the night it's illuminated and give a nice look 
like you see in the title picture

(picture from panoramio map of the bridge)

The bridge actually uses lower parts of the former bridge's pylons (decorated by Ivan Meštrović in Serbo-Byzantine style) as outer constraints for its two secondary spans.

 Crossing the bridge there is a beautiful view
to the old city with the Saborna Church (here a post I made)
another landmark of Belgrade


On one side the view goes to the city with St.Sava Temple

Looking toward Brankova Street, the entrance to the city center

During communist times the bridge was named "Brotherhood and unity bridge" (Most bratstva i jedinstva) but the name was not widely used.
It found the name Brankov Bridge named after Branko Radicevic a  Serbian romanticist poet. There is a monument erected facing the sava River and it’s a work od the sculptor Aleksandar Zarin.
Gospodska Street, where he lived was renamed for him into Brankova. So the bridge now connects Brankova (near Terazije) and Mihajla Pupina Bulevar (in New Belgrade).

January 24, 2010

Modernist architecture in Havana (Cuba) - 2-

 Someillan Building

This sleek highrise building (32 floors)  was built in 1951 by the designs of Fernando R. Castro Cardenas and the structural designs by Jose A. Vila Espinosa.

This a typical floor plan

How the boardwalk near Someillan Building looked in the past.
The floor plan and the last picture are from www.arquitectura-cuba.blogspot.com (a very nice blog with lots of informations)

Plaza de la revolucion

This square (that is one of the biggest of the world) was begun in 1952 under Fulgencio Batista's presidency and was completed in 1959, the year that Fidel Castro came to power. Fidel Castro used to have his speeches from here when he was addressing the Cuban population in special occasions.
The square is dominated by the 109m high José Martí Memorial.
The square may be big, but from the urbanistic view it's rather questionable, even if surrounded by really interesting buildings, the layout doesn't work. Take a look at the link below:


Ministry of Communication

Many government ministries and other buildings are located in and around the Plaza.
The Ministry of State (now Ministry of Informatics and Communications) building (from 1951 - 54 designed by Ernesto Gomez Sampera and Martin Dominguez ) with the big steel outlines of Camilo Cienfuegos (it was made in October 2009 in honor of 50th anniversary of his death). Accompanying the stencil facade are the words "Vas bien, Fidel (You’re doing fine, Fidel), representing the famous response of Camilo to Fidel at the January 8, 1959 rally where Castro declared that the Columbia military barracks would be made into a school, and then asked Camilo, "Am I doing all right, Camilo?"

 today and below in the past

Directly across the Plaza de la Revolución from the José Martí Memorial stands the Ministerio del Interior building (from 1958) instantly recognizable by the enormous bronze wire sculpture of Che Guevara on the facade, which was completed in 1995.

This sculpture was based on the famous photograph of Che taken by Alberto Korda. The words which appear below Che’s image, “Hasta la Victoria Siempre” mean “Ever Onward to Victory” and were the signature in Che’s final letter to Fidel Castro before he was killed in Bolivia.

January 20, 2010

Modernist architecture in Havana (Cuba)

In this blog, I wrote often about social realism and modernist building in Eastern Europe, mostly of Belgrade. That architectural style that followed the goals of socialism and communism in a philosophical way, produced (in my advise) some of the most fascinating buildings! Try to look at the Genex-Building, the Rudo-Buildings in Belgrade or at these great buildings in Bratislava (Slovakia).

My husband gave me a good reason to make a post about that kind of architecture of a place where this architecture is also very well represented: he made wonderful pictures of communist and modernist buildings in Cuba for me!

Cuba provides a particularly big collection of interesting architecture because it was a colony of Spain, a neo-colonial protectorate of the US, an independent republic and then finally a socialist country, all within less than a century.

Havana's modernism

In the 40's and 50's Havana was considered a destination for gambling and holidays in the sun. It became a haven for criminals, gangsters and playboys. That was the time when most of the modernist high-rise buildings were built. Thanks to Fidel Castro and his regime this beautiful buildings have stayed unaltered and here they stand almost the same like in they time when they were built...and the ravage of time gives them  even more charm! 

Hotel Havana Riviera

This building was built 1956 - 1957 by the designs of russian-born Igor Polevitzky (1911 - 1978) and Irvin Feldman served as general contractor. It's a twenty-one-story, 440-room edifice, towering above the Malecon. When it opened, the Riviera was the largest purpose-built casino-hotel in Cuba or anywhere in the world, outside Las Vegas.
The angled shape made that each room had a sea view and the futuristic look reflected the lifestyle of the before Castro Cuba. 

Here an old postcard when the Hotel was built and below how it looks today. Just the surrounding changed...the Hotel building and its facilities are basically the same as in 1957.

Here a picture of the interior (from www.hotelhavanariviera.com)
The Interior design was made by Albert Parvin (of Parvin Dohrman Co. in Los Angeles). It was  completly furnished and custom-made pieces were made for the lobby, the restaurant and the cocktail lounge.


 Focsa Building

Focsa Building like it looks today

The Edificio Focsa (Fomentos de Obrasy Constructiones Sociedad Anonima) designed by architect Ernesto Gomez Sampera (1956) represents Havana's booming economy and foreign influence at the time. 

This 35-storey complex was conceived and based on Corbusian ideas of a self-contained city within a city. It contained 375 apartments (distributed on 30 floors), garages, a school, stores and so on (on 9 floors) and restaurant on the top floor. 

 This was the tallest concrete structure in the world at the time and the ultimate symbol of luxury. Here above the sale brochure used by the investors to sell the apartments (property of Mr. Alberto Quiroga, son of the jewelry store owner in Focsa)

Focsa Building like it looked in the 50's

(to be continued)

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)

January 8, 2010

Church of St. Anthony of Padua in Belgrade

  Crkva Svetog Antuna (Rascian at Skyscrapercity)

This is not a typical building for Belgrade. The roman catholic church of St. Anthony of Padua (Црква светог Антуна) is however interesting for a couple facts.
First it reminds me of another, newer church in Belgrade, an orthodox church but with some familiarities: the Hram Sevotg Vasilija Ostroskog projected by Mihailo Mitrovic.
The composition (round building with free standing tower next to it) and the facade in red bricks make the two churches a bit similar.

Img. from Costruire in Laterizio (Rivista bimestrale,di Baio editore)

The church was built 1928-1932 by a project of the Slovenian architect Joze Plecnik (1872 - 1957) and the tower was added only in 1962. With the result, that the earth gave in a little after the tower was build, so it now leans (similar as the famous tower in Pisa) on one side. Just 45cm out of the center, but you can see it, specially when looking together at the tower and to near standing buildings.


The idea behind the project was, not to make a "rich" looking church, but to make it look like a piece of art. It was for Plecnik one of the first building that were not anymore in secession style, but can be seen as one of the first post-modern buildings.

 In the 60's the bell-tower was added

 Also in the facade he used new materials like the concrete circles. In the entrance and the inside he allowed some symbols and a few decorated pillars, but the outside was rather radical: a clean facade without any religious signs or symbols.


Plecnik felt that the  Belgrade of the 30's was a new city, where experiments were allowed. So he looked for a new language for this church.

Plecnik who studied with the famous Viennese architect and educator Otto Wagner and worked in Wagner's architecture office until 1900 was affiliated with the Viennese Secession, noted for its rejection of the decorative motifs of historic architecture in favor of a new, organic mode of ornament.
During the 20's and 30's Plecnik transformed Ljubljiana (National and University Library, Triple Bridge, Mutual Assurance Building) and was considered the Slovenian national architect.
Here the Plecnik Virtual Museum.

Plecnik's church is at the border of Vracar/Zvezdara district in a residential area.

January 2, 2010

Slavija Circle in Belgrade


Trg Slavija (Трг Славија) is not known for its beauty or for architectural masterpieces, the first impact with the enormous circle is the impression of a traffic chaos (one of the few places in Belgrade where cars, trams, trolleybus and normal buses meets)  in the middle of peculiar buildings.

At the first glance I liked just one building: the old Hotel Slavija build in the manner of social realism in 1962.

In these days however it has lost a bit of its glamour, it's run as a two-stars Hotel but lacks all kind of charm.
Also the economic pressure takes a toll on the buildings: their facades are covered  with  big advertisments that change also the look of the place.
Also the nearby newer building (built in 1989, the Slavija Lux, an upgrade version of the original Slavija) is covered by sponsored ads.

Look to Hotel Slavija and to Slavija Lux (Foto Tanjug)

The place that still in the 1880's was a large pool on the eastern outskirts of the city, where the inhabitants of Belgrade went hunting wild ducks and boating on the pond, became now a rather expoited lot.
It probably started when a well-known Scottish businessman and Nazarene Francis Mackenzie, bought a large piece of land above the present square and made lots for sale. Mackenzie built a house for himself at the place (where the old "Slavija" cinema used to be) which in 1910 was turned into the Socialist People's Center, a gathering place of the worker's movement. The other, smaller buildings at the corner of Kralja Milana and the square, where the famous cafés "Tri seljaka" and "Rudničanin" used to be, were destroyed before and during World War II.
After World War II, the new Communist government re-buried the remains of the leading Serbian Socialist Dimitrije Tucović at the central square plateau in 1947 and a bronze bust of Tucović was erected (in communist times the place was named Square of Dimitrije Tucović and after 2000 it went back to its old name "Slavija" (meaning "land of the Slavs").

View to the streets Makenzijeva and Svetog Save in a postcard from 1936. Slavija was already a lively place.

Another old postcard of Trg Slavija. On the right is the "old" Hotel Salvija.

Between advertisement covered buildings and advertisement covered buses originates an interesting and colorful chaos.

Here an interesting 360° view of the square (use link )