Thirty years after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, the traces of the regime seem increasingly few and far between. Among the still existing monuments, conditions are mixed: some remain pristine, others are worn away after years of exposure to the elements.
The topic of diversity in architecture has remained a mainstream issue in recent years—however, a recent article from Metropolis Magazine offers an account that is nevertheless surprising: a celebration of the unique contributions of women architects in the former socialist state of Yugoslavia. According to the essay, the highlighted women made their mark on the history of Yugoslavia "in spite of, not through the dismantling of, both the region’s and the profession’s male-dominated cultures."
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is set to open a new exhibition exploring the architecture of the former country of Yugoslavia. Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980 will be the first exhibition in the United States to honor the peculiar architecture of the former socialist nation.
More than 400 drawings, models, photographs, and film reels culled from an array of municipal archives, family-held collections, and museums across the region will be presented to an international audience for the first time. Toward a Concrete Utopia will feature works by many of Yugoslavia's leading architects. It will explore "large-scale urbanization, technological experimentation and its application in everyday life, consumerism, monuments and memorialization, and the global reach of Yugoslav architecture."
MoMA to Explore Spomenik Monuments With "Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980"
The Museum of Modern Art will explore the architecture of the former Yugoslavia with Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980, the first major US exhibition to study the remarkable body of work that sparked international interest during the 45 years of the country’s existence. The exhibition will include more than 400 drawings, models, photographs, and film reels culled from an array of municipal archives, family-held collections, and museums across the region, introducing the exceptional built work of socialist Yugoslavia’s leading architects to an international audience for the first time.
Jože Plečnik is often described as Slovenia's greatest architect despite his passing over seven decades ago. The trace of his hand, which was trained in Vienna under Otto Wagner, can be seen across the country – and especially so in Ljubljana. Although Plečnik is often most keenly remembered for his restorative work and renovation of Prague Castle in the 1920s, the impact he left on the Slovenian capital is unmistakable.
Today, the city is dominated by a medieval castle, sat definatly atop a hill. It was for here, on this particularly charged site, that Plečnik proposed a radical intervention in the mid-20th Century. He wanted to build a new Slovene Parliament – a structure of State to house the legislature of the People's Republic of Slovenia within the second Yugoslavia. With this plan rejected by the authorities, Plečnik proposed a second design—known colloquially as the "Cathedral of Freedom"—here rebuilt and animated for the first time by Kristijan Tavcar.
For many years, Yugoslavia’s futuristic “Spomenik” monuments were hidden from the majority of the world, shielded from the public eye by their remote locations within the mountains and forests of Eastern Europe. That is, until the late 2000s, when Belgian photographer Jan Kempenaers began capturing the abstract sculptures and pavilions and posting his photographs to the internet. Not long after, the series had become a viral hit, enchanting the public with their otherworldly beauty. The photographs were shared by the gamut of media outlets (including ArchDaily), often attached to a brief, recycled intro describing the structures as monuments to World War II commissioned by former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito in the 1960s and 70s.
This accepted narrative, however, may not be entirely accurate, as Owen Hatherley writes in this piece for the Calvert Journal. In the article, Hatherley explains the true origins of the spomenik, and how this misconception has affected the way we view the structures and the legacies of the events they memorialize.
Read the full piece at Calvert Journal, here.
Built in the 1960s and 70s under former president Josep Broz Tito, these monuments commemorate the communist resistance during the German occupation. While their sculptors and architects vary (Vojin Bakic, Jordan and Iskra Grabul among others), all of the monuments memorialize WWII battle sites or former concentration camps. Although the monuments attracted a high rate of visitors in the 1980s, many of them have been abandoned or poorly preserved after Yugoslavia’s split. Jonk’s photographs illuminate both the decay and beauty of these sculptures.
SADAR+VUGA, HHF architekten, and local consultant Archicon have received first prize in the competition for the adaptation and reconstruction of the Dom Revolucije (Home of Revolution) in Nikšić, Montenegro.
The existing structure, built by Slovenian architect Marko Mušič, was originally intended to represent the socio-political structure of Nikšić, Montenegro and Yugoslavia as a whole. Construction began on the building in 1978, and after eleven years, work was suspended, leaving the site uncompleted in the middle of the city for 27 years.
The new proposal will transform the Home of Revolution by utilizing the existing built structure—mainly a shell—and inserting minimal interventions to create a new type of urban space.
The act of remembering looms large in national cultures. Shared national memories act as a foundation for national identity, a unifying collective interpretation of history that can define what it means to belong in a certain place. Monuments loom even larger - define a national memory in concrete and stone, and you can help define your vision of the nation. That's why Nevena Katalina, a graphic design masters student at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, has taken the famous abstract war memorials in the former Yugoslavia and translated them into posters, attempting to reconcile the imposing concrete forms with the impact they've had on culture and memory in countries around the former Yugoslavia.
Underground is the condensed version of a 5-hour series (originally broadcast on Serbian television in the 90′s) which takes place in Yugoslavia, showing the country from the beginning of WWII through the Yugoslav Wars. This theatrical version, directed by Emir Kusturica, considered one of the master filmmakers of our time, utilises symbolic elements that require a strong knowledge of story to fully understand, and ends with a memorable finale, with the characters dancing on a floating island that separates them from the continent. This is an extraordinary film that we invite you to enjoy and comment on.
Commissioned by former Yugoslavian president, Josip Broz Tito in the 1960s and 70s to commemorate sites where WWII battles took place, these now forgotten structures stand empty and without the significance it once had decades ago. Designed by different sculptors and architects, the strong and powerful blending of art and architecture come together in these monuments to convey the sense of confidence and strength of the Socialist Republic. However, after the Republic gradually died down in 1992, they lost their sense of wonder and no longer attracted the millions of visitors a year. More images after the break.