Hidden Belgrade (47): Belgrade’s First Modern Hospital

Opened on 1 May 1868 on the property of the famous benefactor Ilija Milosavljević Kolarac, Belgrade’s first modern hospital was situated right in the middle of a somewhat unsavoury Palilula district by the Vidin road. It was one of the many projects by the reformist Prince Mihailo Obrenović in his bid to remake Belgrade and Serbia as a (central) European country, rather than an Ottoman … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (47): Belgrade’s First Modern Hospital

Why so dense?

The current pandemic, as insane as it is, highlighted problems of dense, large cities, where sharing tight public spaces is the only way of survival. From public transport carriages to lifts in high rises, we cannot escape density and the risks it brings. On top of that, the race to density, in making housing and facilities ever tighter, and more cost-efficient for their owners has … Continue reading Why so dense?

Hidden Belgrade (46): Within a Budding Grove

What is currently Belgrade’ Botanical garden was foundedin 1890 on what used to be outskirts of the city, on the estate of Jevrem Obrenović, (the grandfather of then King Milan Obrenović and the youngest brother of Prince Miloš Obrenović) after whom it is still called “Jevremovac”. This, however, wasn’t the first nor the intended place for the botanical garden in Belgrade. The first iteration of … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (46): Within a Budding Grove

Hidden Belgrade (45) Sava Centar: Yugoslavia’s Global Stage

When I asked Maja Necić from AUTORI, one of the leading contemporary architecture and design studios in Serbia, for any buildings that inspire her work, she took a pause and then immediately said: Sava Centar. Designed by Stojan Maksimović, one of Yugoslavia’s most promising architects who was in his 40s at the time, and built between 1976 and 1979, it was mean to be the … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (45) Sava Centar: Yugoslavia’s Global Stage

Hidden Belgrade (44): Derelict Showcase of Modernity’s Greatest Evil

Staro Sajmište was built as an art-deco fairground to promote modernisation of Yugoslavia by providing the newest wares and technologies, mostly from the West. It was opened by a consortium of local businessmen on September 11, 1937, with a few expansions (notably the Turkish and German pavilion) constructed in 1938, based on the designs by Rajko Tatić, Miroslav Lučković and Đorđe Lukić. It was the … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (44): Derelict Showcase of Modernity’s Greatest Evil

Belgrade 2020: Three Things to Look Forward To

I got burnt last year by making a list of things to look forward to in Belgrade in 2019. Two out of four did not come to pass (Chinese Cultural Centre and St Sava Mosaics), and the restored Palilula market only opened in the last few days of 2019. Still, I decided to press on this year, out of spite to the general chaos surrounding … Continue reading Belgrade 2020: Three Things to Look Forward To

How Ivan Meštrović brought the Kosovo Myth to life

In 1911, Ivan Meštrović, a Croatian sculptor raised in Dalmatian backwater and educated in Vienna, who was hailed as one of the greatest of his generation and a successor to Rodin,  caused the first of many political stirs in his life. Instead of exhibiting his monumental, secession-inspired works to show the glory and grandeur of the imperial Austro-Hungary during the 1911 international art exhibition in … Continue reading How Ivan Meštrović brought the Kosovo Myth to life

Hidden Belgrade (43): Last days of Yugoslav socialist consumerism

While many emphasise worker-ownership or its non-aligned anti-imperialist foreign policy as distinctive features of Yugoslav socialism, for me one of the most striking ways it differed from the countries behind the “Iron Curtain” is its deep openness to Western consumerist culture. Indeed, if you ask average former Yugoslavs what the main difference was between them and their supposed ideological comrades in the Warsaw pact, they … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (43): Last days of Yugoslav socialist consumerism

Hidden Belgrade (42): Art for The People!

Public art in Belgrade is back in fashion with many ambitious projects completed and planned. They range from the sculptural/architectural collaboration between Turner prize-winning Richard Deacon and widely acclaimed local sculptor Mrđan Bajić to the future gigantic monument to  the founder of the most successful of Serbian medieval states, Stefan Nemanja, made by the acclaimed Russian sculptor Alexander Rukavishnikov. There have also recently been two … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (42): Art for The People!

Hidden Belgrade (41): Occult Belgrade

Given Belgrade’s long and bloody history it is almost a wonder that there is not a larger number of stories of hauntings and other occult occurrences. This is even more remarkable considering that Serbia has a long association with and interest in the occult – from being connected with vampire crazes since 18th century (we invented the word after all), to its prominent role in … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (41): Occult Belgrade

Hidden Belgrade (40): National Assembly’s Grand Interior

Built in 1936, on the spot of the former Batal mosque, and just across the road from the royal place complex, the National Assembly building, was built to impress the power and ambitions of the ill-fated Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The outdated, Belle Epoque grandeur of its exterior was based on a design by Konstantin Jovanović in 1892, (later modified by Jovan and Petar Ilkić in … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (40): National Assembly’s Grand Interior

Beyond Brutalism: Belgrade’s Magical Pre-WWII Architecture

Although best known for socialist modernism and brutalism, Belgrade’s architecture is (in)famously eclectic due to the various political twists and turns that shaped the city’s identity (as I’ve written here). Although through much of the 19th century, Belgrade’s foreign and foreign-educated architects were trying to find their feet by copying architecture of Serbia’s powerful neighbours, in early 20th century and arrival of art-nouveau, which embraced … Continue reading Beyond Brutalism: Belgrade’s Magical Pre-WWII Architecture

Hidden Belgrade (38): Great Men Behind National Museum’s Tiny Egyptology Collection

Ever since Napoleon invaded Egypt at the turn of 19th Century, having  an Egyptological collection was a status symbol in the West. These collections, stuffed with precious ,strange mummies, statuses of animal-headed gods and golden trinkets not only served to pique the curiosity of the local educated elites but were also a symbol of civilisational continuity: that its current rulers and citizens are physically connected … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (38): Great Men Behind National Museum’s Tiny Egyptology Collection

Hidden Belgrade (36): ‘German Bridge’ and its Hero

Belgrade’s relationship with this iconic green-arched bridge, the city’s shortest and oldest continuously standing, started off in the worst possible way during the darkest days of World War II. After Nazi Germany attacked the Kingdom of Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, the Royal Yugoslav Army blew up all of Belgrade’s bridges on the Sava and the Danube in order to slow down the enemy advance. … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (36): ‘German Bridge’ and its Hero

Hidden Belgrade (35): The Home of Serbian Expansionist Project

On August 10 1889, cannons announced the arrival of the teenage King Aleksandar Obrenovic to an empty plot in Dusanova street. Although cleared for years, the spot at which the young king was standing, held the remains of two empires between which the young Kingdom of Serbia was slowly growing. It used to be “Pirinc-han”: the palace of Eugene of Savoy during the Habsburg rule … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (35): The Home of Serbian Expansionist Project

Hidden Belgrade (34): Rabbi Alkalai, Zemun and Zionism

Although in the past few decades Zemun is best known for its tough guys (read: mafiosi), great lively restaurants a more chilled vibe than old Belgrade, this ancient town has for centuries been a vibrant melting pot of various cultures, drawing merchants and craftspeople to the border of Central Europe and the Orient, which, for centuries lay on the banks of the Danube. Despite many … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (34): Rabbi Alkalai, Zemun and Zionism