Hidden Belgrade (61): Old School Belgarde

Ever since the First Serbian uprising in 1804, education was a major component in building the nation, as well as its identity, in large thanks to the two major personages of Serbian Enlightenment: Dositej Obradović and Vuk Karadžić. The first major educational institution was the Great School, which was operational between 1809 and 1813. It was devised by Obradović and attended by Karadžić and was … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (61): Old School Belgarde

Belgrade, Peasantville

As Kingdom of Serbia was late to industrialise, modern Belgrade was a city built in large part with the money of proud peasants and cattle (esp. pig) merchants, more than happy to celebrate their rural heritage and especially the ornate dresses of Serbian villagers – this was especially popular as Orientalist and Romantic art, as well as Art Nouveau started looking for something to break … Continue reading Belgrade, Peasantville

Making an entrance, Belgrade style

Entrances to buildings in Belgrade used to be stages where architects showed their utmost creativity in the interwar period. They were designed to woo potential tentants to buy or rent by making a block of flats look like a private castle, or to impose the serious nature of a company or official building. Some of my favourites were built while Belgrade modernism (local variant of … Continue reading Making an entrance, Belgrade style

Pokretači #84 Andrej Josifovski Pijanista o uličnoj umetnosti / Beograd

Andrej Josifovski, aka Pijanista, je jedan od najkreativnijih domaćih uličnih umetnika, koji je pre par dana uzbudio javnost svojim novim radom, privremenom instalacijom raspetog Hrista na stubu sa kamerama za nadzor. Pričali smo o smislu ulične umetnosti u vremenu kada se ona sve više komodifikuje, o njegovim pokušajima da od Bežanijske kose napravi muzej na otvorenom kao, i „grass-roots“ inicijativama za unapređivanje krajeva po Beogradu. … Continue reading Pokretači #84 Andrej Josifovski Pijanista o uličnoj umetnosti / Beograd

Hidden Belgrade (51): Forgotten Summer Stages

Given that Belgrade is blessed by nice weather from April to November, it is no wonder that entrepreneurs and city planners of yore wanted to capitalise on this by building open-air cinema and theatre stages as attractions. Unfortunately, due to the lack of creativity and funds, most of them are now derelict or otherwise out of bounds for the crowds, although every once in a … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (51): Forgotten Summer Stages

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 (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 (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 (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

Morava Style: Medieval Serbia’s Majestic Swan Song

When I first laid my eyes on Ravanica’s Church of Ascension last spring, it became apparent why medieval Serbia’s first and last autochthonous architectural style inspired so many artists through the centuries, from the graceful architecture of Branko Tanazević to the subtle poetry Vasko Popa. That cold April morning, I could not peel my eyes from the intricate rosettes and writhing mythical animals, which enlivened … Continue reading Morava Style: Medieval Serbia’s Majestic Swan Song

The Many Charms of Yugohotels

Hotels and resorts of Socialist Yugoslavia got a lot of press in the past few years (two examples here), especially as every summer more and more foreign tourists are heading to its coasts and cities over the summer. This recent fascination with ‘Yugohotels’ is more than just due to the trendiness of the Eastern Adriatic coast in the past few years, or the hipsterish love … Continue reading The Many Charms of Yugohotels

Faces and Blossoms of Art Nouveau in Serbia

From the curvy floral beauty of the Subotica’s Synagogue to the Morava-style inspired rosettes on Belgrade’s telegraph building, Art Nouveau architecture takes various shapes in present-day Serbia. This diversity was in large part because this sensuous new style, originating in late 1800s France, was used as an artistic expression of national romanticism that gripped Europe those days. Back in early 1900s, north of the Sava … Continue reading Faces and Blossoms of Art Nouveau in Serbia

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 (32): Eternal Belgraders

Sculptures on Belgrade’s buildings were created in the relatively narrow period of time. Out stone and bronze citizens were all born in the stretch of about 80 years, between the end of the austere Balkan architectural style in mid-19th century (which, following the Islamic custom forbade depiction of people) until the final victory of modernism in Belgrade’s  architecture, when Tito broke away from Stalin and … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (32): Eternal Belgraders

Pokretači #31 Donald Niebyl – Spomenik Database / Illinois, USA

Donald Niebyl founded and manages Spomenik Database, a website dedicated to monumental Yugoslav WWII memorials. Donald not only travelled up and down former Yugoslavia visiting monuments (or ‘spomeniks’ as they are called in local languages), but he also researched and wrote detailed history of many of them, soon to be published as a book – ‘Spomenik Monument Database’ (pre-order on Amazon). Notes Spomenik database on … Continue reading Pokretači #31 Donald Niebyl – Spomenik Database / Illinois, USA

Best Contemporary Architecture in Belgrade

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that everything in Belgrade was better in the past. This permanent lament for the supposed long-gone “Golden Ages”, whether it’s the Socialist Yugoslavia or the rarified pre-WWII bourgeois Belgrade, can make us blind to the good things that are happening around us now. However, instead of despairing, in hard times, it is especially important to celebrate examples that buck … Continue reading Best Contemporary Architecture in Belgrade

Hidden Belgrade (30): Neimar –  Belgrade’s First Leafy Suburb

During Belgrade’s population boom in 1920s and 30s, its better heeled citizens decided that they wanted to create suburban neighbourhoods which would guarantee them a degree of comfort away from the town’s hustle and bustle. While then, like now villas in neighbourhoods of Senjak and Dedinje were considered the best addresses in town, the educated (upper) middle classes sought also wanted to get away from … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (30): Neimar –  Belgrade’s First Leafy Suburb

Hidden Belgrade (29): Voždovac’s Surrealist Church

From the outside the Church of St Constantine and St Helen in the suburb of Voždovac looks like a slightly more elegant standard-issue Serbian Orthodox church, with a demure grey façade and a prominent bell-tower. The current structure, an update of the church built in early 20th Century and damaged in WWII was designed by Dragomir Tadić, a renowned Serbian church architect of the late … Continue reading Hidden Belgrade (29): Voždovac’s Surrealist Church