Battle for Belgrade: why activists are pushing back against Serbia’s loss of cultural space

Map of belgrade from the 1980s, showing planned urban developments
Map of Belgrade from the 1980s, showing planned urban developments / © Ministarstvo Prostora

We often think of cities in infrastructural terms, but a city is more than just a dense metropolitan mass where large numbers of people work and live – it’s an ideological construct that reflects its creators’ attitude towards people, society and how life is meant to be lived.

Bike-friendly cities like Copenhagen are built to a human scale with the needs and wants of their citizens in mind. The ruthless gentrification of inner London, on the other hand, is a monument to Thatcher’s callous legacy. Urbanism is explicitly political, but rarely is it as explicit as it is in Belgrade: over the last two decades or so, as the Serbian capital has transitioned from socialism to the sort of crooked crony capitalism that dominates so much of eastern Europe, this ideological shift has begun to be reflected in the city itself.

Much like in Russia and the rest of the old Eastern Bloc, successive Serbian governments have had to find ways of transferring formerly state-owned assets into private hands – a process that has often been marred by flagrant corruption. While the initial smash-and-grab typically centred around highly lucrative heavy industries and natural resources, in recent years Serbia’s Yugoslav-era “cultural heritage” (to use official jargon) has been opened up to the cruel indifference of the free market.

Back in the Tito-era heyday of Yugoslavia, the booming social welfare state invested heavily in the enlightenment of its citizens. By the 1960s, literacy across the six constituent republics had risen from 10-30 per cent in some regions to 91 per cent as a whole and university education was, and remains to this day, free to all. […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
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About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

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