Understanding a city’s architecture must begin with examining the cultural, social, and even political dynamics of the city, country, and people. To start with some basic information about Belgrade, it is the capital and largest city of Serbia, with a population of around 1.685.000 people. Belgrade translates as “White City” in English. The city is named after its fortress, built on a white ridge that has historically been of great strategic importance, and it has become a symbol of the city’s lengthy history. Belgrade is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. Belgrade is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers and the intersection of the Pannonian Plain and the Balkan Peninsula.

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Belgrade, Serbia_©https://www.lonelyplanet.com/

Serbian Architecture

In Serbia, there were numerous different civilisations and cultures. Therefore, Serbian architecture has a long, rich, and diversified history. Serbia’s volatile history has resulted in significant regional variations and supported the vernacular architecture. Prehistoric buildings are simple in design, made of local materials like wood, mud, and earth, and arranged with simple geometrical designs. Unfortunately, the architectural legacy of Belgrade is not equally preserved, either in regards to the number of structures or the appearance date. The development of history and a particular geographic situation, which has seen repeated wars and destruction, did not favour the longevity and preservation of the structures. Most of them only date back to the 19th century because of this. Only a little remained in Medieval Belgrade architecture except for the Belgrade fortress.

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Belgrade Fortress_©https://www.panacomp.net/
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St Sava Church_©https://www.flickr.com/photos/annedavid2012/

Buildings exhibited all the traits of Islamic architecture throughout the Turkish government. Among the most numerous public structures were mosques (places of worship), serais (courts), caravan-serais (inns), tekijas (dervishes’ gathering places), madrassas (religious schools), and others. The residential architecture was visible in separate buildings with neatly designed gardens. The dwellings had stone basements, a slightly protruding first floor, and a modestly steep tiled roof. 

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Genex Tower_©https://en.wikipedia.org/

Post War Architecture

The city was altered from an oriental town to contemporary architecture in the nineteenth century, with neoclassicism, romanticism, and academic art influences. During the socialist period, housing was erected swiftly and cheaply to accommodate the massive inflow of people fleeing the countryside after World War II, occasionally resulting in the brutalist architecture of New Belgrade’s blokovi (‘blocks’); a socialist-style momentarily dominated. Nonetheless, by the mid-1950s, modernist trends had taken hold and continued to dominate Belgrade architecture. An observer published in the London “Times” on October the 17th, 1843, text. “Four years have passed since I was last here, and how Belgrade has changed! I hardly recognised it. Then, it was for three-quarters an oriental town. The high belfry on the church (Cathedral) now screens by its shadow the Turkish mosques; many shops are now provided with new doors and glass windows, oriental clothing is rarer, and houses with several stories, in a European manner, are being built everywhere”.

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New Belgrade_©https://commons.wikimedia.org/
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New Belgrade_©https://happyfrogtravels.com/

New Belgrade

Following the destruction of numerous residential structures and houses during World war ll, the Yugoslav government prioritised housing. The government has sought to house as many people as possible who had lost their homes quickly. As a result, New Belgrade was born. The municipality of New Belgrade is part of the city of Belgrade. It is a planned city, with buildings beginning in 1948 on an empty territory on the left bank of the Sava River, opposite old Belgrade. In recent years, it has become Belgrade’s major business centre and its quickest developing area. Many enterprises are relocating to the new part of town due to more contemporary infrastructure and accessible space. 

Museum of Aviation_©https://sovietmodernism.com/

Brutalism and Blocks

Architects such as Uro Martinovi, Milutin Glaviki, Milosav Miti, Duan Milenkovi, and Leonid Lenari defined the socialist country’s modern urbanism and architecture. Brutalism and Blocks are the best terms to define Soviet Architecture in New Belgrade. Brutalist architecture began as a post-war reconstruction in the 1950s. Building materials in this style are simple, bare, solid, and reinforced. Further distinguishing Brutalist structures are their massive, blocky, monolithic look, rigid geometric design, and extensive use of poured concrete. Other materials commonly used in brutalist buildings besides concrete were brick, glass, steel, and rough-hewn stone. After receiving harsh criticism for being unwelcoming and brutal, the movement began to lose popularity.

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Hotel Jugoslavija_©https://en.wikipedia.org/

The apartment buildings resemble groups of concrete cube blocks. There are a total of 72 blocks. The structures were constructed by the Athens Charter, an urban planning guideline written by architect Le Corbusier. The Charter states that there must be a specific amount of space between buildings and that each housing unit must receive at least two hours of direct sunlight each day during the winter. Nearly every structure is tall and made mainly of bare concrete. His model, nevertheless, was criticised for creating an isolated environment. The blocks’ primary function was to house many individuals. Graffiti and murals on the facades give the region some personality because repetition is a problem in this district of Belgrade.

Belgrade’s long, diverse, and rich history has significantly contributed to the country’s organisation, population, culture, and architecture. The city has gone through lots of historical circumstances and developed in terms of regional architecture. The city and the country developed a modernist mindset as they reconstructed themselves due to their turbulent history and wars. With its blocky structure and brutalist architecture, Belgrade has developed into a city that has attracted attention and become a significant travel destination today.

Reference List:

  1. web.mit.edu. (n.d.). Beograd – Architecture and building. [online] Available at: https://web.mit.edu/most/Public/Belgrade/zoran_manevic.html [Accessed 23 Feb. 2023].
  2. yugotour.com. (n.d.). Communist Architecture of New Belgrade: Brutalism and Blocks | Yugotour. [online] Available at: https://yugotour.com/blog/communist-architecture-new-belgrade-brutalism-blocks/ [Accessed 23 Feb. 2023].
  3. Anon, (n.d.). Architecture of Belgrade – HiSoUR – Hi So You Are. [online] Available at: https://www.hisour.com/architecture-of-belgrade-31368/ [Accessed 23 Feb. 2023].
  4. Belgrade | History, Population, & Facts. (2019). In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/place/Belgrade.
  5. www.bg.ac.rs. (n.d.). About Belgrade. [online] Available at: http://www.bg.ac.rs/en/students/belgrade/about-belgrade.php [Accessed 23 Feb. 2023].
  6. Ogino:Knauss (n.d.). Suspended city: a visit to New Belgrade, the town caught outside time. The Calvert Journal. [online] Available at: https://www.calvertjournal.com/features/show/6695/suspended-city-roaming-the-streets-of-novi-beograd [Accessed 23 Feb. 2023].

İnci is an architect who is passionate about interdisciplinary discussion in the field of architecture.In her point of view architecture is not only about aesthetics and art but is an understanding and constant thinking of creating space for living thing.She loves to research,read,learn and write about different perspectives of architecture.