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Centar (Excerpt II)

Ivan Markovic

A concrete building: the Sava Centar in Belgrade recounts the story of an architectural era.


A second excerpt of the full-length film by Ivan Marković, "Sava Centar" let the viewers explore its architectural characteristics. As said before, Marković's film is a love letter to a disappearing building in Serbia: the Sava Centar. This specific excerpt documents how the massive congress center unfolded, guiding us inside its rooms. Located in New Belgrade, designed by Stojan Maksimović and built in 1977 after Yugoslavia parted from the Eastern Bloc, Sava Centar was designed to host conferences such as that of World Bank, Interpol, as well as the Non-Aligned Movement.

"My fascination and attachment to Sava Centar go back for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Belgrade in the 90s, I found it the most puzzling and impressive building in the city, even if it had already started showing signs of aging. The idea of filming it, however, came much later and after I already stopped living in Serbia. The news that Sava Centar will be privatized and turned into a commercial object, most likely a shopping mall, spurred an urge to document it before it disappears."

To him Sava Centar could be read a centerpiece in the plateau of New Belgrade - built from the ground up from the 1950s on, was the biggest construction site of the former SFRY - that also presents a further step towards contemporary architecture. Together with other similar concrete buildings of New Belgrade, these developments were a living monument, a new architecture as a stage for the new society, that today remains a lasting trace the ideology gone by.

He cleverly notes that "this internet hype for "spomeniks" and brutalist buildings from Yugoslavia reveals a critically decontextualised view. They are described as bizarre, fascinating objects "from outer space", thus completely ignoring their historical and ideological significance as monuments to resistance to WWII fascism, or architectural models for an egalitarian society. Although this attention is nonetheless significant and potentially beneficial, it simultaneously draws a very alienating and exoticized image of Yugoslavia."

"Today, the urban developments in Belgrade mirror the current ideology: In the increasingly right-wing capitalist climate of today's Serbia, the urban landscape of Belgrade is changed by newly built orthodox churches and usually cheap attempts at buildings that should communicate economic progress and luxury," comments Marković, referring to the construction of a of the "Belgrade Waterfront", a megalomaniac project symptomatic of these new developments, on the opposite bank of the Sava river from "Sava Centar".

Able to stand in-between positions, without conceding to one over the other, but with a strong political conscience, "Sava Centar" is a fundamental piece in the recognition of "spomeniks", building a real connection with the building through images.

(Story by Sara Marzullo, The Architecture Player)

Authors icon Credits

Architect: Stojan Maksimović
Mentioned project: Sava Centar (1977)
Project location: Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade 2018
Duration: 3'02"