Modern and Contemporary Age

The entirety of the 20th century was marked by rapid development that has changed the face of the world, as well as Serbia. Selecting works from this period, ones which will mark future epochs, is a difficult task, if not impossible. Yet there are achievements worthy of being mentioned here due to their significance and grandeur. We will introduce you to some of the contemporary achievements of Serbian culture, hoping that this chapter which we are witnessing will be expanded in future editions.

Construction Ventures

Avala Tower is one of the most beautiful television transmitters in Europe, and was designed by architects Uglješa Bodunović, Slobodan Janjić and academician Milan Krstić at the end of 50-ies of the 20th century. This masterpiece building represented the only tower in the world to have an equilateral triangle as cross section of, which symbolizes Serbian sitting tripod. The original tower was destroyed during the NATO bombing in 1999, and its restoration began 7 years later and lasted until 2009. The total height of the tower is 204.57 meters. Žeželj Bridge in Novi Sad was railway-road bridge across the Danube, built from 1957 to 1961. The author of the project was an engineer Branko Žeželj, and the bridge represented a unique example of construction for using the so-called prestressed concrete. When it was finished, there were doubts as to its safety. In order to prove it, Žeželj drove in the boat under the bridge during the testing, which involved the passing of freight train. This construction masterpiece was also destroyed during the NATO bombing, and the renovation is still going on. Constructed in mid-1950s, the Belgrade Fair Hall 1 has been listed as an immovable cultural heritage site owing to its unique architectural and construction solutions. It is covered by a dome spanning as many as 109 metres, making it the world’s largest dome made of prestressed concrete. The team of designers included architect Milorad Pantović and structural engineers Branko Žeželj and Milan Krstić. Its maximum ceiling height is 30.78 metres and the total floor area is 21,280 square metres. A part of the Belgrade Fair exhibition space, the Hall is one of the most significant achievements of post-WW2 Serbian architecture. Ada Bridge, which connects the Belgrade municipalities of Novi Beograd and Čukarica, was opened on 1 January 2012. It is designed as a cable-stayed bridge, with a central pylon of height of 200 meters. This fantastic building masterpiece is visible from almost all parts of the city, and 8,600 ton heavy construction is one of the heaviest loads ever lifted.

In the heart of Belgrade, in Terazije Square, stands the building of the Moskva Hotel, erected in the Russian Secession style. It was formally inaugurated by King Petar I Karađorđević in 1908 and today is under government protection as a cultural monument. The building was designed by architect Jovan Ilkić, together with a group of architects from Saint Petersburg. Once completed, it stood as the largest privately-owned building in Serbia, originally named the Rossiya Palace. Famous guests of the hotel have included Albert Einstein, Leonid Brezhnev, Indira Gandhi, Maxim Gorky, and many others. The Temple of Saint Sava in Belgrade is the largest Orthodox church in the Balkans. It was built on the location where the remains of Saint Sava were burned. The competition for the project was announced in 1905, but all activities were interrupted due to the wars that followed. After the second competition in 1926, the work of the architect Bogdan Nestorović was declared the most successful and the construction finally began in 1935. During the complete period after the 2nd World War until 1985, the activities on its construction were stopped. When the construction began again, the greatest achievement was lifting of 4,000 ton heavy dome that was built on the ground, and then, together with a large golden cross of height of 12 meters, lifted onto the walls. Lifting lasted 40 days. Works on interior decorations are still in progress. The BIGZ building dominates the skyline of Belgrade’s neighbourhood of Senjak and is one of the best-known landmarks of Serbian and Yugoslav Modernism. It was designed by the pioneer of Serbian modern architecture, Dragiša Brašovan, to be used by the National Printing Institution. Interestingly, the shape of the building resembles the Cyrillic letter “P” (П) and its exterior is reminiscent of a printing machine. During the 1990s, the building was left to neglect as a result of adverse economic and political circumstances in Serbia. Two buildings separated by Belgrade Nemanjina Street, in which the General Staff of Serbia is located, are the work of one of the most famous Serbian architects of the 20th century, Nikola Dobrović. The distinctive facade of this building is made of robust dark red stone and marble slabs from the island of Brač, and construction lasted from 1956 to 1965. The architecture of the building is inspired by the look of Sutjeska river canyon, the place where one of the battles in the 2nd World War took place.

The Palace of Serbia, the former building of the Federal Executive Council, was built on the basis of conceptual design of Anton Ulrich, Vladimir Potočnjak, Zlatko Nojman and Dragica Perak. Construction of the building was entrusted to Belgrade architect Mihailo Janković, who has further refined and significantly changed the project, particularly in terms of lavish exterior and luxurious interior design. It was one of the first buildings in Novi Beograd, built from 1947 to 1959 with the voluntary efforts of youth work brigades from all over the former Yugoslavia. In addition to the monumental exterior, interior, improved by master works of fine and applied arts, is of special value. Sava Center is the largest congressional, cultural and business centre in Serbia and one of the largest in Europe. It was built from 1976 to 1979 based on the design of the architect Stojan Maksimović, and consists of three parts - commercial building, large congress and concert hall and hotel Crowne Plaza. Since its opening, until today, Sava Center is the venue of many important international conferences and cultural and artistic events. Beograđanka or officially Belgrade Palace is a 101 meters high skyscraper, designed by architect Branko Pešić, a former mayor. It was built from 1969 to 1974, as the first skyscraper in the center of the city, and when it was completed it was the tallest building in Belgrade. The new building of the Yugoslav Drama Theatre, the work of architects Zoran Radojičić and Dejan Miljković, won numerous awards. Reconstruction of the old building which was hit by fire lasted from 1997 to 2003, and the conceptual design is based on an interesting concept of combining old and new - modern elements with the original appearance of the facade. The Belgrade Arena is located in Novi Beograd, Belgrade, and is conceived as a venue for various sport, cultural, entertainment, and other events. Its construction began in 1991 and the first events were organised in 2004. The Arena was designed by architect Vlada Slavica. An interesting feature of the building is the structural design of the roof, as well as the method of assembling and erecting the roof structure. The roof consists of a double-layer prestressed orthogonal system with three longitudinal and four cross beams. The entire main roof structure weighing 3,350 tonnes was first cast on the ground, then lifted to the height of 26.20 metres and placed upon its bearing. It was a globally unprecedented construction undertaking, executed by means of 96 hydraulic presses. The entire roof erection procedure lasted 16 days.

The House of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia is a building constructed between 1907 and 1936 near the place where, in 1830, the hatt-i sharif was announced – the official Ottoman Sultan’s document recognising Serbia’s independence with Miloš Obrenović as its Prince. The construction of the building was interrupted several times and its design frequently modified. In various phases, the lead architects were Jovan Ilkić, his son Pavle, as well as Russian emigrant Nikolai Krasnov, who significantly contributed to the design of the interior decoration details and the overall parliamentary appearance of the building. A distinctive mark was added by Toma Rosandić’s sculpture Igrali se konji vrani (The Play of Black Horses), placed in front of the main entrance to the building in 1939. During the Second World War, the House of the National Assembly was occupied by the German High Command and was, therefore, spared destruction. Ušće Tower, with its height of 141 metres, is currently the tallest building in Serbia and second tallest in the Balkans. It is located in the Belgrade municipality of Novi Beograd, in the vicinity of the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. The building was constructed in 1964 as the Palace of Socio-Political Organisations, hosting the headquarters of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, which is why it used to be colloquially known as CK (short for Centralni komitet). During the NATO bombing campaign in 1999, the building was heavily damaged but did not collapse owing to its specific structural design. Nowadays, Ušće Tower is a modern business and commercial centre. The building is a distinctive symbol of the great social changes that have taken place in Serbia in the 20th and early 21st century. The Western City Gate, also known as the Genex Tower, was designed by architect Mihajlo Mitrović. The brutalist-style building consists of two concrete skyscrapers connected by a bridge structure, and a rotating circular top that once housed a restaurant. The tower is 115 metres tall and has 35 storeys. The Eastern City Gate is the popular name for three skyscrapers in Belgrade’s municipality of Zvezdara. They are officially named Rudo, after a town in Bosnia and the birthplace of Dragoljub Mićović, the architect who supervised its construction. Designed by architect Vera Ćirković and civil engineer Milutin Jerotijević, each of the skyscrapers is 85 metres tall and has 28 storeys. With its position, the buildings announced the beginning of the urban Belgrade at the time they were built, for travellers arriving from the east.

Monuments and Memorial Parks

Contemporary monuments throughout Serbia remind us of numerous crucial historical events of the 20th century. They are symbols by which we recognize cities and represent a reflection of social and political transitions, as well as the suffering of the nation the past hundred years. On Avala Mountain near Belgrade, there is the Monument to the Unknown Hero, erected in the period from 1934 to 1938. This monumental mausoleum is the work of one of the most famous Yugoslav sculptors, Ivan Meštrović. By wish of King Aleksandar I Karađorđević, the remains of the medieval fortress Žrnova were demolished, and a memorial monument was built in honour of the fallen soldiers in World War I in its place. “Pobednik” (The Victor) at the Belgrade Fortress was built in 1928 on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Salonika Front Breakthrough. The author is also Ivan Meštrović, who sculpted it in 1913. It was supposed to be the central object of a monumental fountain at Terazije. Due to the outbreak of war, however, the fountain was never built, and the monument was allegedly placed at Kalemegdan because Belgrade ladies considered it inappropriate for the sculpture of a naked man to be at the centre of the city. In memory of the victims of a massacre committed by the German occupying forces in Kragujevac in 1941, a memorial complex called “Kragujevac October” was erected. In this massacre, approximately 3,000 inhabitants of Kragujevac and surrounding areas were executed, among them approximately 300 primary school pupils. The most famous work within the memorial park is the “Monument to the Executed Pupils and Teachers”, created by sculptor Miodrag Živković in 1963. In the Niš municipality of Palilula, the Bubanj Memorial Park was built in the 1960s . This memorial complex was built in memory of the citizens of Niš and southern Serbia who were executed during World War II. It is the work of sculptor Ivan Sabolić. In the central part of the park, there are three obelisks of different sizes, symbolizing a male, female, and child’s hand defying the enemy. Slobodište near Kruševac is the place where approximately 1,650 people were executed during the German occupation in World War II. Today, it is a memorial complex, the work of sculptor Bogdan Bogdanović. It was named after the mound in which lay the remains of soldiers of the Rasina Partisan detachment, bringers of freedom to Kruševac. In Jajinci near Belgrade, the German occupying forces executed approximately 80,000 Serbs, Jews, and Roma people. In 1988, a monument of sculptor Vojin Stojić was unveiled on the spot of the largest burial bier of this massacre. The Jewish Camp in Zemun was located on the site of the Belgrade Staro Sajmište, in the territory of the quisling Independent State of Croatia during the World War II. Originally, women, children, and elderly people of Jewish nationality were tortured and killed there, but later other citizens and political opponents were as well. In the vicinity of the former camp, the Monument to the Victims of Genocide was erected, the work of sculptor Miodrag Popović.