dialogue #17 ‘big visions’

The city on the podium

The Barbican is perhaps the pinnacle of the mechanics of a new perception of society communicated through the design of council housing in Britain. It grew out of a post-war moment of humanitarian thinking that the ‘human’ should be placed above the ‘machinic’ (the car and the tube). Therefore, architecture and planning should channel development towards this vision of transformation into a better society. This new breed of development, initiated by the New Barbican, succumbed to an aspiration that was equally committed to pedestrianization as to the generous provision for car-ownership. The New Barbican Committee’s campaign for planning permission in 1954 had to be sophisticated and convincing. This image combines section and perspective drawn elaborately by the architects, to illustrate the transition from the traditional flat layout of the city to the segregation of vehicles and pedestrians in the face of the ‘motor-car revolution’. The Barbican was representative of a new, more radical way to achieve segregation, in that it placed all the living functions of a city on a six-meter high ‘podium’ above traffic, garages and servicing. The drawings convey the optimism of the time that the dedication of urban planning to elevate the City onto podia, pilotis and towers would transform it from “a Dickensian duckling into a new Elizabethan Swan.”

The image is a re-edition of a Barbican section and perspective view by the author, 2018.

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Let it be known

– history repeating


I once dreamt of skyscrapers. There was no city for them to dwel upon. There was no soil to support their height. Like in one of the sequences from Philippe de Broca’s movie L’Homme de Rio, where Jean Paul Belmondo runs through Brazilia being built, the feeling of being anywhere and everywhere prevails. And so it began…


The actuality of this new capital is something rather different. In reference to Holleins statement ‘alles ist Architektur’*, if we are to mess with architecture, architecture is surely to mess with everything in return. Today, loud statements are made; (New) Belgrade is being systemically devastated by private and corporate, market driven logic, with an influence of postmodernism still active on a very superficial level. And what is a result of this? French philosopher Henry Lefebvre states that every society, more precisely, every mode of production creates its own specific space. This line of thought leads us inevitably to question ourselves what kind of space does our society create? Public space promised by modernistic concept of a high-rise city floating in parks is replaced by malls and commercial space. The social space of a city is replaced by social space of networks. Lefebvre says  ’Pour changer la vie, il faut d’abord changer l’espace’** It seems that now and here, it is the other way around.


’One day when proud new BELGRADE is to be standing here, built knowingly, with plan and love, with will and hands of laborers, youth and people, let this plate show and remind: On april 11th 1948. after national liberation struggle is won, the preparations for the start of new labor battles in the fight for happiness and prosperity of the people are completed. On that day working people and youth of all nations of Yugoslavia joined forces to erect new BELGRADE, to extend the beloved capital of the state of equal nations. To make the city bigger and better on this side of Sava river, the city where communist party of Yugoslavia headed by comrade Tito started the uprising towards building yet another eternal symbol of the victorious liberation struggle of our people, lead towards socialism by marshal TITO, in the country built by people themselves.’


Quote from the memorial plate that commemorates the beginning of construction of New Belgrade. The plate stands in the lobby of 9th Belgrade High School in New Belgrade.



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