For the first time in history, a large exhibition in the US will include tributes to the diverse architecture of socialist Yugoslavia. Titled “Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980”, the exhibition is a memorial to the state’s pluralism and hybridity, as well as its skilled architects.
Starting on 15 July 2018, the New York Museum of Modern Art will exhibit over 400 artefacts that showcase distinct buildings, many of which use concrete as a main ingredient. Models, drawings, film reels and photographs taken from a range of personal and municipal archives will be among the displayed items.
Yugoslavia was renowned for its distinct architecture throughout its 45-year-long existence. Its diversity was partly a result of the profound change that permeated the region in this period. Large concrete edifices sprang up around Yugoslavia – buildings, suburbs, monuments and infrastructure – as they did all across the Soviet Union.
Yugoslavian architectural diversity was due not just to the Soviet influence, though, but to the region’s innate pluralism, hybridity and idealism. Various styles and movements are represented, including Modernism, Metabolism, Brutalism and the International Style movement. For example, Šerefudin’s White Mosque, by architect Zlatko Ugljen, is a concrete tribute to modernism, as well as an aesthetic and humanistic masterpiece.
It is a big credit to architects such as Ugljen that they are remembered to this day given the turbulence of region’s history. In 1963, a catastrophic earthquake struck Skopje, the capital of Macedonia (then socialist Yugoslavia), destroying homes, skyscrapers and large swathes of infrastructure. The collapse of the state in the 1990s, spurred by economic and political upheaval, led to the Yugoslav Wars and ultimately the break-up of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia.
“Toward a Concrete Utopia” is thus as much a tribute to the skilled designers and urban planners of Yugoslavia, as it is its robust principles of plurality, idealism and hybridity.
“Toward a Concrete Utopia” will be exhibited from 15 July 2018 to 13 January 2019. For more details, visit: https://mo.ma/2utsvLH