Friendship Park – Prijateljtsva Park

While waiting for my wife to come out of the movie at the Ušče Mall earlier this week, I explored the Friendship Park. This park in New Belgrade was established in 1961 to commemorate a big meeting of the Non-Aligned Nations Movement. Through the years, when foreign statesman visit Serbia, a tree is planted in the park in their honor. I walked around and noted some of the famous names. These included Fidel Castro, Moammar Gaddafay, Leonid Brezhnev, Hafez El Assad, and of course the first one, Tito in 1961. My favorite is from 1976, Jimmy Carter planted a California Sequoia which must have died because there was a large bush near his marker that certainly didn’t look like a 35-year old Giant Redwood. One of the latest trees planted was by current Egyptian Foreign Minister, Mohamed Kemel Amr in September next to the Serbian Foriegn Minister, Vuk Jeremić in September of 2011.

The other interesting part of the park is the Soviet-style monument erected by Slobodan Milosević after the NATO bombings in 2000. It used to contain an eternal flame. In the background of the photo to start this post, you can also see the former Central Committee building. It was destroyed in the NATO bombing campaign, but is now office buildings.

History of New Belgrade

Ljiljana Blagojević in her blog, “Art-E-Fact” has a nice post on the history of New Belgrade.

“New Belgrade is a modern city, built in the second half of the twentieth century, on the marshy plain bordered by the rivers Sava and Danube, stretching between the historical cities of Zemun and Belgrade.[1] The terrain of this modern development, most dramatically beheld from the position of the ancient Belgrade fortress, served for centuries as a no-man’s-land between the borders of the two empires, the Ottoman and the Austrian/Austro-Hungarian.[2] Devoid of any urban structure, it fulfilled the function of a cordon sanitaire, observed and controlled as no-connection-zone between the Orient, where Belgrade, as it were, marked its end point, and the Occident, of which Zemun was the, first, even if modest and marginal, port of call. In the short period between the World Wars, with the unification of the Kingdom of Serbs Croats and Slovenes/Yugoslavia, when the river Sava ceased being a state border, various planning strategies for the urbanization of this terrain were elaborated. Common denominator of all of these, otherwise widely divergent strategies was that they primarily envisaged the new development on this site as an expansion of, already uncontrollably sprawling, city of Belgrade. When the actual construction began in 1948, albeit in the changed socio-political conditions after the Second World War, the new city was conceived upon totally different premises. Most significantly, New Belgrade carried a potent symbolic function of being conceived as a new capital city of the new Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia.”

Above is a photo of a typical New Belgrade apartment building I took in September of 2008.

Genex Tower

This cool looking building is one of the landmarks we use to find our way around New Belgrade. I took this photo from the highway entering Belgrade from the airport. We call it the “Zepter” building because of the advertising sign on the left, but it is actually called the Genex Tower. The official name is “Western City Gate” and it is the first thing one notices upon entry to the city.

Genex was a state-owned company dealing in foreign trade and tourism. They also built the Intercontinental Hotel in Belgrade and a hotel in Kaponik, a ski resort in southern Serbia. The tower was completed in 1980, the last year of Tito’s rule in Communist Yugoslavia. On the left side are 30 floors of residential apartments and on the right side are 26 floors of offices. The bridge and tower between the two buildings serves as a restaurant which we will have to eat in. It is not one of the projects featured on their web site however. They have done many engineering projects in Serbia and eastern Europe.

While researching the building, I learned that it is designed in the architectural style called Brutilism. The name comes from the French and refers to raw concrete. The style flourished in the 1950’s – 1970’s. Critics think that it is alien and out of touch with the local landscape and culture. It is the dominate architectural style of New Belgrade. Brutilism was also associated with socialist, Utopian ideals, hence the use here.

I like the look. This is my first time in Eastern Europe and I have never seen a place that looks like New Belgrade before. After WWII, the communists drained the swamps on the other side of the river and built many Brutalist buildings. Over half a million people now live in New Belgrade. I like going over because it is spread out and feels more like the USA with wide streets. I want to learn more about New Belgrade and the buildings and you will see future posts on the subject.

Underneath the Towers (courtesy of Wikicommons)
Underneath the Towers (courtesy of Wikicommons)