Julia Wildeis (2014)

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Common Space.

Novi Beograd’s Local Communities: between Conception and Everyday Life.

Background   The work focuses on moments of continuity and discontinuity in the handling of communal spaces created during the socialist period of former Yugoslavia. Sociopolitical dimensions such as their function as spaces of political participation and their significance for the ideological construct of the Yugoslav self-management system are analysed.  Yet as spaces of everyday life, urban realities beyond conceived notions of community and governance are explored. In relation to today’s post-socialist urban landscape, shaped by depoliticisation and commodification, the work aims to gain insights into the legacy of the former radical-democratic aspirations in everyday public and communal spaces.
Abstract   The research revolves around common spaces that were created during the socialist period in former Yugoslavia. The focus is on the concept of the ‘Mesna Zajednica’ (‘Local Community’) that was developed in the course of Yugoslavia’s process of decentralisation and the introduction of worker’s self-management after the break with the Soviet Union in 1948. The Local Community was the smallest administrative unit of the Yugoslav city and basic cell of self-government on the urban level. Novi Beograd (New Belgrade), a municipality of the Serbian capital Belgrade, will serve as a case study to investigate the concept of the Yugoslav common space on the neighbourhood level. After Second World War Novi Beograd was planned as a socialist ‘model town’, following technocratic planning principles of the time that aimed at the all-encompassing ‘engineering’ of urban space and social relations. In new (modernist) city quarters, the Local Community was also the basic planning element that aimed at the creation of self-sufficient ‘communities’ of 5,000 – 15,000 people. The heart of each ‘community’ was a neighbourhood-centre. Here the inhabitants could meet, buy their daily supplies, receive services and get involved in the political organisation of their neighbourhood. Based on the assumption that socialist conceptions of common spaces continue to have an effect on life in the city, their development and symbolic dimensions are central parts of this work. Different facets and scales of this concept are explored: its definition as a political space for citizen participation, space of ideological representation and a realm where ‘community’ was believed to be revived within the modern city. The theory of the Yugoslav common space will be put in perspective when looking at the culture of everyday life that unfolded in these spaces. The discrepancy between the state’s ideological conception and the space as it is perceived and lived by its inhabitants today are investigated in order to fathom the spaces’ potentials for the development of the neighbourhoods in the post-socialist city.
Submitted   at the Faculty of Architecture and Planning on 26th May 2014
Supervision   Dr. phil. DI (FH) Sabine Knierbein