Unfinished or Elusive?

Maroje Mrduljaš and Vladimir Kulić, eds., Unfinished Modernisations: Between Utopia and Pragmatism (Zagreb: UHA, 2012)

As the Western masters have been studied thoroughly in the past (information on architects and their work was easily accessible, for various reasons, such as the longevity and marketing skills of the most prominent figures and the large number of their students and followers), contemporary researchers of the Modern turn to the less-known field of former socialist Europe, USSR and the so-called third world countries.

In the last few years, younger generation of researches worked quite a lot on the subject of architectural heritage of former Yugoslavia. In different ways, with different approaches. The largest research was definitely the Unfinished Modernisations, a project that gathered participants from all countries of the former Yugoslavia, and presented in public on several occasions, through conferences and exhibitions in a number of cities in the region.

Project results have been compiled and published in a book of the same title. This publication includes an impressive number of papers by respected authors, dealing with the modern architecture and urban planning of the former state in the context of social relations, technology, architectural expression, local particularities, influences, languages, interactions, ideologies, communication…

The editors, Maroje Mrduljaš and Vladimir Kulić, very wisely distanced themselves from possible objections: “…in no way [do we] pretend to write a coherent history of modern architecture in the region… we are not aiming at scholarly precision and comprehensiveness, but a broad description of the circumstances that produced certain pieces of architecture and of the modernising effects of these buildings and their significance today.“ If we accept such an approach to research, what follows after this introduction is an unbelievable amount of data, illustrations, speculation, comments and analyses, presenting an extraordinary result. And a lot of nostalgia.

Many designs, buildings and authors, shown here, were previously unknown to broader audiences. Indisputable values, discovered and presented by this project, thus escape the danger of oblivion. On the other hand, the project gives us a new discourse on some well-known houses, spaces and people, who deserve to be discussed and who still have something to tell us.

I personally am very glad that yet another research of this topic has been successfully realized. From the moment when Jelica and Jelena made their first timid inquiries, over the broad smile on their faces as they investigated the dust of our archives, to the well-designed papers, it certainly took a lot of persistence and work – and they should be congratulated for that. This text is illustrated with some of the pictures from our archive, published in this book.

Finally, we believe that this outstanding project will initiate some new researches, leading to an impartial catalogization and valorization of building heritage of the Modern, as a necessary prerequisite for its (urgently needed) protection. Modernizations may be unfinished, but we must not let them stay elusive.

Text: Goran Petrović
Illustrations from CAB archives: Fragment of the facade of the so-called TV-building (Blok 23, New Belgrade) and Pilot-building of the IMS Building Technology in Havana, Cuba.


Book, Modern architecture, Unfinished modernisations

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