Not aligned with either of the Cold War superpowers, communist Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito was open to influence from all sides. This is reflected in the hybrid styles of its remarkable architecture. This exhibition, covering the period from the Yugoslav-Soviet split in 1948 to Tito’s death in 1980, should be the most comprehensive presentation yet. Martino Stierli, MoMA’s Philip Johnson chief curator of architecture and design, guides us through.
Why Yugoslavia, and why now?
Historically speaking, a thorough investigation of the architectural production of socialist Yugoslavia will lead to a better understanding of an important but understudied chapter of architectural history in the bifurcated world order of the Cold War.
From a more contemporary perspective and in light of the fact that architecture in the Western world (particularly the US) has more and more become a luxury commodity, it will hopefully serve as a reminder of architecture’s potential for social responsibility. Yugoslav architecture negotiated difference in a multi-ethnic society and provided tools for the construction of a common history.
What makes Yugoslav architecture
Yugoslav socialism was based on workers’ self-management, multicultural federalism, and an independent position in a divided world. Architecture was decisively shaped by these utopian pursuits, but it was also an important instrument in their realisation, marked by a high degree of experimentation, achieving in the process a remarkable degree of freedom.
Which architects from the period should be better known?
We have identified four leading figures – Edvard Ravnikar, Vjenceslav Richter, Bogdan Bogdanović and Jurai Neidhardt – all of whom have not only shaped the country through their buildings, but also through their role as public intellectuals. Moreover, each of them represents a specific national ‘school’ within federalist Yugoslavia.