Lonely Planet Writer

Journey through socialist Yugoslav architecture at moMA’s latest exhibition

A new exhibition has opened at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City called Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980. Running until 13 January 2019, it is the first ever major US exhibition dedicated to the remarkable body of architectural work that sparked international interest during the country’s turbulent existence. For the first time ever, visitors to the museum can take a comprehensive journey through the history of Yugoslavia’s architectural past while learning about the political landscape that shaped the creation of the buildings.

Miodrag Živković. Monument to the Battle of the Sutjeska. 1965–71, Tjentište, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Miodrag Živković. Monument to the Battle of the Sutjeska. 1965–71, Tjentište, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Image by Valentin Jeck, commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, 2016

With special attention to the period of construction between Yugoslavia’s break with the Soviet bloc in 1948 and the death of the country’s leader Josip Broz Tito in 1980, the exhibition outlines how architects at the time responded to a rapidly changing society, creating designs that were distinctly different from anywhere else in Europe. Located on the third floor of the museum, the exhibit contains over 400 drawings, models, photographs and film reels from a variety of different sources.

Andrija Mutnjaković. National and University Library of Kosovo. 1971–82. Prishtina, Kosovo. Exterior view
Andrija Mutnjaković. National and University Library of Kosovo, 1971–82. Prishtina, Kosovo. Image by Valentin Jeck, commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, 2016

From the sculptural interior of the White Mosque in rural Bosnia, to the post-earthquake reconstruction of the city of Skopje, to the town of New Belgrade with its expressive large-scale housing blocks and civic buildings, the exhibition examines the range of forms and modes of production unique to Yugoslav architecture. Designs that emerged during this period included internationally-inspired skyscrapers and Brutalist “social condensers”, overlapping spaces designed to bring people together for shared purposes.

 Zlatko Ugljen. Šerefudin White Mosque. 1969–79. Visoko, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Zlatko Ugljen. Šerefudin White Mosque. 1969–79. Visoko, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Image by Valentin Jeck, commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, 2016

Exploring themes of large-scale urbanisation, technological experimentation, and the creation of monuments, Toward a Concrete Utopia features work by important architects including Bogdan Bogdanović, Juraj Neidhardt, Svetlana Kana Radević, Edvard Ravnikar, Vjenceslav Richter, and Milica Šterić.

Berislav Šerbetić and Vojin Bakić. Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija. 1979–81. Petrova Gora, Croatia.
Berislav Šerbetić and Vojin Bakić. Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija. 1979–81. Petrova Gora, Croatia. Image by Valentin Jeck, commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, 2016

“From a contemporary point of view, this body of work serves as a reminder that architecture can only thrive when there is a broad societal understanding of architecture’s power to transform and elevate society and the quality of life it offers citizens,” said exhibition organiser Martino Stierli.

More information on visiting the exhibition is available at the official moMA website.