This article examines and analyzes how the military identities of the new states (SFRY, FRY, SCG and RS) were created on the example of a representative military facility – the Army Headquarters building. The dissolution of the state and the creation of new states also destroyed the identity of the Army Headquarters as a federal military facility. The last damage to the military identity of the Headquarters occurred during the 1999 NATO bombing, when on two occasions, in the course of April and May, a small part of the building was demolished and therefore became unusable for its basic “military” use. However, a part remained in use and, as such, survived as a represent of the FRY/SCG community. Today, when Serbia is trying to build a new military identity, the authorities are trying to give the Army Headquarters building, which once represented connections with previous states and is now politically useless, a new role yet to be defined.
In the 1950s, Nikola Dobrović wrote about the concept of urban landscape, drawing explicit connections between the quality of space and the achieved social values. In explaining the polyvalent nature of urban landscape as “a new type of spaciousness of buildings and their plasticity, the hollow plasticity of the in-between spaces, architecture of the ground, greenery and the vistas in one organically designed composition whole”, Dobrović was among the first to study such issues in these parts of the world. This paper questions the outcomes of the theoretical postulates of his “spatial creativity” arising from his comprehensive understanding of the world as a whole: from nature to garden to landscape, i.e. translated into urban reality: from urban space to urban greenery to urban landscape. This article contains an extract from the informal notes of Nikola Dobrović, written in his notebooks, from the author’s legacy in the Archives of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Belgrade, as well as part of the visual material, that is, photographs and visual representations of the Versailles Palace Gardens, also found in Dobrović’s Fund in the same Archives. These sources are to be considered throughout the process of understanding the origins of the architect’s spatial concepts.
Professional careers of prominent Serbian architects from a more recent period, Nikola Dobrović (1897-1967) and Dragiša Brašovan (1887-1965), were connected with many links which, from a historical distance, deserve an initial review. Although both expressive individuals, successful and influential in all areas of professional work, and both considered to be exemplary authors by many parameters, they did not share the same ideological/aesthetical attitudes nor the style in public appearance. In synthetic anthologies of recent Serbian constructions written over the last decades, both personalities have been viewed in light of their creative merits, holding great importance for the development of the architectural profession, and its cultural and artistic promotion. As productive authors who performed at the opposing poles of the professional scene, Dobrović and Brašovan have received equally high social and professional recognition, and also an enviable historiographical affirmation that does not seem to recede even today.
This paper is based on an assumption that urban structure is a mnemonic mechanism: as it was effectively stated by Lewis Mumford, “in the city, time becomes visible”. The basic mnemonic starting point is that there is a connection between images (imagines) and places (loci), and that by creating a connection in one’s consciousness, one can invoke recollections of certain content (memoria). Transferred to the domain of urban structure, the city becomes a place filled with images that form a special memory landscape. In this context, iconic architectural works are of prominent importance. Therefore, in this paper, and starting from above given assumptions, the location of the State Department for National Defense building (known as the Headquarters or “Generalštab”), designed by architect Nikola Dobrović, will be examined in the overall memory landscape of Belgrade. In this regard, the importance of “Generalštab” as a cultural monument, its heritage values, as well as the coherence of the proposal for its conversion and reconstruction will be taken into account. The speed with which “Generalštab” has changed its memory connotation from an architectural monument (as a metaphor of Sutjeska or an articulation of Bergson’s philosophy) through a site of devastation (after the NATO bombing of 1999) to a polygon for political juggling with public resources (the 21st century), points to the incompatibility of memory contents and therefore to the need for constant care of them.
Even before the Second World War, sports had a significant role in the popular culture of Belgrade. 1940s were also marked by ambitious ideas for construction of a representative stadium. However, social and political circumstances have equally prevented some monumental designer ideas from coming to fruition. Although the end of the Second World War brought about some fundamental changes in the Yugoslav society, the rise of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia to power did not mean a total separation from the architecture of earlier periods. One of the examples that confirms a continuity and a dialogue with pre-War urbanistic ideas in the field of sports architecture, are the designs of Nikola Dobrović from 1946 for the political/sports stadium near the Belgrade Fortress and the recreation belt from Autokomanda to Banjica. Since these unrealized designs were not subject of detailed historiographical studies, they need to be revisited with more attention in order to determine a potential connection with the pre-War design solutions for similar purposes. Also, it is important to clarify possible reasons for which these designs remained just on paper.
This paper is a research of the designing activities of architect Nikola Dobrović (1897-1967) in the Adriatic Sea region in the 1940s, represented by his designs for competitions and tourist facilities architecture in Split and Dubrovnik. They were a great contribution to the development of the avant-garde thought and Modernism in architecture in between the two World Wars, as well as a stimulus for the development of modern tourist economy in the interwar Yugoslavia. In several designs of tourist facilities at the Adriatic Sea (public bathing sites, entertainment hall, hotel, tourist office), which showed high architectural and aesthetic value as examples of interwar modernism, Nikola Dobrović drew attention to the necessity of developing modern tourist structures designed according to the requirements of new tourist demand. Some of these designs have remained unrealized, because there was not enough understanding for them among the expert public or the wider social community, but they still are excellent expressions of Dobrović’s modernist ideas and his authentic architectural language so important for the Yugoslav architecture of the 1930s. The market aspects of tourism inspired the investors to plan construction of hotels that would follow new standards in the hospitality industry in order to meet the requirements of demanding guests who got used to the standards of high quality hotel services while visiting other European tourist resorts. Having applied modernist principles in the architecture of the Grand Hotel on Lopud, near Dubrovnik, as a unique example of modern hotel architecture in Yugoslavia, the architect has also pointed to the social aspect of the modern tourist industry oriented at a new profile of tourists.
In between the two World Wars, it was practice in Novi Sad, and in other cities across the country, to have open calls for the design of facilities which were deemed of certain value not just to their immediate users, but also to something we could call the overall architectural aesthetics of a city. One of them was the open competition with terms of reference for a new building of the Serbian National Theatre (SNP), which was launched at the end of 1928 and remained open for the first half of 1929. A large number of architects from over the country applied, including some who lived abroad, like Nikola Dobrović who happened to live in Prague at the time. The competition never closed properly and the idea of building a new theatre was soon to be abandoned. Still, what has remained is a description and a commentary by Kosta Strajnić, as well as visual evidence of some of the architectural solutions which were evaluated as most successful. The top of the list was a solution by the architect Nikola Dobrović, which in addition to evident quality and the first place in evaluation, was also marked as “insufficiently modern for the Novi Sad environment” by circles that made decisions. The location intended for the theatre soon became a crossroads with many examples of modern Serbian architecture, which are today considered as classic pieces of architecture. Due to an intricate net of historic circumstances, Novi Sad thus remained deprived not only of a new seat of the Serbian National Theatre, but also deprived of a building by a great master of modern Serbian architecture, Nikola Dobrović.
Beginnings of the history of construction projects of the architect Nikola Dobrović can and should be observed as an integral part of the complete production of this Yugoslav architect. Still, his earliest or the “Prague” period carries unique historiographic value in the studies of any and all syntagmas of the later works of Dobrović, which emitted clear massages of the early purist space shaping, extensive aesthetics of the façade canvasses and expressionist moments in shaping such a specific artistic language. His construction works immediately after his studies in Prague and special studies in Paris, which have not yet been fully researched up to this date, are revealed to us in less known archive documents and in relatively well researched technical sources from the period 1922–1933. It is indicative that, in this period, his most important construction projects of the early artistic phase, like the Yugoslav Home of King Aleksandar Karađorđević (1929–1933), have always caused intense attention of the expert and scientific public, both national and international, and especially of the contemporary Check historiographic school of thought. In the context of period studies, open issues impose themselves about the authorization and intensity of professional engagement in designing and about the realization of several buildings within the medical complex of the Masaryk home in Kerch near Prague, which was also topic of some Dobrović’s commentaries.
Over fifty years since the death of architect Nikola Dobrović (1897-1967), his rich architectural practice has prompted a number of serious historical and scientific researches. In one of the first detailed studies, in an article entitled “Nikola Dobrović or On the Increase With Time”, nine key principles of Dobrović’s architecture have been distinguished in a summary of previous studies. This paper is conceived as an imaginary dialogue with the author of the study, Ranko Radović (1935-2005), who was also an excellent architect and urbanist, professor and theoretician of contemporary architecture, as well as Dobrović’s student and collaborator. Considering results of more recent researches, this work seeks to document and critically observe Radović’s early insights and interpretations. Also, it aims to acknowledge, once again, yet from a new historical perspective, the value of Dobrović’s “messages and news, words and ideas, drawings and buildings, ‘proper’ space that is always part of the world” – as Radović has precisely pointed out.
The opus of Nikola Dobrović may seem equally actual today as it used to be over the past few decades. However, if the phenomenon is considered in detail, this impression does not really correspond to the realities of 2017. By compartmentalizing his opus into construction works, architectural, urbanistic, written, historiographic, pedagogical or theoretical work, and by taking into consideration the current situations in the newly formed countries which nominally claim his heritage, we find a much more sceptical image than the one which has prevailed in the Serbian public until recently. The fate of his main architecture project – the former complex of the General Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence in Belgrade, is a paradigm of the fate of his entire production today. In this sense, it is necessary to reconsider the idea of “active heritage” as an antinomy of what we would consider to be a virtual “memory of heritage”. The twilight of urbanism in Serbia is another negative phenomenon which has indirectly influenced the heritage of Dobrović, as well as his personality as a pioneer of modern urbanistic thought in Serbia. The third segment of this study is consideration of how the structure of his entire opus has been valued so far in Serbia and if such values have been objectively juxtaposed, with a special regard to the period after the war, his project realized in Montenegro and the projects unrealized in Belgrade.