URBAN EXPLORATIONS – FEATURED ARTICLE

Green market (Pijaca) – Typical Balkan urban story

Today, Belgrade is a modern city which strives to become a real metropolis. No one can be indifferent to this city, a peculiar mixture of the old and the new, the East and the West, the modern and the ultra-modern, the rich and the poor, the culture and the lack of culture, the glamour and the misery
by Biljana Arandjelovic

Short Belgrade history

Belgrade is one of the oldest cities in Europe. To prove this claim, one may point to prehistoric finds and excavations in the city territory, dating from the Paleolithic era. The good location and favorable climate resulted in Belgrade territory being inhabited throughout history. The city lies on the confluence of two major European rivers, the Danube and the Sava.

Belgrade has been a borderline city for ages. It marked a boundary between two empires; it was a crossroads between the East and the West, standing as a “gate of Europe”. Throughout its history there has been a succession of conquerors, cultures and civilizations. Due to its position on the border between Austro-Hungary and Turkey, it was often pulled into fights and attacked.

An important period in Belgrade urban development was definitely that of oriental Belgrade. Oriental Belgrade lived for almost five full centuries and looked like a typical oriental Ottoman city. In the work of numerous travel writers, Belgrade was then described as a Turkish city, with narrow, winding streets, numerous districts and mosques typical of oriental architecture. As it was a borderline city lying on two big rivers, it developed as a typical crossroad trading centre.

 

A city that has always been on the border between the East and the West, typically oriental in essence for a few centuries, Belgrade started changing its looks and development dramatically after it was taken over by the Serbian authorities. The young Serbian state was aspiring towards western civilization. A new chapter in Belgrade’s life started, where everything related to the oriental Belgrade was eliminated, and, thus, the city was totally reconstructed.

The year 1867 represented a turning point in the history of modern urban development of Belgrade. This year is when Emiijan Josimovic, the founder of modern Serbian urban planning, completed his model for Belgrade, based on the European model. Thanks to Emilijan Josimovic and his efforts, Belgrade was fully transformed from an oriental town into a European city. The new Serbian Government had a great desire to make Belgrade a modern European city, where features of an oriental town would be lost. At the time of this reconstruction, the city had only 25,000 inhabitants.

The 20th century introduced major changes in Belgrade urban structure. After the major project of reconstructing the old Belgrade, the city developed along the trends of the western civilization. The fact that numerous local intellectuals received education in Vienna and Budapest, and then returned to Belgrade to share their experience from the west in building the new Belgrade contributed to the European slant. The city was given all the trademarks of a modern town: electricity, a sewage system, a water supply system, tramway lines, modern parks, streets covered with asphalt instead of Turkish cobble-paved roads. The city grew, and new population was attracted to it. Thus, Belgrade expanded, and experienced a multifold increase in the number of inhabitants.

In the 20th century Belgrade was demolished twice in the two world wars, which certainly hindered the development of the city. The period between the two wars was the golden age of Belgrade growth.

After World War Two the city development continued. At that time, Belgrade had the highest population influx in its history. In only a few decades, it became a city with the population of almost two million. The construction of New Belgrade and also numerous new districts constantly attracted new residents coming from within Serbia. Economic development of the old communist Yugoslavia turned Belgrade into a new administrative centre, with new, remarkable, modern buildings following global architectonic trends. There were ambitious projects everywhere, the city was expanding and developing; new layers of population were arriving.

The second golden age of modern Belgrade development was interrupted in the final decades of the 20th century with the advent of the big economic and political crisis in Yugoslavia. This was the moment which marked the end of development and the beginning of the crisis period. The dissolution of Yugoslavia, followed by political events, also marked by the political blockade of Belgrade.

The final decade of the 20th century was a decade of major social crisis, followed by major urban development crisis, too. Numerous flamboyant buildings from the communist age remained empty and unused, the previously announced traffic reconstruction, namely the building of the ambitious subway, did not happen. Belgrade entered the 21st century in a condition that was worse than anyone would have dared to predict ten years before. Illegal construction was spreading, so that Belgrade ended up with urban sacrilege and sheer ugliness in many locations.

After the crisis, which left a serious negative mark on Belgrade’s urban structure, another renewal started, which is just beginning to develop. Big and ambitious projects are again being discussed, proposed solutions to collapsing traffic are providing room for new disputes, and major changes are generally occurring. The future will witness further chains of events and a new era in the history of Belgrade.

 

Today, Belgrade is a modern city which strives to become a real metropolis. No one can be indifferent to this city, a peculiar mixture of the old and the new, the East and the West, the modern and the ultra-modern, the rich and the poor, the culture and the lack of culture, the glamour and the misery. There is something irresistibly attractive about Belgrade, something leaving no one indifferent, something calling the visitor to always return. The unusual landscape, with successions of hills and valleys, rivers and streams, smaller and bigger islands, parks and strolling sites, provides a particular flavor to Belgrade. It is exactly those natural resources which Belgrade abounds in that pose an obligation to the citizens to do their best to make this city a true metropolis. Numerous past mistakes in urban structure result in the fact that any further mistakes may hinder the development of this unusual city. If there is criticism, and it is necessary for progress, it would be useful to consider the positive suggestions that accompany it, for it is people who can harm, and also help, his city the most.

 

Pijaca (green market)

 

The culture of Serbia is a mix of orient and occident culture. An aspect of typical oriental heritage still present in Serbia is green market. As part of the urban development of the city, green markets are considered serious by authorities. Not only that but also the city authorities are actively encouraging preservation of green markets. Also, there is an institution called “City Markets” founded by the decision of the City hall with the aim and obligation of controlling the prices, controlling the products and strictly observing the requirements of all green markets in the city. This department has the obligation to define the activity that would be done in the market, tax and measure fee (compensation for market services) collection. Almost every Serbian city has a Market Administration Department as part of The Communal Departments of City government.

During the Turkish reign, the market trade was usually done in front of the fortress gates, then later it was moved to the center of the town, and there it remains until today. The origin of green markets dates from the period when Turks ruled Serbia. As this period lasted for more than 500 years, the rulers brought some customs to Serbia. In that time fairs became an important way of to exchange goods. This way of exchanging goods and food was preserved even after liberation and developed through the history of Serbia.

The Zeleni Venac Market is the most significant of all green markets of Serbia due to its position, history and size, intended to be the central city open market, being the closest to the city center. This market is important as a cultural and historical monument of Belgrade, and it so marked in the Register of the Belgrade City.

It is important to emphasize that Belgrade City authorities made huge Zeleni Venac market reconstructions. This reconstruction which began in June 2005 and ended in 2007, was supposed to give back the original look, aiming to make this market the biggest and the most beautiful in the Balkans. During this reconstruction, the communal infrastructure was renewed totally, more parking lots were built, and also multi-level buildings erected. This reconstruction caused a lot of academic discussion.

About the author

Biljana Arandjelovic

Biljana Arandjelovic is an architect and painter, born in 1979 in Nis, Serbia.
She lives and works in Graz, Austria and Nis, Serbia. She holds a PhD from Graz University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture at Institute for Urbanism. She works as Assistant Professor of contemporary architecture at University of Nis, Faculty for Civil Engineering and Architecture in Serbia.
Biljana also works as visual artist. Her art and design studio is located in Graz.

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