Special issue :Architects as Memory Actors: Ruins, Reconstructions, and Memorials in Belgrade

This article examines the reshaping of Belgrade’s memorial landscape after the Second World War and after the 1999 NATO bombings, with a focus on the role of architects. As such, the paper shifts the scale of memory debates in two ways: first, from the national to the urban; second, from ‘classical’ memory entrepreneurs of the political realm to city makers, usually perceived as ‘technical’ actors, but, as the paper argues, in fact relevant memory actors both through the way they influence sites of memory and through memory debates. The article places the engagement of architects with narratives of heroism and victimhood in Serbia in a historical perspective, examining the shift in memorialisation after the Second World War. It then discusses the hesitant approaches on engaging with ruins of the 1999 NATO bombing, highlighting frictions between various actors in the Generalštab debate. Finally, it analyses the distinctive memorial engagement with the ruins of the Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) building by examining the bottom-up process of the competition for the RTS memorial. The article highlights that, even if not intentionally or by embracing memory-work, architecture and architects play a role in memory processes, while deeply enmeshed in constellations of political and economic power.

Gruia Bădescu

Gruia Bădescu

Gruia Bădescu is an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow and a Zukunftskolleg Research Fellow at the University of Konstanz. He holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge and, before Konstanz, he was a Departmental Lecturer and a Research Associate at the University of Oxford. His research examines urban and architectural interventions in the aftermath of political ruptures, including post-war reconstruction and memorialisation after political violence. His publications examine the relationship between reconfigurations of urban space and memory processes in Southeastern Europe, also in dialogue with other regions, specifically South America and the Middle East. He is the convenor of the Memory, Space and Place working group of the Memory Studies Association.

1. In your opinion, what makes a good memorial? What examples from the text you think fit the best your understanding of one?
2. How important have architects been in the making of memoryscapes in both socialist Yugoslavia and post- NATO bombing Serbia?
3. How has victimhood been represented in urban space in Belgrade since 1945? How did this change with time?
4. Based on the debates discussed in the text, what would be in your opinion the best vision for Generalštab?


Southeastern Europe