Urban Transformation in a Post-Socialist Society: From Unity to Separation

  • Abstract:

    This paper addresses the ongoing urban transformation of the Post-socialist city. Research is focused around ex-Yugoslavia where conflict, closed national policies, identity struggle and contemporary desires radicalized changes. Particularly it explores four satellite cities (Aerodrom in Skopje, New Belgrade, New Zagreb and Fuzine in Ljubljana) that were built during the time of Great Socialist country, all of them as an extension of capital cities connected by the Highway of Brotherhood and Unity. Radical transformation of Post-socialist cities in ex-Yugoslavia came into being with the end of ideology that built them. Defined and determined forms in new condition- often characterized by the permanent lack of authority- became blank canvas for improvisations, experiments and individual opportunistic developments. Nevertheless, in new geopolitical setup in this region determined by the condition of reversed unity, all new capital cities needed to reinvent their own national identities. This defines an ongoing desire for different transformation in order to manifest new ideas and conditions. This search for newness and differentness was somehow done by following the same patterns and principles. The highway, rather than mean to differentiate oneself can be seen as generator of sameness now dictated by the financial capital, defining conditions that were manifested in building types- such as the church, the kiosk, small retail, shopping mall, new housing block- or in type of urbanization generated by the “symbolic” forms. This paper argues for a specific understanding of the Post-socialist city, where city is defined by architectural singularities that emerged as consequence of often individual, opportunistic ideas. Nevertheless, these building types are not autonomous objects but rather interdependent entities that reshaped public life and urban conditions in all of these cities. Therefore, this can articulate certain patterns of urban transformation common for wider context and propose new understanding of the struggle of Post-socialist city and duality within the city between identity driven local initiatives and capital driven large scale developments.