General characteristics of the area
The Student City complex is located in Novi Beograd, between the following traffic arteries: Tošin Bunar St., Zorana Đinđića Blvd, Highway E75 i.e. the highway exit towards Tošin Bunar St.,Tošin Bunar St. and Studentska Street in the western part of Block 34.
In terms of its location and setting, the spatial area of the Student City belongs to the border region of the zone that we perceive as Novi Beograd: Bezanijska Kosa is located on the other side of Tošin Bunar St., to the west from the Student City, while Zemun is to the northwest.
The immediate surroundings of the competition area consists of Blok 34 at the east side along the Studentska Street; Block 4 at the north side along the Zorana Đinđića Blvd; Block 35 at the west side, along the Tošin Bunar street, whose main feature is the SRC “11. April”; and Block 37 at the south side, along the Highway.
THE EASTERN PART OF BLOCK 34, whose size in the context of Novi Beograd makes Block 34 dimensionally specific (in comparison, along Zorana Đinđića Blvd, the same distance is covered by Block 3 and Block 4), predominantly consists of a residential complex that was built during the eighties of the last century. Structurally and visually, these 6-floor buildings (GF+6) belong to the period when they were built, which includes the reappearance of sloping roofs in the segment of multifamily housing. In the extreme northeastern part of the block, in the zone between the Zorana Đinđića St. and Narodnih Heroja St., there lies “the ensemble”, consisting of the Customs Management building that was constructed in the seventies and two residential buildings of approximately similar age and visual identity, which is typical for this construction period in Novi Beograd. In the southeastern part of Block 34, along the Highway and between Narodnih Heroja St. and the aforementioned residential complex from the eighties, there is an undeveloped open area that has been “decorated” for many years with a half-finished object whose purpose is unknown. Therefore, it is clear that the part of the Block 34 that is located to the east from the Studentska Street is characterized by extremely heterogenous structure, which is not typical of Novi Beograd.
Figure 6 Eastern part of Block 34
BLOCK 4, the northern neighbor of the Student City, lies between Zorana Đinđića Blvd, Tošin Bunar St., Pariske Komune St. and Studentska Street, is also characterized by a relatively heterogenous architectural structure, both visually and in relation to the period of its construction, which is not typical for Novi Beograd but is completely expected in this border zone that is located near Zemun and Bezanija. Along Zorana Đinđića Blvd, we find mostly free and relatively urbanized green areas, except for the zone in the corner between Zorana Đinđića Blvd and Studentska Street, which is where a structure with difficult-to-describe identity is located. This structure, initially constructed before the Second World War, has been reconstructed and extended several times and now houses the Technical College, College of Tourism and “Stanislav Binički” School of Music.
Most of the block consists of different groups of multifamily residential buildings that were built between mid-1960s and mid-1980s, except for the residential building in the central part of the block, which was completed around the end of the 20th century. Each of these groups is visually and structurally typical of the period when they were constructed. Four 8-floor sections are placed in such a way that one of them is located along the Studetska street, while three of them are parallel to the Pariske Komune St. They were built in the second half of 1960s. Three residential high-rise buildings (GF+12) along the Tošin Bunar street belong to the same period, while the series of 8-floor buildings along the Pariske komune street was built during the 80s of the 20th century, and subsequently Preschool institution “Petlić” is located within the block, while an old restaurant, “Tošin Bunar”, is placed at the corner of Zorana Đinđića Blvd and Tošin Bunar St. The restaurant was certainly built before the Second World War, but it is not known when exactly it was built.
Figure 7 Block 4 | ©Ljiljana Sundać
BLOCK 35, the western neighbor of the competition scope, is positioned between the Tošin Bunar St., the Highway and the Studentska Street, and features the SRC “11. April” with swimming pools and sport grounds in the western part, and a football field belonging to the Radnički Football Club in its eastern part; commercial-purpose facilities are located in peripheral zones of the block, with regulation towards the Studentska Street and Tošin Bunar St.
The complex of the Sports Center was built during the seventies of the last century, designed by architect Igor Palavičini. The sport and recreation center was opened in 1979. The surface area of the complex amounts to 15,000 square meters, which includes 11,000 square meters of sport grounds. Facilities of the sport center are intended for recreational users and include swimming pools and sport halls. The sport center has three closed and three outdoor swimming pools, one of which is an Olympic-size swimming pool, as well as three halls for small sports and fitness, a table tennis hall, outdoors tennis courts, a spa center, a shooting range, and an ambulance. Visitors can also use two catering establishments. Parking, with an appropriate number of parking spaces, is provided within the complex.
Figure 8 SRC “11. April”, 1980. | Ivo Eterović
On the west side of the Highway, we can find Block 37, whose visual and structural characteristics correspond to a typical Novi Beograd open block - in the urbanistic and architectural sense it is fully formulated and formed space, with plenty of greenery. The complex of multifamily residential buildings with additional facilities (Djuro Strugar Primary School and Lastavica Kindergarten) is based on an urbanistic concept resulting from two solutions that were granted equal awards at an urbanistic and architectural competition held in 1961 and whose authors were architects Mihailo Mitrovic and Stojan Maksimovic. Block 37 was implemented during the period between 1966 and 1970. The western part of the block, along the Tošin Bunar St., is where we can find another a harmoniously formed micro area consisting of multiple-floor multifamily residential buildings that belong to a later construction period with a different visual identity.
Figure 9 Block 37
History and Development of the Area and its Architectural and Cultural Heritage
In the context of urban development of Novi Beograd, the area that is the subject of this competition also includes its immediate surroundings, with several specific characteristics. One of them is definitely a result of the circumstances related to the beginning of construction of the Student City complex (in 1948), during which heated discussions were held about the urbanistic future of Novi Beograd, with dramatically different approaches. The first post-war General Urbanistic Plan of the City of Belgrade, which decided the initial development of Novi Beograd, was adopted only in 1950. As a consequence of this situation, the Student City complex became - using the architectural jargon - “an inherited obligation” within the future matrix of Novi Beograd, which has inevitably affected decisions related to the development of this zone of Novi Beograd at the micro level. The second, and probably more significant, characteristic is the fact that the immediate surroundings and the subject of the competition belong to a group of few segments of today’s Novi Beograd whose urbanistic roots originate in the period before Second World War. Apart from the immediate vicinity of Zemun, whose urban history goes back to ancient past, and the village of Bezanija, which neighbored the zone in question, the main reason behind the activation of this area was the construction of the old Belgrade / Bezanija / Zemun airport.
Figure 10a. Drawing of Belgrade urban planning on the left bank of Sava River, 1946 | Figure 10b. General plan of Belgrade, 1950 architect Nikola Dobrovic
Construction of the airport was initiated in 1923 and began in 1926, while the first commercial flight was made in 1928. The airport covered the area of today’s Blocks 37, 38, 40 and 65, as well as parts of Blocks 34, 32, 39, 41A, 64 and 66A.
The old airport was built in two stages, first in 1926-27, and later in 1929-32, when the airport building and the Milankovic Hangar were constructed; this hangar is the only facility that still exists today, as a protected cultural heritage site, within the Airport City Complex.
Figure 11 Old Belgrade Airport, immediately before the Second World War
The airport was of a mixed type, military-civilian, with a dual-use runway. Operational civilian part of the airport was located in the northwestern zone of the complex, towards today’s Students City, with access from the direction of Tošin Bunar, while the military part was located in the southern zone. In the immediate vicinity of the airport, opposite to the entrance to the civilian part of the airport, a workers’ colony was built - New Settlement - which housed the workers and aviators who worked at the airport. The settlement was located between the airport fence and the area where the Student City was later built; it was destroyed during the bombing by Allies in 1944. In the context of the history of the immediate surroundings, it is notable that the road, built in 1938 on the route of the future highway, served as the link between airport and the city. Before the war, Airport Belgrade was one of the major airports in Europe. Thanks to its convenient geographical position, it served as a regular stop for many record-setting flights.
Figure 12 Position of the Old Airport Belgrade in the context of today’s urban matrix of immediate surroundings
After the Second World War, which had caused significant damage to the airport, it was restored to operational condition and passenger traffic was relaunched in 1947. The airport operated until 1962, when a new airport was opened in Surcin.
It is highly likely that the existence of infrastructure in this area was one of the most significant factors during selection of the Student City’s location, just like the position of the airport certainly affected the disposition of its structure.
During the construction of the new airport, when it was already evident that the old airport would have to be removed, an open competition was organized in 1961 with the aim to find urbanistic solutions for three local communities of the third region, a regional center and the park in the are of the Old Airport, in relation with Block 37; these solutions also served as an urbanistic basis for Blocks 37, 38 and 33.
Construction of the Highway through Belgrade - which took place between 1968 and 1970 - was also one of the significant events that had affected the development and identity of this area.
Since the area that is the subject of this competition belongs to the Original Novi Beograd region, the immediate surroundings of this site include several entities that have been recognized as architectural and/or scenic values by protection agencies; these entities are now under protection or have been granted the status of cultural heritage sites.
Residential-Commercial Center Genex, also known as the Western Gate of Belgrade or the Genex Tower, is located in the southwestern vicinity (within the line of sight, as viewed from this area), in Block 33. The Genex Tower, designed by architect Mihajlo Mitrovic, was built between 1970 and 1980. The Genex Center consists of two towers which are functionally separated into the residential and business tower. The residential tower has the floor structure GF+M+30+L, while the floor structure of the business tower is GF+M+26+L. The towers are connected into a single architectural unit by a structural element located at floor 26. A sightseeing restaurant is placed above this “bridge” between the towers. With the height of 135 meters, the Genex Tower was the tallest building in Belgrade before the construction of the Business Center Usce (in 2005). The building was granted the status of a cultural property in 2021.
Figure 13 Genex Tower viewed from the roof of Dormitory 4 in the Student City
Block 1 is located next to Block 33, towards the northwest, on the other side of Zorana Đinđića Blvd. In urbanistic sense, together with neighboring Block 2, it represents the first implemented example of what is today known as Novi Beograd open residential block with supporting facilities. In the context of protection of cultural heritage, they have been granted the status of protected sites, while their potential status as cultural sites with spatial, cultural and historical value is now being considered. Urbanistic solution for these two blocks, implemented in 1958-1963, was designed by architect Branko Petricic.
Figure 14 Block 2 in 1980s