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NATO as Architectural Critic

By : Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss

Today, when war technology demonstrates the ability to select singular pieces of architecture as targets by the practice of the precision bombing - the question is not any more: how to destroy, but what is to be destroyed vs. what is to be spared? In such a realm the time of destruction is the time of classification and we question whether there exists a cultural framework that can determine any relation between the meaning of architecture and the cause for its destruction? The chosen case study for this interrogation is the controversial building of the Army Headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia designed by Nikola Dobrovic in 1954 and bombed by NATO in 1999. On the one side, if NATO ever wanted to bomb a building that was more influenced by the Western culture, it could not find a better target. The design was the reflection of the pro-liberal politics of the post-war Yugoslavia distancing itself from the Stalinist block and its choice of the neo-classical style to represent the identity of the communist state. There is however, a complication in laying sole responsibility of its destruction to NATO. This is the building from which it was believed that the earlier bombings of Vukovar, Dubrovnik and Sarajevo were ordered. The aim of this paper is to examine the notion of this new and unprecedented meaning of a single architectural object in the face of an overall reading of culture. Furthermore, it is about a possibility to recover such historically inflected readings of culture, such as Serbia’s and move on to strategizing its very much needed reconstruction. This paper aims to provide evidence that this nation’s role in modern history is not entirely nefarious, as it may seem today. It also aims to map out the recent dominant cultural forces that emerged as a result of political and economical isolation for example Turbo Folk. This is a version of a pop-folk genre in music. I aim to analyse these cultural forces with regard to their ability to by-pass any effort of creating new urban identities by reconstruction and creating spatial identities of their own.

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