Avenue of the Proletarian Brigades, Zagreb

 

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City Assembly, designed by Kazimir Ostrogović

According to the definition, proletariat is the class of industrial wage earners who, possessing neither capital nor production means, must earn their living by selling their labor.It is the poorest class of working people. The fact that once the poorest class of working people had its avenue – it was a part of post WWII socialist wonderland called Yugoslavia, today sounds like a utopian moment.

Before WWII it used to be Varaždinska Road (according to Varaždin town, a beautiful baroque center of Međimurje) connecting east and west side of the city via longitudinal rare traffic lanes that stretched across fields and one of the most ancient villages that Zagreb had sprung from – Trnje, nowadays a city district. After WWII it was named after another city – Moscow. When Tito said his famous “No” to Stalin, the avenue was named after the proletarian class and carried it until the 1990s when it became Vukovarska Street, destined to commemorate atrocities committed in the horrid civil wars in the 1990s.

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Housing by Drago Galić, inspired by Unité d’habitation.

Avenue of the Proletarian Brigades became the laboratory of the socialist planning, conveying not just the spatial planning ideas of the new revolutionary societal order, but creating the innovative institutions as for example the Workers’ University.

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Workers’ University Moša Pijade was opened in 1961. The level of importance was emphasized by the fact that it was inaugurated by Tito in person. The architects are Radovan Nikšić and Ninoslav Kučan, while the slack sober-modernist furniture was designed by Bernardo Bernardi.

Sharply criticized during socialist period for lacking the human dimension and putting a car into the center of human movement and therefore dehumanizing  the experience of the city from an individual perspective, today, in retrospective, it is obvious that the Avenue was planned and carried out while respecting the high professional standards, transposing the ideas of CIAM planning into the local context of self-managing socialist state.

Unfortunately, many of the plans were not carried out in its fullness which today diminishes the wholeness of its structure. Its grandiosity still speaks more about the collective than about individual, and for those who can correspond to its morphology and its vocabulary, it speaks also about times when dreaming big involved the human dimension.

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