Streets and Neighbourhoods

Vladimir Braco Mušič and large scale architecture
Grad Fužine, Pot na Fužine 2, 01000 Ljubljana Map
Mon–Sun 8 am–6 pm

The Streets and Neighbourhoods exhibition follows the professional parabola of architect and intellectual Vladimir Braco Mušič, a key personality in post-war urban planning in Yugoslavia. A multifaceted theorist and expert, initiator of numerous research studies in urbanism and architecture, a professional and cultural ambassador of Slovenia in the world, importer of diverse international urbanist theories, Mušič embodies a typical figure of the post-war architectural profession that saw architecture as the main tool in the modification of urban and social reality. His personal archive was donated to the Museum of Architecture and Design in 2014.

Between 1967 and 1975 a group of architects and urban planners within the Urban Planning Institute of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia (Urbanistični inštitut Socialistične republike Slovenije – UISRS) planned and realised a series of residential neighbourhoods that soon became recognised, both at the national and international level, as examples of paradigmatic realisation in the field of contemporary urbanism. The neighbourhood projects in Ljubljana (BS-7), Split (Split 3) and Maribor (Maribor –South), which were conceived and designed by the Slovenian project team led by Marjan Bežan, Vladimir Braco Mušič and Nives Starc, introduced radical changes to the planning strategies that had until then prevailed in the former Yugoslavia. The proposed new strategies were the result of a unique blend of numerous theoretical models and urban visions that came from both domestic and Western cultural and professional experience.

One of the key characteristics distinguishing these complexes was the spatial organisation of residential volumes: residential lamellas – or megastructures – developed around linear pedestrian streets and wide green areas that are oriented toward natural dominants or landscapes.

The first project to be realised, the BS-7 neighbourhood in Ljubljana, was also the first to develop the theme of a central pedestrian street as a “generator” of activity and circulation within the complex. Placed above the natural ground level, above garages, between residential volumes, fitted with children’s playgrounds and green areas, the street became the neighbourhood’s skeleton and the primary link between different functions – school, kindergarten, home, shops and other public activities – whose ambition was to enrich the passive and anonymous dormitory suburb that was typical for housing construction of the first post-war period and transform it into an active neighbourhood with urban character.

In the case of Split 3 this idea of the central multipurpose street was extended to a virtually regional scale. In this colossal project designed to expand the Dalmatian capital by about 50,000 residents the public areas project assumed the central role in the creation of a physical and spatial identity for residential neighbourhoods: with their unique visual dialogue with the landscape, attention to details in the urban equipment and careful planning of different urban functions, the streets and neighbourhoods of Split 3 represent one of the most fascinating examples of total urbanism of the 1970s, both in Yugoslavia and at the international level. It was a project that went well beyond the project strategies that characterised modernist planning from the first half of the 20th century.

The Maribor-South project embodied similar “mega-scale urbanism”, but in a different physical environment and with different contents: an urbanism that functioned on spatial and temporal dimensions that are virtually  inconceivable today, planning city districts that were uniform in design and function, in an extremely difficult and complex context of rapid suburban growth.

In all of these projects, the large-scale residential architecture that marked the rapid urban growth of the industrial centres of former Yugoslavia answered the needs of the residents, both in terms of human scale and traditional forms of collective life. Thus they turned a new, perhaps final page in urban planning in Slovenia and in the (then) socialist countries in general.