The urban architecture that defined the city of Zagreb during its nonaligned, self- managed course has been theorized as an “ongoing, open-ended project” and an “open work” in Umberto Eco’s sense.1 As an extension of the open work, critical happenings emerge as the dialectics between experimentation and discussion and as a collective project. It is precisely the specificity of those eventful moments that this project seeks to explore against the backdrop of nonaligned, self-managed Yugoslavia during the 1960s. To make a case in point, cross sections in the history of three separate yet interrelated urban architectural projects in Zagreb are drawn: the (dis)assembled department store, the Jugomont housing mikroraions, and Vladimir Bonačić’s light installations.
The perception of the city as an open work populated by moments of critical happenings opens the way for the conceptualization of socialist space in Zagreb as a motivation of three processes: functional transformation, systemic renewal, and multiplication. By reading the case studies through these lenses and emphasizing the role of Yugoslavia as an ideological site and opportunity, this project suggests a distinct legacy of nonaligned self-management as a site of disruption, experimentation, and iteration.
With this understanding, the case studies come forth not as proposals for a city in crisis, but rather as discursive tools for a political structure in crisis. They reveal an architecture with the potential to mediate and inform the shortcomings of a self-managed society that relentlessly attempts to find its place between open market and socialism. In light of ongoing privatization processes in the post- socialist context of Zagreb, critical happenings invite larger questions about the potential of architecture to act as a collective project for social change.
1Eve Blau and Ivan Rupnik. Project Zagreb: Transition as Condition, Strategy, Practice (Barcelona: Actar D, 2007).