Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Creating a concrete future in Towards a Concrete Utopia at MoMA

After World War II, Yugoslavia was looking for an architectural language to unify their new country. Concrete, it seems, was the best grammatical framework. The Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, Towards a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980, explores how Yugoslav designers used architecture to express the optimism of a new era, one of collectivity bound by socialism. Geometry, civic construction, and, of course, concrete, were the elements that formed the post-war building boom surveyed in MoMA’s show.
Photographs, models, renderings, plans, and video all serve to illustrate the ideation, creation, and function of Yugoslav architecture. With this material, the show really requires more than one visit to fully absorb it all. The exhibition is organized around several major themes, including modernization, public buildings, global networks, and everyday life. Perhaps the most intriguing part is the final section covering monumental architecture; the forms become more organic, open, and flowing rather than rigid and angular. It was in these memorials to fallen soldiers and anti-fascism that Yugoslav architects tested the limits of reinforced concrete as both a material and as a representation of globalist, utopian and nationalist ideas. With this Eastern lens, Towards a Concrete Utopia sets the stage for broader scholarship of modernist architecture and its relation to post-war socialism in the twentieth century.


  1. Your review is very clear and I appreciate your brief summary of the historical context at the beginning, as this is so crucial for understanding this show. I love that you are mentioning that the show needs more than one visit! That was exactly how I felt walking through the exhibition - there was just so much to see! Your overall structure reads very well and with the overwhelming amount of models, photographs and videos in mind that are on view, I appreciate the way you give a broad overview of the whole exhibition. It might just be worth including one or two examples by name when you are describing the memorials in the final room.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This is a really great overview. As you mentioned, with such a huge array of information, this exhibition requires an extended visit (or a second one altogether). However, since a lot of people would only be afforded one opportunity to see it, I appreciate that you specified the part you found most intriguing: the final section on monumental architecture. I think this is an excellent place for viewers to direct their attention if they have little time since it is the most critical meeting point of politics and design in socialist Yugoslavia. My only constructive criticism would be to mention, by name, a specific architect or building you thought was particularly interesting instead of keeping your review entirely general.