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Bogdan Bogdanovic

Belgrade, Serbia
1 of 2

Bogdan Bogdanovic (20 August 1922 − 18 June 2010) was a Serbian architect, urbanist and essayist. He taught architecture at the University of Belgrade Faculty of Architecture, where he also served as dean. Bogdanovic wrote numerous articles about urbanism, especially about its mythic and symbolic aspects, some of which appeared in international journals such as El Pais and Die Zeit. He was also involved in politics, as a partisan in World War II, later as mayor of Belgrade. When Slobodan Milosevic rose to power and nationalism gained ground in Yugoslavia, Bogdanovic became a dissident.


His main works are monuments built in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In particular, the monumental concrete sculpture in Jasenovac gained international attention.

The architectonic and literary work of Bogdanovic is characterized by an abundance of ornaments. It is influenced by Romanticism and Victorian architecture, surrealism, metaphysics, Jewish symbolism and Kabbalah. Bogdanovic has opposed the architectural theories of Adolf Loos developed in the essay Ornament and Crime, and argued for the "semantic dignity of the ornamental sign".

In 1951 Bogdan Bogdanovic won a competition for the design of a memorial to the Jewish victims of fascism, to be built on the Sephardic cemetery in Belgrade. Although not religious himself, this contact with Jewish esotericism strongly influenced his further work. From then on until 1981, he was assigned by Josip Broz Tito to devise more than 20 monuments and memorial places against fascism and militarism, which were erected in all republics of Yugoslavia. To work as cenotaphs for all victims of fascism, regardless of nationality and religion, they lack any symbols of communism or other ideologies. Instead, they rely on archaic, mythological forms, sharply contrasting with the principles of Socialist realism. This contrast also served Tito's wish to emphasise his country's independence from the Soviet Union.

All of the memorials are built of stone, shaped by local untrained chisellers whom Bogdanovic preferred to ones with formal education, who were inflexible in his opinion. The notable exception, the Jasenovac monument, consists of prestressed concrete, the formwork for which was constructed by shipwrights. Somewhat incongruously, it is known as the Flower of Stone.

The Symbolic Forms

At the University of Belgrade, Bogdanovic held the lecture course The development of housing schemes (later called History of town), starting in 1962. As professor and dean, he tried to reform the teaching of architecture and introduce grassroots democracy at the university, but the party forced him to abdicate before he could put his plans into practice.

In 1976 he began to teach in an abandoned village school in Mali Popovic near Belgrade to realise an alternative project, namely his "village school for the philosophy of architecture". The course was called Symbolic forms in allusion to Ernst Cassirer, had no fixed timetable and employed the invention of new writing systems, the interpretation of non-existent texts, as well as methods akin to free association and gematria. 14 years later, when henchmen of Milosevic raided the school in the aftermath of Bogdanovic's letter, much of the collected material - the documentation of the lessons, drawings, audio- and videotapes, optical devices - was destroyed.

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Belgrade, Serbia
ziggurat, January 5th, 2021
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