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Palace Albanija in 2010
|Architectural style||Modernist style|
|Construction started||16 July 1938|
|Completed||20 October 1939|
|Height||53 m (174 ft)|
|Design and construction|
|Structural engineer||Đorđe Lazarević|
|Other designers||Branko Bon|
|Main contractor||Mortgage Bank of the Merchant's Fund|
Palace Albanija (Serbian: Палата Албанија, Palata Albanija) is a high-rise building in Belgrade, Serbia. Important construction and architectural innovations were incorporated into the project, which made Albanija an exceptional building endeavor in the Balkans. When completed in 1939, it was the first skyscraper in Southeast Europe. It remained the tallest building in the old part of Belgrade for the next 34 years, until being surpassed by the Beograđanka ("Palace Belgrade") in 1974.
Palace Albanija was declared a cultural monument in 1984. As for its importance for Belgrade, it was built on the pronouncedly dominant architectural position, marking the spatial-urban accent of Terazije square, which made it one of the most recognizable symbols of Belgrade. It was also described as the symbol of Belgrade's golden age, and the crown of the economic growth of Belgrade during Interbellum.
It is located at the north-west end of Terazije square, at the forking of four streets: Terazije, Kolarčeva, starting point of Knez Mihailova and Sremska. The latter two are pedestrian zones. In the vicinity are the Republic Square, to which both the Kolarčeva and Knez Mihailova lead, historical neighborhood of Obilićev Venac along the Knez Mihailova, and busy commercial neighborhood of Zeleni Venac, via Sremska. Palace Albanija directly faces another major edifice on Terazije, Hotel Moskva.
The buildings officially has three addresses in two streets: 2 Knez Mihailova, 4 Knez Mihailova and 12 Kolarčeva streets.
Location of the building was previously occupied by the kafana named "Kod Albanije" ("Chez Albania"), which was built in 1860. It was a small, unsightly, crummy house, yet the venue was very popular. It was built in the oriental, Turkish style, with yellow façade. The original clientele included Ottoman seymen, merchants, hirelings, Serbian guardsmen, etc.
The owners, descendants of Krsta Tomović, were refusing to sell the lot by asking too much money for the parcel's 650 m2 (7,000 sq ft). In 1936, the Mortgage Bank of the Merchant's Fund paid 8.5 million dinars for the lot, which was enough money to purchase 7 one-floor villas in the city's affluent villa populated neighborhood of Krunski Venac. The bank was drained so much by this transaction, that it took two years for it to recuperate, announcing the architectural design competition on 14 January 1938, with extremely short deadline, set for 28 February same year. In total, 84 architects participated in the competition. Architect Milan Zloković proposed even higher edifice (15 storeys).
The first prize wasn't awarded, which was kind of the usual action at the time, as it allowed for the investor to combine all the other projects. Nine works in total were chosen. Architect Miladin Prljević was chosen to combine the final design. He decided to go with two projects by the architects from Zagreb, one by Branko Bon and Milan Grakalić, and another by Hinko Bauer and Marijan Haberle. This caused the controversy as Bon and Grakalić claimed that their project was robbed, but Prljević replied that they actually robbed the project of Bauer and Haberle, where they worked as the assistants. The original documentation is not preserved so it is not known who plagiarized who. The bank already allocated the funds for the construction, so it pushed hard for the works to begin.
Though small but highly popular, the demolition of the old kafana sparked mass demonstrations in 1938. Despite its shabbiness and lack of sanitary and safety conditions, it existed on this location for almost 80 years. One of the regular customers was writer Branislav Nušić, who wrote about the kafana. Another reason for the protests was that the source for the new building's design was Germanic. Nušić wrote in 1929 that the kafana will "stay forever".
Parts of the public opposed the project citing reasons other than just the kafana demolition. Some reports claimed that such a large building, made of reinforced concrete, can't be supported by the settling ground below, so they predicted the building would collapse, so as the neighboring buildings. Others debunked the new, highly progressive construction techniques. Cases of residents from the surrounding building, who sold their apartments in the fear of possible collapse, were recorded. Newsoaoers described the repeated design competition as "anything goes".
The project envisioned four floors below the ground. As the city government had no machinery required for the job, they invited the Kalmyks, emigrants from Russia, noted for their horses. With their horses and carts, the Kalmyks removed the rubble and earth from the foundation pit.
In the relatively shallow depth, just below the old foundation, a well preserved skeleton of a mammoth was excavated in 1938, below the former door of the kafana. It was estimated to be 2 million years old, when the area of Belgrade was the edge of a Quaternary lake. The skeleton was almost undisturbed, with especially well preserved mandible with teeth, which were used to identify the species. The ribs and femurs were also in excellent shape. The bones were transported to the Museum of Serbian Land.
Engineer Đorđe Lazarević, expert on statics, applied state of the art technics at the time. In the concrete supporting columns, he built it the expensive steel reinforcement, high above the standards in Belgrade in this period. Other above-standard solution included the high-strength concrete.
Construction of the building began on 16 July 1938. It was finished 15 months later, and ceremonially opened on 20 October 1939, when World War II already began in other parts of Europe. It was the first highrise building in Belgrade and for a long time the tallest one, dominating the architecture of Belgrade of the time.
World War II
The building was hit during the heavy „Easter bombing“ of Belgrade by the Allies on 16 April 1944. Germans defended it fiercely during the 1944 Belgrade Offensive against the Red Army and Yugoslav Partisan forces. In the evening of 19 October 1944, 22-years-old Partisan Mladen Petrović placed the Yugoslav flag with red star on the top of Palace Albanija. A day later, Belgrade was fully liberated. Petrović was wounded while bringing the flag to the top of the building, but recuperated enough to participate in Syrmian Front, where he was killed, together with his brother.
After the war, engineer Lazarević participated in the reconstruction of the building. The façade was fully reconstructed from war scars only in 1958, when the original, Italian marble, was replaced with the cheaper, domestic one.
In the 2010s, the façade was equipped with the decorative lights. They are also used to color the façade in different patterns and shapes in order to celebrate or commemorate certain events.
For a long time, the occupant of the building was "Beogradska Banka". The bank started a bankruptcy procedure in 2002, which is still not finished, but ever since then the bank has been closed and the building hasn't been properly maintained. In May 2019, the pieces of the façade began to fall off. The Institute for the protection of the monuments stated that the drafting of the project will be done in 2020, without setting a date when will the thorough reconstruction start. The institute also instructed the bank what needs to be done as the "first aid" before the total reconstruction, but the bank which has been non-operational for 17 years, has no funds for it. As the city is not the owner of the building, the complete reconstruction is not an option, but in December 2019 city announced reconstruction of the façade, which should be finished in 2021.
Albanija was patterned after the project Hochhaus in Berlin, designed by Hans Poelzig. Prljević previously collaborated with Poelzig. The building originally had four basement floors: the boiler room, storage rooms for the tenants and two for the storage rooms of the shops. The lobby was designed to host 10 different shops and the mezzanine was designated for the restaurant. Up to the fourth floor were offices and from the fifth to the eights floor were mixed offices and three-room apartments. Remaining five stores, to the thirteenth, were occupied by the bachelor apartments, which, at the time, occupied around 50 m2 (540 sq ft) each. This final five floor section was referred to as the tower, as it protruded above the lower, wider part of the building.
It was designed in the pattern of the late Modernist style ("international spirit of the Modernism in the 1930s"). The façade is without any ornaments and was plated with the slabs of the blue-gray Italian Cipollino marble, which was partially replaced during the 1958 reconstruction from damages sustained during World War II.
The bombing of the building during the war proved the quality of its construction. The German Organization Todt built the shelter in the basement of the building. The 500 kg (1,100 lb) heavy US bomb hit the roof of Albanija directly, fell all the way down to the basement, killing many German soldiers and officers in the shelter. The building, however, remained standing. Remaining soldiers were killed in the battle with the Yugoslav Partisans and the Soviet Red Army.
In June 2018 it was announced that 3 nesting couples of Alpine swift were spotted on the building, which is the first time this happened in Belgrade. Previously, the closest nesting colony of Alpine swift was 200 km (120 mi) to the east, in the Iron Gates gorge. They were first spotted flying in the flocks of common swift, which are abundant in the city, and later the nests were found. This is taken as one of the hints that the continental climate of Belgrade changes, shifting to the Mediterranean climate.
The twin building of Albanija, colloquially styled "Little Albanija" (Mala Albanija), is located at the corner of the Pop Lukina and Kosančićev Venac streets. It was also designed by Miladin Prljević. Though originally only one skyscraper was planned, it was later decided that three buildings will be built, sharing the same or similar appearance and characteristics. The architectural design of the Little Albanija is patterned after the Palace Albanija and represents its smaller version. The building is officially known as the "House of Siniša Zdravković" or the "House of the Brothers Zdravković". It was finished in 1940, immediately after Palace Albanija. It is not protected by itself, but it is a part of the Kosančićev Venac historical-spatial unit which is protected by the law.
Third twin was to be built on the Slavija Square. It was to be built on the land of major merchant Vlada Mitić, one of the richest people in Belgrade at the time, and was announced as the "Mitić Warehouse" or the "Mitić Tower", the largest department store in the Balkans. The planned building was to be taller than Palace Albanija itself. The outbreak of the World War II in Yugoslavia in 1941 halted the works, though the foundations for the building were laid.
The ill fortune of the location of the "third Albanija" since then spurred an urban myth in Belgrade, and the place became known as a jinxed and cursed property named Mitićeva rupa ("Mitić hole"). After the war, Communist government imprisoned Vlada Mitić and confiscated his entire property, including the lot on which the tower was planned and funds prepared for its construction. From 1946 to 1980 26 different project were completed for the lot, but none was realized.
Then mayor of Belgrade, Bogdan Bogdanović decided to put a large sundial in the place in the first half of the 1980s. In the early 1990s, Dafiment banka, one of the major Ponzi schemes of the Milošević's regime, bought the lot and announced a monumental shopping mall, but after the scheme failed completely, the lot was fenced and turned into the dump. After the regime change in 2000, the area was cleaned and a temporary park with children playground was built instead. The failed projects continued, including the ultra-modern, gigantic shopping mall by the Israeli investors which turned out to be a complete hoax.
- Branka Vasiljević (25 July 2019). "Otpada fasada sa Palate "Albanija"" [Façade from the Palace "Albanija" is falling off]. Politika (in Serbian). p. 14.
- Branka Jakšić (4 March 2019). "Palata "Albanija" ima bliznakinju" [Palace Albanija has a twin]. Politika (in Serbian). p. 14.
- "Cultural monument Albanija building". Belgrade Institute for the protection of the cultural monuments.
- Goran Vesić (6 December 2019). Палата "Албанија" симбол златног доба нашег града [Palace "Albanija" symbol of the golden age of our city]. Politika (in Serbian). p. 14.
- Tamara Marinković-Radošević (2007). Beograd - plan i vodič. Belgrade: Geokarta. ISBN 86-459-0006-8.
- Beograd - plan grada. Smedrevska Palanka: M@gic M@p. 2006. ISBN 86-83501-53-1.
- Goran Vesić (26 April 2019). "Имена кафана говоре о друштву и менталитету" [Kafanas names testify about the society and mentality]. Politika (in Serbian). p. 14.
- Nenad Novak Stefanović (8 February 2019). "Палата победе на Теразијама" [Victory Palace in Terazije]. Politika-Moja kuća (in Serbian). p. 1.
- Valentina Branković (26 September 2016). "Najbolje beogradske kafane svih vremena" [The best Belgrade kafanas of all times]. TT Group (in Serbian).
- Goran Vesić (14 September 2018). "Прва европска кафана - у Београду" [First European kafana - in Belgrade]. Politika (in Serbian). p. 12.
- Slobodan Kljakić (25 March 2012), "Na Dorćolu otvorena prva kafana u Evropi", Politika (in Serbian)
- Milan Janković (2 December 2019). Ускоро обнова фасаде Палате "Албанија" [Reconstruction of the Palace Albania's façade starts soon]. Politika (in Serbian). p. 15.
- Dimitrije Bukvić (27 March 2017). "Potomci Džingis Kana u Beogradu". Politika. p. 9.
- "Ispod temelja nekadašnje "Albanije" iskopan je kostur mamuta koji je tu počivao dva miliona godina", Politika (in Serbian), 1938
- J. Gajić (15–16 April 2017). "Na praznik padale bombe" (in Serbian). Politika. p. 27.
- Jovan Gajić (20 October 2019). Кад се петокрака вијорила с Палате "Албанија" [When pentangle flag waves from Palace "Albanija"]. Politika (in Serbian). pp. 1 & 12.
- Branka Vasiljević (5 June 2018). "Bela čiopa novi stanovnik belog grada" [White (Alpine) swift new inhabitant of the white city]. Politika (in Serbian). p. 15.
- Branka Vasiljević (15 July 2017), "Sređeno dečje igralište u Mitićevoj rupi" [Children playground in Mitić hole was finished], Politika (in Serbian), p. 14
- Branka Vasiljević (26 April 2017), "Obnavlja se igralište u Mitićevoj rupi" [Playground in Mitić hole is renovated], Politika (in Serbian), p. 16
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