Actors and Vehicles of Architectural Criticism (9)

“Borba”: a Daily Newspaper, an Architecture Prize and the Spectacle of Criticism
Ines Tolic
University of Bologna

May an architecture prize, promoted by a popular medium, be considered a vehicle of criticism? If yes, which kind of discourse does it foster? Is it possible to speak about a spectacle of criticism? And if yes, which are its links within the professional community?
The answer to these questions might be found if the “Borba” prize for architecture is taken into account. Following various polls intended to define the state of architecture in SFR Yugoslavia, and in response to general dissatisfaction with the results, in 1965 the daily newspaper “Borba” organized an inter-republic competition in order to select each year «the best built architectural work in the Federation». This was done in collaboration with the Yugoslav Architects’ Federation in order «to help popularize the best architectural work» as “Borba” said announcing the very first competition. Since then and for almost 30 years, the newspaper and its prize attempted to foster «stronger creative and intellectual ties among architectural resources», developing at the same time a critical discourse and creating a communication channel between professionals and the society. Hence, the “Borba” initiative falls within a whole line of other contemporary actions meant to contribute to understanding Architecture (with a capital A), its problems and theoretical issues, as one of the key elements of the Yugoslav socio-cultural and politico-economic system.
The goal of this contribution is therefore to outline the meaning of the “Borba” award, highlighting the main features of both the popular and the professional aspects of the critical discourse which developed around it in SFR Yugoslavia.
In a broader perspective, the paper deals with interactions (and interdependences) of media and architecture. It investigates the relationship between different types of publications (daily newspapers/professional magazines) and the status of contemporary critical discourse. Moreover, it attempts to define to what extent do these publications and their target readerships influence or create specific forms of criticism – among which, the “spectacular” one.


Ines Tolic is Assistant Professor in History of Architecture at the University of Bologna. She graduated in Architecture (2004) from the University Iuav of Venice, and received a PhD in the History of Architecture and Urban History at the School of Advanced Studies in Venice (2009). Her dissertation, dealing with the reconstruction of Skopje after the 1963 earthquake, won the ANCSA award in 2009 and was later published in 2011. She has also written about postwar architecture and urban design in Japan (Milan 2008 and 2009), as well as about contemporary architecture in South Africa, understood as a reflection of a transitional process which began with the rise to power by Nelson Mandela (2010). Between 2010 and 2012, she collaborated with the international research project Unfinished modernisations, Architecture and urban planning in former Yugoslavia and its successor states, sponsored within the EU Culture 2007-2013 programme. Between 2010 and 2014 she was engaged in the Visualizing Venice project, promoted by the IUAV University in Venice, Duke University in Durham (NC), and Fondazione Venezia.
Her main area of focus is architecture of the 20th century, with particular attention on the methods of representing that which has been built, the relationship with the urban context and the processes of “mondialisation”.


Image caption
Ivan Štraus, Belgrade Aviation Museum, Belgrade, 1989.

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