Between Political Agenda and Common Desire:

Genealogy of Socialist Dwelling in Postwar Croatia (1945-1960)

by

Sanja Matijević Barčot

&

Ana Grgić

Keywords

  • socialism
  • modernization
  • Croatia
  • socialist dwelling
  • informal housing

Postwar ideological shift and change of political paradigm in Croatia, an integral part of Yugoslavia at the time, implied a sharp break with many prewar practices. In this regard, the question of housing was no exception. Moreover, given the extent of the postwar housing crisis, the notion of housing became a crucial political and social issue, and its ideological potential was immediately recognized. Therefore, despite the massive housing shortage, the primal question was not technical – how to make as many apartments as possible in the shortest possible time, but ideological – what kind of apartments should be built? What is genuine housing for a new Yugoslav socialist man?

This research follows the postwar quest for an ideal socialist apartment in Croatia. By retracing the expert debates and discussing examples related to different theoretical positions, the article unveils the ideological discourse on housing, which evolved from an initial setup debate between advocates of individual houses and those in favor of high-density collective housing typologies to proposals for the apartment layout that sought to change the way of living and accommodate socialist everyday life. While considering what the description of a socialist dwelling might be in the context of Croatia, the paper draws attention to the discrepancy between what was envisaged and what was realized. The former represents the official, collective housing, promoted and thoughtfully considered in accordance with the socialist modernization agenda, while the latter includes informal, self-built housing that was developed along the margins of the urban space, without noteworthy attention of either architects or the socialist authorities.