Hi! Park Belgrade, Serbia 2008
The Society of Serbian Architects organized a competition for the redesign of an important park at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. Every story about Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and the former capital of ex-Yugoslavia, used to begin with the description of that confluence of rivers, calling it a beautiful and strategically important anchor for the city. The park in question, colloquially called "confluence," but in the literature of the competition referred to as the "Park of Friendship," was planned into existence at the early stages of the postwar development of New Belgrade, which is Belgrade's largest communist-era planned housing development. The land that carried the modernist algorithms of land-to-building ratios, of sun rays to building heights, of kindergartens to population density, through a legal loophole characteristic of post-socialist transition, became that super cheap land that turns over money like no other. In the latest version of pseudo free market developments, including private and foreign developers, luxury housing, and shopping flagships, the demand for park and its recreational and cultural offerings has nearly doubled. We set our goals in this competition on two registers very specific to the Serbian context. One involved an earnest desire to find a way to preserve the park, to allow for an approach to the river that has in recent years been hampered and nearly destroyed by a semi-legal economy of entertainment rafts, while still finding a way to allow for that micro economy to somehow dock. The other goal was to inject some humor and debate into the extremely professionalized architectural discourse in Serbia. We wanted to offset the hyper-realistic architectural renderings that in large part govern the architectural competitions and all developer conversations. While not bad in themselves, hyper-realistic renderings in this context tend to make architects content with their "expertise" without leaving room for any real discourse on quality, or for a genuine and necessary testing of architectural and organizational ideas. We thought this latter goal required humor and low-resolution, but high IQ explanations.

Working from a basic programmatic survey of the situation and a fundamental belief that all contemporary definitions of nature rely on a type of construction, we proposed six zones that differ from one another in terms of the relationship between the human activities and the treatment of nature. Our proposal employed six different programmatic and related formal strategies: bunching, seeding, combing, scooping, packing, sampling.