Builders of Novi Sad
Second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century

In a quite elaborate and comprehensive literature on the city of Novi Sad there have not been any books yet that would be dedicated only to its architecture. Everything that has been published about that up to now is treated only as a part of some other subject and it is given in fragments or only as a detail analysed in an expert-specialist way.Larger inhabited settlements on the territory of Vojvodina were clearly urbanised during the 18th century, and especially during its second half when several larger settlements – Novi Sad (1748), Subotica (1749) and Sombor (1779) – got the status of free royal cities (Regiae liberaeque civitatis). Most towns in Vojvodina got a kind of shaped appearance at that time already, at least as far as their central parts were concerned. Granting of privileges to the cities created the counter balance to the feudal village and conditions for strengthening of the city economy, as well as more favourable conditions for further development of craftsmanship, trade and civil engineering that used to be in their initial stages. Formal and essential establishment of Vojvodina towns and cities belongs to the 18th century period. Processes that were of great significance for establishment of Vojvodina towns and cities include constant demographic movements, colonisations and national conflicts out of which the multinational civic class was rising. This class used to be the bearer of development and prosperity and that was how it contributed to the fact that many cities got numerous marks of central European building tradition. Nineteenth century brought significant changes in the field of architecture and building on the territory of contemporary Vojvodina. This relates especially to the second half of the 19th century when Vojvodina was pounded with processes of urbanisation and early industrialisation as well as with creation of a new, economically more solid civic class which used to be, along with the strengthened and centralised state institutions and the church, the main contractor for the new buildings. As a client it was the main generator of needs, taste and styles. However, the state and church orders were still prevailing. Naturally, domestic architecture of the 19th century was far from being able to give as many stylistic variations or diversity of building philosophies as it was the case in the west and east European countries. Our 19th century architecture was pragmatic, simple, the one of a small scope in terms of number of erected buildings, occasionally qualitative and not too original all until the last decade. All this is primarily the result of a modest level of development of social relations and lack of educated domestic architects and builders and also of a small scope of construction works. Apartment buildings, houses, public buildings and temples of different confessions were built mainly in an eclectic mixture of neo-styles all until the end of the 19th century when the new architectural style of Hungarian secession became the most popular in the architecture of Vojvodina towns and cities. In the last decade of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century Vojvodina changed significantly its image of primarily agricultural region and breadbasket of central and Western Europe. During that period the Danubian region was involved in the process of late industrialisation that manifested itself through building of factories for processing of agricultural products and larger influx of population into towns and cities that had already got their urban shape. Most of the capital invested into economy of Vojvodina was of German and Hungarian origin, with Budapest and Vienna as centres of financial power of the state from those times. This is the period of accumulation of somewhat larger domestic capital that demanded larger investments. It is also the period of somewhat livelier and better-organised building activity on the territory of Vojvodina performed by both still sparse local builder and masons and architects from the capital of the Monarchy. Government institutions were ordering plans for public buildings, hospitals, schools and administration head offices from architectural bureaues in Budapest although they were to be built in southern parts of the state during the last decades of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. Future war conflicts disrupted totally the development of building craft on the territory of Vojvodina and Novi Sad, but during the period between the two wars civil engineering was going to bloom again. Immediately after the end of the World War I and inclusion into the new state – The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and later on The Kingdom of Yugoslavia – there weren’t many building activities in Novi Sad. Grandiose buildings, public and private palaces (of Hungarian secession style) had already been built in the period from 1900 to the beginning of the World War I. First public buildings that were the result of the first general plan from 1921 appeared only by the middle of the third decade. The city of Novi Sad experienced its new blooming by the end of the third and at the beginning of the fourth decade of the 20th century when it started turning into the cultural and social centre of the new Danube Banovina (1929) and one of the smaller centres of the new state community along with Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana and Sarajevo. Since then Novi Sad has had its builders and architects who left numerous significant and valuable buildings and some of them even the whole architectural opuses that we can understand as unique creators’ careers. Until 1925 several new factories were built and a railway station (both passengers’ and freight) was widened significantly. This is when the city started building several settlements in the outskirts with ground floor buildings and Mali Liman that represented a kind of an extension of the city centre towards the Danube typical for its high apartment buildings. All buildings, meant for both public and housing use, that were built until the end of that decade used to be under the significant influence of the late secession concept of building, but also of diverse historic neo-styles that were still ruling the architectural expression of suburban European regions. Architecture that we can call truly modern started to develop in the city with the occurrence of Lazar Dundjerski and Djordje Tabakovic, who had been educated in Vienna, Budapest and Belgrade during the first years of the fourth decade of the 20th century. Within next several years they were joined by many architects who had also been educated abroad and who managed to create their own architectural expression of a modern sensibility within a very short period. The enlarged individual wealth as well as profitable enterpreneurship of large estate owners in building of houses for rent created the conditions for individual and collective housing fund in Novi Sad that was not limited by financial resources or burdened with traditionalism of the employer. This is the period when some of the most prominent Novi Sad buildings were built that are going to remain as architectural symbols of Moderna not only in Novi Sad but also in the whole Vojvodina and Serbia.

Vladimir Mitrovic