Indeed, Sava Square has been declining for years and has become more and more of a mockery.
But was it, perhaps, possible to reconstruct it, and give the Belgrade Main railway station, a building of great cultural importance, protected by law – over which the City institute for the protection of cultural monuments has jurisdiction – an adequate and urbanistically considered environment?
Sava Square belongs to the Main railway station, because that building dominates the space in every meaningful sense. The station was allowed to “breathe” thanks to the urbanistic solution which includes the square. The building and the square are one and the square exists because of the building.
In my fairy tale, the competent City institute for the protection of cultural monuments would provide conservation conditions for the arrangement of the square, which would highlight the cultural monument and preserve its immediate surroundings, including Korunovic’s post office building. (Once you change your identity, you should not go back to the old one.) Under these conditions, an open call would be announced, and the jury would consist of conservators, architects, and art historians. The members of the jury would not be politicians, nor their cronies from those professions.
The goal of the public call would be to use conservation methods to make the square and the building of the Main railway station more beautiful, and to adjust the surroundings to the fact that it is a symbol of Belgrade’s modernization from the 1880s and its connection with the world.
This would be especially pertinent now, when we constantly hear grand announcements of high-speed railways and the citizens definitely have a need for good rail transportation. Instead, some autistic individual decided to abolish the Main railway station and leave his subjects, as he sees the citizens of this country, to try and figure out how to travel anywhere by train.
Many were trying to figure out what the government is trying to do with these symbols of the Middle Ages, which it seems particularly inclined to place everywhere. They seem to want to revitalize the Middle Ages and bring them back to the future of the third millennium, just like every time-machine lover wants to live in his ideal time. That is why the square is now closing, instead of being opened for connections and travel, which is what a functional railway station would symbolize. No pasaran. If you have a naïve, childish desire to travel, to, god forbid, see other countries, other people, other customs, to learn about the Other and the different, you will now have to first face a 23-meter-tall monster swinging a sword.
Therefore, instead of the metaphor of free movement it used to be, the building of the Main railway station in Belgrade has now become a wall, a part of the scenography of our own, contemporary Grand Prince. In his own imagination, he has decided to give us a mastodon and call it a monument to Stefan Nemanja, with a pedestal every SF set designer would envy. And to pay for all that with our money.
– How much, oh Lord, how much did you pay for this Godzilla?
– It is none of your business, maggot. It is a state secret.
And then, in the middle of the pandemic, they bring you to the late Sava Square to cheer and enjoy the show.
And like icing on the cake, those citizens who were blinded by the flash of the monument, are now arguing and sharing their thoughts on it – where? On the late Sava Square.
The author is an art historian from Belgrade.
Translated by Marijana Simic