The Charm of Belgrade Waterfront

 The Serbian capital of Belgrade has its own charm that makes it quite unique amongst other European capital cities. And to further improve its qualities, the local authorities are keen on implementing a daring development project.
Belgrade on Water

Belgrade before the intervention (picture source Flickr)

This project, called “Belgrade on the Water,” seeks to develop the area between the city centre and the Sava River. However, the International Network for Urban Research and Action (INURA), a group of scholars and experts on urban development and planning from different parts of the globe, believes that the project carries very high risks and it needs tweaks to make it more feasible.

First, the group said investor expectations on the project are unrealistic. The proposal seeks to build new 200 buildings on the site. However, INURA believes that only what is referred to as the project’s “first A phase,” which is composed of two apartment buildings, two hotels, high rise tower, and a shopping mall, has the chance of being constructed. Another concern INURA has regarding the project is that Belgrade on the Water has failed to take its impact on the local environment into consideration. In a period of serious climate change in an already flood-prone city, the group said it makes little sense to build structures on riverbanks without carefully considering how the Sava could affect the development project and vice versa.

INURA pointed out that waterfront developments in the past have destroyed local ecologies, displaced resident populations, and made public open space inaccessible. Unless Belgrade shows that is capable of addressing the aforementioned problems, the project could pose a high risk to the city’s riverbank and its inhabitants.
To make the project more viable, the design experts encourage Belgrade to utilise state-of-the-art design practices that engages local communities and employ innovative mechanisms. According to INURA, many cities across the globe are now using high standards and sophisticated urban design processes, including fine subdivision of land for lease or sale to a range of investors. By following their example, Belgrade will be able to promote the use of innovative local and vernacular architectural styles in large project designs and ensure diversity.
Proposed design for Belgrade on the Water

Proposed design (picture source Flickr)

This, in turn, allows local opportunities to flourish. “In engaging local communities and their local knowledge, project outcomes are not only very often substantially improved, but they are locally owned, and receive a particular legitimacy from this process,” the group said.1
If executed properly, Belgrade on the Water can significantly improve the Serbian capital’s look and density. However, the local authorities must make an effort to maximise the opportunities of the proposed project.
1. The International Network for Urban Research andAction. “Open Letter to the People of Belgrade.”
INURA offers suggestions to improve Belgrade’s project.

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