Restructuring Centers of Former Rural Settlements and Weekend-Residence Zones: Shaping Post-Socialist Suburbia in Niš, Serbia

Restructuring Centers of Former Rural Settlements and Weekend-Residence Zones: Shaping Post-Socialist Suburbia in Niš, Serbia

Milena Dinić-Branković (Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture, University of Niš, Serbia), Jelena Đekić (Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture, University of Niš, Serbia), Petar Mitković (Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture, University of Niš, Serbia) and Milica Igić (Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture, University of Niš, Serbia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9932-6.ch018
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The zone of post-socialist suburbia was predefined even during socialism, when rural settlements surrounding large cities were joined with city territory. After the fall of socialism, new intensive transformations unfolded in suburban areas. This chapter analyzes the centers of suburban settlements by using a segment of the administrative area of the City of Niš, Serbia as a case study. Selected settlements have high values of demographic growth in the post-socialist period: four settlements of rural origin, one sprawling settlement, and one settlement of former weekend-residences. This chapter is set to investigate current development patterns in suburbia and to formulate guidelines for designing suburban centers. Urban matrix for mixed-use centers is created, which shapes the center spatially and functionally. Vital centers of suburban neighborhoods that are integrated into the city network represent the only sustainable form of development of suburban areas and city as a whole.
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Niš is a former socialist city of medium size located in southeast Serbia. According to the results of the Census of 2011, the administrative area of the City of Niš has a population of 257.867 people, which reside in 5 urban and 35 so-called “other settlements” (Serb. Ostala naselja). The current administrative and legal regulation for the differentiation of settlements in Serbia fails to provide an accurate insight into the types of settlements in Serbia, which is evident in the example of Niš. According to the Nomenclature of Statistical Territorial Units of the Republic of Serbia (Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, 2010), four subdivisions of the City of Niš (settlements Niš-Medijana, Niš-Palilula, Niš-Pantelej, Niš-Crveni Krst) and adjacent settlement Niška Banja are declared “urban settlements”. All other settlements that are located within the territory of the Master Plan (MP) of Niš 2010-2025, but outside of city bounds are defined as “other settlements”, therefore non-urban (Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, 2011)1. Out of them, 34 have rural origins and 1 is workers’ settlement created after World War II (settlement Nikola Tesla). “Other settlements” in the territory of MP of Niš are in various transformation stages – from traditional villages, through mixed-suburban settlements, to the settlements with certain urban characteristics.

The period after World War II was characterized by high demographic growth in the village settlements in the vicinity of Niš and certain parts of today’s suburban zone (Dinić, Đurić, & Mitković, 2014). City of Niš experienced significant expansion of its territory in the post-socialist period and is still expanding. Master Plan of Niš 1995-2010 marked the process of annexation of surrounding rural settlements to the city. This MP covered an area of ​​150.36 km2, encompassing Niš urban area and 18 settlements nearest to the city. Current MP of Niš 2010-2025 has significantly increased its coverage - as much as 73% compared to the previous plan from 1995 (from 150.36 to 266.77 km2). Agricultural land at the city perimeter is being urbanized and suburban way of life is becoming increasingly popular. The latest MP of Niš includes 18 new villages, while one settlement was converted into an urban settlement by administrative decision (Niška Banja). The standing MP of Niš 2010-2025 states that the development of rural and suburban areas is an important element to consider, as well as the overall quality of life in rural areas on the periphery of the MP, which should provide a quality basis for all activities related to construction of buildings, use of space, traffic connections and communal infrastructure.

Previous research on this topic (Dinić, Đurić, & Mitković, 2014) defined the suburban belt of the City of Niš which includes 11 existing “other settlements”: Deveti maj, Popovac, Medoševac, Gornji Komren, Donji Komren, Donja Vrežina, Brzi Brod, Nikola Tesla, Suvi Do, Gabrovac and Pasi Poljana. These settlements are in immediate contact with the city territory and the share of agricultural population in each of them is less than 2%. They have already undergone the transformation from rural into suburban in spatial, functional and demographic terms. The remaining “other settlements”- remote villages are not considered as suburbia in this research.

Former rural settlements are the dominant type in the suburban belt of the City of Niš. Around and in-between the settlements of rural origin, other suburban forms also appear, creating a myriad of urban patterns and peculiar spatial and social compounds. In the last couple of decades, sprawling occurred to a smaller extent, as well as the transformation of former weekend-residence zones into permanent housing. After the collapse of socialism, a “patchwork” development was initiated in the suburban belt, since all of these types of settlements have merged over time, both with each other and with the urban area of Niš. Consequently, boundaries between various settlement types are now very difficult to establish. These suburbanization processes are most visible and most intense in one particular area of the suburban belt of Niš, in the Cadastral Municipality Kamenica, called Kamenica 2. This populated area involves settlements Podvinik, Vinik and a part of Branko Bjegović, which are not administratively declared as independent settlements.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Genius Loci: Specific character or atmosphere of a place.

Polycentric Spatial Structure: A network of hierarchically structured centers within the administrative territory of the city, which implies de-concentration of urban functions from the main city center to secondary centers and local centers.

Sprawl: Development on Greenfield land outside of city bounds that far exceeds the needs of demographic growth. It is usually characterized by low-density, mono-functionality, automobile dependence and lack of organized centers.

Other Settlements: Settlements that do not have urban character, usually of rural origin. Specific term defined by Serbian legislation.

Suburban Belt: Area adjacent to urban border of the post-socialist city, consisting of: former villages which have undergone the transformation from rural into suburban, weekend-residence zones and new suburban developments.

Weekend-Residence Zones: Weekend cottages in the vicinity of the city, intended for part-time stay and leisure.

Mixed-Use Development: Planned development that is characterized by physical and functional integration of complementary uses, and which favors pedestrian traffic.

Post-Socialist: A development period of former socialist cities after the fall of communism in 1989, which is characterized by transition to market economies and considerable transformation of urban structure.

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