The Orthogonal Urban Matrix of the Towns in Vojvodina, Northern Serbia: Genesis and Transformation

The Orthogonal Urban Matrix of the Towns in Vojvodina, Northern Serbia: Genesis and Transformation

Aleksandra Djukic (Faculty of Architecture, University of Belgrade, Serbia), Aleksandra Stupar (University of Belgrade, Serbia) and Branislav M. Antonic (University of Belgrade, Serbia)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3613-0.ch008


The subject of the chapter is the transformation of the urban matrix in the Northern Serbian province of Vojvodina. Being placed at the crossroads of important trans-European corridors, this territory in Southern Pannonia has always been exposed to various influences and shifts of power, which have left a significant mark on their urban matrix. The most prominent period was certainly Habsburgs' rule in Southern Pannonia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which radically reshaped inherited organic medieval-oriental matrix into planned, orthogonal regulation. This, Habsburg legacy has influenced the urban development of these towns until today. The aim of this chapter is to present the outcome of Habsburg urban regulation and accompanied orthogonal imprint in four towns, selected as case studies. The previous periods, as well as the recent challenges, are also considered. In the conclusion, the uniqueness and identity of these towns is discussed, regarding the morphing and transformations of their urban patterns during the selected periods.
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The territory of northern Serbian province of Vojvodina is positioned between the ‘old lands’ of the Western civilization in Central Europe and the transitive lands in the South-Eastern Europe, where the remnants of oriental influence are still noticeable. During the 18th century, this part of the Pannonian plain was integrated into the Habsburg Empire and fully transformed in line with the layout reflecting the ‘western values’. Moreover, the territory was colonized with several ethnic groups and organized as a military frontier, influencing a rapid and radical transition from old spatial and socio-cultural patterns to the new ones (Maletić, 1968).

This tremendous transition was particularly visible in towns, as the seats of the newly-established Habsburg reign. The impact of this transition was especially embedded into the urban matrix, as a complex physical element of towns (Castex, Depaule & Panerai, 1977; Whitehand, 1981; Gauthier, 2006; Kropf, 2009; Whitehand, 2015). The existing medieval and oriental urban matrix, which was spontaneously generated, was promptly remodeled into a new one, following the latest western tendencies embedded in the overall regulation measures (Pušić, 1987). These changes reflected in several spheres - from the physical appearance of urban space, urban activities, to various cultural innovations and modernization (Djukić, 2011). However, the urban fragments of older matrices have remained until today, representing a link to previous periods. All these issues have made towns in Vojvodina very complex and specific.

Orthogonal matrix was a meaningful option for this challenging period in the history in Vojvodina. Introducing regulation and organization in spontaneously created settlements was a necessity, further supported by the strong presence of military rule (Pušić, 1987). Consequently, the military government brought Austrian fortification engineers who traced new urban matrix in a very rational, orthogonal way. The results of this phase can be easily noticed today, in the well-organized matrix of the majority of settlements throughout Vojvodina (Simonović & Ribar, 1993). Finally, the success of this transformation was verified by being ‘exported’ as a role-model for the redevelopment of Balkan towns and marketplaces in the arising Principality of Serbia in the 19th century, where the new generation of engineers from the Austrian Empire played the crucial role (Kojić, 1970).

The significance of the orthogonal matrix for the development of towns in Vojvodina can be better explained by making a clear distinction between the period before the Austrian rule and the period after its establishment. Therefore, the chapter will consider the major differences, underlining the key period of the 18thcentury, which brought the processes of westernization and modernization. For this study, five medium-size cities in Vojvodina are selected: Zrenjanin, Pančevo, Kikinda, Vršac, and Sremska Mitrovica. Although all of them possess the main characteristics of the urban settlements of this territory, they also differ by the time of their foundation and their importance during the considered period. Therefore, they depict a comprehensive image of the urban development of the province, simultaneously underlining the importance of the orthogonal matrix as one of its main features.

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