Right to Time. Synthurbanism and Politics of Time in Yugoslav Self-Management
Architecture is about organizing space. And time.
Approaching architectural history as a history of what if, rather than what was; a history of potentialities and ideas, rather than facts and forms, this paper will explore how could the notion of time in architecture be understood as a political category and a design tool.
We will take a closer look into Synthurbanism, or synthetic urbanism, a radical unbuilt project and a theory of the self-managed city, developed by Yugoslav architect Vjenceslav Richter, in 1964. Synthurbanism came out from the particular Cold War context of Yugoslav self-management, a historical project of worker’s autonomy; decentralized economic and political model, positioned between central planning and free market. Starting from the position of everydayness as the time and space in which all life occurs, the project proposes compression of space as a way of extending time. Understanding right to time as a political right of the new urban dweller of the self-managed society, Synthurbanism could be observed as an experiment in thinking collective self-management through the principles of time-management.
Visually, the project proposed a new technique of architectural representation: simultaneous perspective. With showing different fragments of a single spatial unity, with their own vanishing points, simultaneous perspective could be analysed through its symbolic form, as a method of temporalizing space and spatializing time; a way to visually talk about Yugoslav socialist modernity.
Finally, one could ask: is there a specific understanding of time in socialism? Or more particularly, is there a specific understanding of time in self-management, with self-signifying individual or collective awareness and -management signifying the possibility of engaging with, or acting upon this position of awareness? What role does spatial planning have in structuring, disabling or enabling the right to time? And after all, why do we have to re-think all these questions today?
Marija Marić is an architect and a researcher based in Zürich. As a PhD candidate and a research assistant at The Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) – ETH Zürich, her thesis is part of the ongoing research project Conflicting Identities: Politics of Representation and Counterculture in Yugoslavia during the Cold War, led by Prof. Philip Ursprung.