Updated: Nov 4, 2021
Among the most monumental and landmark structures ever built during the era of Yugoslavia were its many soaring high rise towers and skyscrapers, of which many pushed the envelope of engineering and inspired a nation to look towards the future. While the country of Yugoslavia has ceased to exist for nearly three decades now, the many iconic and charismatic skyscrapers built during that era continue to inspire and speak to not only the old Yugoslav generation, but also the new youth generation who never lived in that former nation, as well as people around the world who are drawn in by their unique and bold architecture. However, for all of the fame and fan-fare surrounding many of these structures, many have barely been written about and few meaningful words dedicated to their history. In fact, my entire impetus for writing this article was that when searching for a listing of the seemingly straightforward query of "what were the tallest buildings of the Yugoslav-era", I found no authoritative articles related to that question or any serious investigation into the topic. The only appreciable resource I found that even began to scratch the surface of this question was a rudimentary Wikipedia list on the subject, but it was not only woefully incomplete (leaving out numerous buildings altogether), it also contained a significant amount of incorrect and misleading information.
As a result of my frustration when faced with seeking out authoritative info on this seemingly simple question, I set myself upon doing the investigation for myself to determine "What Were the 15 Tallest Buildings of the Yugoslav-era". Not only did I want a listing of the buildings, but I also wanted to gather a brief and accessible history of each building... who built it, when was it built, why was it built, what is its present-day state, etc etc? The following article is the results of my investigations into this question. However, the work wasn't easy. When it came to even determining simple facts like the exact height of particular buildings, often I encountered conflicting info from a myriad of sources. In doing research for this article, I found considerable confusion among writers and residents of the former Yugoslav region about which were the tallest buildings of that era, with the people of a location who once had the tallest building completely unaware that a taller building was subsequently built elsewhere. The listing I make here is my best effort to reconcile all of this conflicting data and confusion into what I hope can be the start of more accurate and reliable listing. However, if anyone out there reading this has access to definitive info that can clarify the height or specific details of any of the skyscrapers listed below that I may have gotten wrong, please contact me and I can amend this list as necessary. Through gathering together all of this info, I hope much can be learned and understood about not only the tallest buildings of Yugoslavia, but also its modernist architectural styles, its penchant for monumental larger-than-life construction projects, its approach towards social housing, and, most importantly, its endeavor to build a new nation from the ground UP.
15.) TV5 Tower, Niš, Serbia (81m tall)
Name: TV5 Tower (aka: The Yellow Skyscraper) [originally called the 'Varteks Tower']
Location: Niš, Serbia
Construction years: 1972-1973
Height/floors: 81m tall (91m tall with antena) / 21 floors
Coordinates: 43°19'07.5"N, 21°54'33.8"E
Description: Situated in the heart of the city of Niš, Serbia along Dr. Zoran Đinđić Boulevard is a residential tower that is today known as the TV5 Tower, but more colloquially known as the "Yellow Skyscraper" as a result of its brightly painted facade. Unveiled in 1973, the tower's construction was funded by the Yugoslav Army and was originally created as a complex for accommodating veterans of WWII. Upon its completion, it stood roughly 81m tall (with an additional 10m antenna mounted on top of it), making it the tallest building in Serbia outside of Belgrade (a distinction which stands to the present day). Upon opening, the ground floor of the building was occupied by the Varteks department store chain, which lead to the local nickname 'Varteks Tower' being used for the building during the Yugoslav-era. In the early 1980s, the local broadcaster TV5 moved their studios into this building and installed a large red and white Cyrillic letter logo sign at the top of the building. This resulted in people then referring to the complex as the "TV5 Tower" or just "Petica" ("Five") for short. Although the TV station moved out of this building in 2009, the local name and its sign on top of the tower have remained (although the sign's "T" fell off in recent years, leaving it simply as "V5").
14.) Executive Council Building, Sarajevo, BiH (84m)
Name: Greece–Bosnia & Herzegovina Friendship Building (originally the "Executive Council Building") (zgrada izvrsnog vijeca)
Location: Sarajevo, BiH
Architect(s): Juraj Neidhardt (with Hamdija Salihović)
Construction years: 1978-1982, renovated in 2006
Height/floors: 84m tall / 21 floors
Coordinates: 43°51'18.1"N, 18°24'18.8"E
Description: During the early 1950s, the administrative and government assembly for the SR of Bosnia & Herzegovina were holding session within a small building in the Bistrik neighborhood of Sarajevo. It was well known at that point that these quarters were insufficient and, as a result, efforts were put towards establishing a new political district in Sarajevo within the neighborhood of Marijin Dvor. The commission to build this new governmental complex was awarded to famous Sarajevo architect Juraj Neidhardt in 1956, who envisioned a shining skyscraper as the central element of this new political complex. However, budgetary issues and administrative/planning roadblocks (along with the vastness of the project) delayed work on the tower for more than two decades. Furthermore, the complex was to house and host every department of government within BiH, which required that it be built to very exacting requirements. Construction on the project finally began in 1978. Then, tragically, just as work on the tower began, Neidhardt died the very next year in 1979. As such, Neidhardt's colleague architect Hamdija Salihović subsequently assumed the task of overseeing this project to completion. The finished project was finally unveiled in 1982.
Constructed in the International Style of modernist architecture, the complex exists in two parts: a wide 5 level assembly hall/administrative building and next to which is a 24 floor/84m tall skyscraper that was given the name "Executive Council Building". The tower was crafted in a rectangular shape that was cantilevered outwards at its base in order to convey a 'floating' appearance, while the two broad faces of the building were designed with a subtle facet line running vertically down their center, giving the structure an extra dimension of depth. Upon their unveiling, these parliament buildings became one of the most innovative and groundbreaking works of modern architecture in the city of Sarajevo, while standing as the second tallest tower in Sarajevo after the UNIS Towers. Within the complex was a huge amount of artwork created by artists from across Yugoslavia, with the central plaza in front of the tower designed by famous Zagreb sculptor Dušan Džamonja. However, the Executive Council Building only saw ten years of use during the Yugoslav-era before the Bosnian War began in the early 1990s, at which point the tower was struck by VRS artillery during the Siege of Sarajevo, resulting in its immolation and destruction.
The reconstruction on the tower was organized by architects Ivan Štraus and Tatjana Neidhart (the daughter of Juraj Neidhardt) and began in 2006, a project that was largely funded by the Greek government. Work on the reconstruction was carried out by the Greek company Domotechnik. The tower re-opened in 2007 and was re-named the "Greece–Bosnia & Herzegovina Friendship Building", as Greece provided more than 80% of the reconstruction funds. The remodeling of the tower altered its outward appearance drastically, changing its original International Style facade into a more contemporary glass facade look. In 2008, the building was declared a National Monument by the BiH government.
13.) The "Five Towers", Belgrade, Serbia (86m tall)
Name: The "Five Towers" ('Pet Solitera) (aka: The Five Idiots)
Location: Belgrade, Serbia
Architect: Miodrag Ružić
Year completed: 1971-1975
Height/floors: 5 towers ranging from 75m up to 86m tall / 23 up to 27 floors
Coordinates: 44°45'34.1"N, 20°28'28.0"E
Description: Nestled in the picturesque Banjica neighborhood of Belgrade, right next to the famous Military Medical Center, is the 'Five Towers' ('Pet solitera') residential complex. Development within the Yugoslav-era neighborhoods of Banjica began in 1971 and were among the most modern and forward-thinking examples of residential urban planning in Yugoslavia up until that point. While the urban layout of the community was designed by the architect team composed of Aleksandar Stjepanović, Slobodan Drinjaković and Branislav Karadžić, the 'Five Towers' themselves were the creation of architect Miodrag Ružić, who intended to create a set of towers that could operate as visual landmarks within Belgrade's skyline, but while also appearing as more than just the conventional concrete 'box' shape of which many Yugoslav residential high-rise towers of that period were characterized. The complex was ultimately completed in 1975, with the shortest of the towers reaching a height of 75m, while the tallest reach a height of over 86m. All five high rises comprise over 1,000 apartments and many more thousands of inhabitants. The towers are sometimes locally referred affectionately with the name "The Five Idiots" ("Pet Idiota"), in reference to the fact that they stand out awkwardly in the landscape all by themselves towering into the sky.
Ružić's goal of creating a set of towers that transcended the typical concrete 'box' was well achieved with this work. The structures rise tall along with a dynamic array of vertical lines, ridges and corrugations, giving its facade a great deal of texture and upward motion. Meanwhile, at the summit of the towers, the facade juts outwards and then cuts sharply inwards with steep copper-lined sloping roofs which create an elegantly tapered silhouette. The 'Five Towers' remain in decent condition up to the present-day, hosting a vibrant local community. In recent years, the towers have been the center of numerous art festivals, cultural events and football tournaments.
12.) The Rudo Towers, Belgrade, Serbia (89m tall)
Name: The Rudo Towers (aka: Eastern City Gate)
Location: Belgrade, Serbia
Architect(s): Vera Ćirković, with civil engineer Milutin Jerotijević
Construction years: 1973-1976
Height/floors: Three towers 89m tall / 28 floors
Coordinates: 44°47'04.0"N, 20°30'44.9"E
Description: Perched upon a promontory of the Konjarnik neighborhood in Belgrade is set the imposing and dramatic Rudo Towers. Built during the 1970s era of massive residential expansion in Belgrade through the construction of massive tower blocks, the idea was conceived by the city's urban planners to create a signature landmark building at both of the city's primary east and west entries to the city along what was then called the "Brotherhood & Unity" Motorway (today the E-75 motorway). The high rise project on the city's eastern side was spearheaded by architect Vera Ćirković (for whom very little information is available, unfortunately), who worked alongside civil engineer Milutin Jerotijević. Work began on the complex in 1973 and was ultimately completed three years later in 1976. When the block was completed, final architectural inspections were conducted by Belgrade architect Dragoljub Mićović, who ultimately dubbed the buildings with their official name "The Rudo Towers", naming them after his hometown of Rudo, BiH. However, the towers are also popularly known by their alternate name "Eastern City Gates" ("Istočna kapija grada").
The Rudo complex is comprised of three 89m tall towers arranged in an outwardly radiating triangular orientation within a 120m wide circular plaza. The shape of the towers can be defined as a 'stair-step' form that all ascend upwards towards the circle's center. The positioning of the towers is such that almost any perspective you view them from they will always show the same silhouette. Each tower has roughly 450 apartments and the total resident population of Rudo is approximately 1,400 people. Many sources describe the bare concrete structure and stark unadorned facade of the Rudo Towers to be of the 'brutalist' architectural style. Since the building's unveiling in 1976, various problems have plagued the residents of these towers. Issues with plumbing, elevators, and a deteriorating facade are all problems which residents have attempted to get addressed for years, but to no avail. Sources estimate that the full cost of addressing all of the repairs this building needs as of 2020 would cost well over 4 million euro. However, despite the problems of the building for its residents, the Rudo Towers have become an enduring symbol of the Belgrade skyline and very much live up to their reputation as the 'Eastern City Gates', as they are prominently and dramatically visible as one enters Belgrade along the E-75 motorway.
11.) Rilindja Tower, Prishtina, Kosovo* (89m tall)
Name: Rilindja Tower
Location: Prishtina, Kosovo*
Architect: Georgi Konstantinovski
Year completed: 1972-1978
Height/floors: 89m tall / 19 floors
Coordinates: 42°39'34.0"N, 21°09'21.6"E
Description: Sitting near the city center of Prishtina is a high rise complex known today as the "Rilindja Tower". This building was conceived in the late 1960s to be the new headquarters and printing facility for Yugoslavia's first Albanian-language newspaper 'Rilindja'. Famous Macedonian architect Georgi Konstantinovski (who had studied under American architect Paul Rudolph and Chinese architect IM Pei) was commissioned to create this new headquarters complex. Construction on the project began in 1971, but was stalled for several years during the mid-70s because as a result of budgetary and political issues. It was finally completed in 1978. The architectural style of the complex is described by multiple sources as being very brutalist in its style, with Konstantinovski no doubt being influenced by Paul Rudolph (one of the leaders of the brutalism architecture movement in America). The tower's original form was characterized by its boxy bare concrete facade of bush-hammered panels and gridded window arrangements that take such a shape as to optimize their air ventilation. In addition to housing the primary offices of the Rilindja newspaper, it also housed some offices of the Turkish-language newspaper 'Tan' and the Serbian-language newspaper 'Jedinstvo', making it a highly multicultural working environment.
However, in 2008, the newspapers within the Rilindja complex ceased operation (with some sources citing 'political pressure' as a cause) and the building began to shift its operations to accommodating ministry for the new government of Kosovo*. As part of this shift in use, the tower was completely renovated with a new exterior design at the cost of 15 million euros. The formerly bare-concrete facade of the tower was retro-fitted with a new facade of glass and metal. These changes were carried out by architect Bhgjet Pacolli of the Mabetex group. The new changes to the building were unveiled in 2010 and attended by the Prime Minister of Kosovo* Afrim Pacolli and President Jakup Krasniqip. When Konstantinovski came to give a lecture to the Faculty of Architecture in Prishtina in 2015, he remarked in reference to the new appearance of the Rilindja Tower "Oh, yes, this is my building, but the building I designed is not the one I am seeing... the interventions made in this building have erased a part of history". Today, in addition to the government ministries, the Rilindja complex also houses a TV station, a coffee house, a disco club, a sports club and a daily newspaper.
10.) Voždovac Residential Towers, Belgrade, Serbia (91m tall)
Name: Voždovac Residential Towers
Location: Belgrade, Serbia
Architect(s): Stana Aleksić & Branko Aleksić (with Milan Miodragović, Stojan Maksimović & Nikola Sarčić)
Construction years: First two towers built from 1969-1973, third tower in 1981
Height/floors: 91m tall / 24 floors
Coordinates: 44°46'41.1"N, 20°28'24.7"E
Description: During the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was a huge wave of constructing high rise residential complexes across Belgrade. Among these projects was the creation of the ambitious Voždovac Residential Towers along Vojvode Stepe Boulevard in the Voždovac neighborhood. The primary architects behind designing the Voždovac Residential Towers were the husband and wife architect team Branko & Stana Aleksić, who had both worked on several other residential high rise projects across Belgrade before taking on this commission. The challenge set before them was to redevelop an entire section of Vojvode Stepe Boulevard into a modern community with landmark structures that could cultivate a sense of identity for the neighborhood. Work on the first phase of the project began in 1969 (with work carried out by the contractors 'Rad' and '7 July') and was completed in 1973. This project's first phase consisted of the initial construction of two towers on the west side of Vojvode Stepe Boulevard. Assembled of raw pre-fabricated concrete panels, the form of these two towers was of an ascending stair-step base of floating levels and balconies which then rose in its upper two-thirds as a broad tower to a height of 91 meters.
When they were completed in 1973, they were the tallest residential towers in Yugoslavia, but they only held this distinction for a short time before being surpassed by other projects across the country. Work on the 2nd phase of the project consisting of a third tower across the street from the first two began in 1979 and was completed in 1981. Sources reveal that architectural drawings from the Yugoslav-era called for a 3rd phase of this housing block which would include the construction of three more residential towers at the northeast corner of Vojvode Stepe & Vitanovačka, but this phase was never realized. All together, the three towers that were realized contain roughly 1,000 apartments, allowing for the accommodation of many thousands of residents. In addition, the Voždovac Residential Towers achieved their goal in becoming enduring symbols for not only the neighborhood, but also for Belgrade. When entering the city from the east along the E-75 motorway, the three towers stand as readily discernible landmarks to the south looming high above all other surrounding buildings. The towers continue to serve the residents of Voždovac up to the present day, although with the structure's fifty years of age approaching, the complex is in dire need of repairs and rehabilitation.
9.) Cibona Tower, Zagreb, Croatia (92m tall)
Name: Cibona Tower
Location: Zagreb, Croatia
Architect(s): Marijan Hržić, Borislav Šerbetić & Ivan Piteš
Construction years: 1986-1987
Height/floors: 92m tall (105m with radio antenna) / 25 floors
Coordinates: 45°48'11.4"N, 15°57'48.5"E
Description: Positioned just west of the city center of Zagreb, right across the street from the NK Zagreb football stadium, is the dramatic glass high-rise known as the 'Cibona Tower' ('Cibonin toranj'). The conception of this project, which began in the mid-1980s, was part of the city of Zagreb's infrastructure and business development for the hosting of the 1987 Universiade Games (also known as the 'World University Games'). The project was slated to include not only a massive skyscraper, but also a connected basketball arena for use in the Universiade Games. In addition, the basketball arena was planned to become the home court to Zagreb's famous Cibona basketball team after the conclusion of the '87 university games, which is from where the tower subsequently earned its name. Construction on the project began in 1986 and was impressively completed in only one year, just in time for the games to begin in July of 1987. However, it was just the exterior of the tower that was completed in time for the games... the actual interior of the tower was not fully finished until 1990.
The Cibona Tower's form is characterized by its cylindrical pure glass facade which tapers in shape at its summit in a series of inward stair steps. The tower was designed in such a way as to be resistant to earthquakes up to 7.0 in scale (which was a critical point as Zagreb is prone to occasional earthquakes, having experienced a significant one in March of 2020). Meanwhile, the attached sports hall (which has over 3,800 seats) is of an eliptical design with a broad domed copper roof and exterior walls of glass curtains to complement the adjacent tower. The tower and sports hall became instant architectural success and cultural symbol for the city of Zagreb upon its completion. The team who designed the complex were awarded the Borba Award in architecture, which was the highest professional recognition awarded in Yugoslavia. Furthermore, when Zagreb released a series of postage stamps of the city's most important symbols in 1994 to celebrate its 900th anniversary, the Cibona Tower was among the landmarks depicted.
For some years after the tower's completion, it operated as the headquarters for the Zagreb-based international trade company 'Astra'. However, after Astra's business failed in during the 1990s, the tower's office space was taken up by the Zagreb-based agribusiness company 'Agrokor' in 2000, who installed their logo at the top of the tower. Also, in the 2000s, the basketball arena changed its name to the 'Dražen Petrović Basketball Center', in honor of the famous former Cibona player who tragically died in a car accident in Germany in 1993. A museum dedicated to Petrović was also established within Cibona's ground floor in 2006 while a statue depicting him was installed in front of the tower. Meanwhile, the Agrokor company fell into extreme financial distress in 2017, at which point they vacated their offices at the Cibona Tower. While news reports indicate that Agrokor still owns the building as of the writing of this article, recent reports illustrate the tower and its surrounding grounds are in poor condition (see article HERE) and that the tower itself is largely empty of tenants. Furthermore, dire repairs and rehabilitation efforts are needed to prevent the site's further deterioration, however, no groups seem to be able to afford the huge cost it would take to accomplish such projects.
8.) Palilula Center, Belgrade, Serbia (95m tall)
Name: Palilula Center (aka: 'Postal Savings Bank') [originally named: 'Inex Tower']
Location: Belgrade, Serbia
Architect: Uroš Martinović
Construction years: 1967-1978
Height/floors: 95m tall / ~20 floors
Coordinates: 44°48'34.6"N, 20°28'35.1"E
Description: At the heart of the central Palilula neighborhood of Belgrade is a high rise complex which today is simply referred to as the 'Palilula Center'. Completed in 1978 after more than a decade's worth of construction efforts, this skyscraper was originally built as the headquarters for the Yugoslav state-owned international trade company 'Inex' (also spelled 'Ineks'), which is short for "InterExport". When completed, this sprawling business complex was dominated by a 20 story 90m tall tower designed by famous Belgrade architect Uroš Martinović in what appears to be the International Style of modernist architecture. It was ultimately one of the last project's that Martinović worked on during his 30 year career. Its facade was unique for the Belgrade skyline, being composed of white metal panels complemented by a lattice of metal tubes running across the edges and broad sides of the building. Standing right in the historic center of Belgrade, the Inex Tower stood out as a conspicuous symbol of modernist architecture and became the central landmark of the Palilula neighborhood. However, after the end of the Yugoslav-era, the Inex company began to fall into decline and its tower complex was subsequently privatized during the 2000s. The tower was subsequently purchased by the City Administration of Belgrade in 2009 to use for local government offices and affairs. The ground floors of the complex, now often called the 'Palilula Center', have been leased out to the Postal Savings Bank (Banka Poštanske Štedionica) company, whose signage adorns the lower sections of the complex.
7.) Zagrepčanka, Zagreb, Croatia (95m tall)
Name: 'Zagrepčanka' or 'The Zagreb Lady'
Location: Zagreb, Croatia
Architect(s): Slavko Jelinek & Berislav Vinković
Construction years: 1971-1976
Height/floors: 95m tall (110m with radio antenna) / 27 floors
Coordinates: 45°47'54.5"N, 15°57'44.8"E
Description: Just a few hundred meters southwest of the bustling city center of Zagreb stands the immense Zagrepčanka tower. This ambitious state project to construct a landmark business tower at the head of the grand Proletariat Brigade Street (today called "Vukovar City Street") began in the late 1960s. The famous skyscraper builder Slavko Jelinek (along with architect Berislav Vinković) were awarded the commission to design this new tower, basing their initial design concepts around the influential modernist icon Dreischeibenhaus in Düsseldorf, Germany. Construction on the skyscraper began in 1971, with work moving along swiftly and being completed just five years later in 1976. Such speed for a project of this magnitude isn't surprising, as efficiently constructed and well-managed projects was something Jelinek was known for, who often strove to adhere to his motto "one floor in one day". Upon its unveiling, Zagrepčanka stood at an impressive 95m tall with 27 floors, making it the tallest building in Zagreb, as well as the tallest office tower in Croatia. It retained the titled of tallest in Zagreb until the EuroTower was completed in 2006.
The form of the Zagrepčanka tower is composed of three long thin rectangular sections sandwiched together, with the middle section being tallest while each of the two outer sections have one end curving slightly outwards. The glass windows of the facade's broad sides are broken up by a series of thin horizontal lines of white Carrara marble panels. Meanwhile, the thin edges of the tower are covered completely in marble panels. The Zagrepčanka was also adorned with an impressively modernist interior and lobby, but it was also decorated with special art installations made famous Croatian artists, such as a mosaic by Edo Murtić and glass sculpture by Raoul Goldoni. Interestingly, as the plans for each floor of this business tower were designed individually to suit the needs of each individual client and corporate occupant, the standard shared facilities such as grand halls and exhibition spaces often found in other such large public buildings are largely absent in the instance of the Zagrepčanka.
While the Zagrepčanka became an instant success and cultural landmark for the city of Zagreb as soon as it opened, problems arose with the construction of the tower just as quickly. The facade's Cararra marble panels performed poorly in Zagreb's climate, leading to many cracking and falling to the ground within the building's first ten years. By the beginning of the 2000s, hundreds of panels had broken and/or fallen to the ground, not only leaving the building unsightly, but also posing grave danger to all those below. During the subsequent years through the 2010s, a series of costly repair projects were initiated which repaired all of the broken and fallen marble panels. Now fully restored, Zagrepčanka is again an impressive sight on the Zagreb skyline and an enduring cultural symbol for the city. Over recent years, the tower has become a site of mass community engagement with the annual hosting of the "Zagrepčanka 512" event since 2012, during which participants race up all 512 stairs of the tower. Hundreds of people participate each year.
6.) The Turnić Towers, Rijeka, Croatia (96m tall)
Name: The Turnić Towers (aka: "Franjo Čandek 23A-B")
Location: Rijeka, Croatia
Architect(s): D. Sironić (of the Vladimir Gortan firm)
Year completed: 1975
Height/floors: 96m tall / 28-30 floors
Coordinates: 45°20'21.5"N, 14°24'52.3"E
Description: Poised on the steep hillsides of Rijeka, Croatia overlooking the Adriatic Sea are a dramatic set of twin residential high rise buildings often known as the Turnić Towers. The conception of this pair of towers stems from the huge building boom of the 1950s, 60s and 70s in Rijeka, an era during which the city nearly doubled its population. This huge new influx of residents into this narrow coastal city required a series of ambitious building projects which could work to ease the housing strain from all of these new residents. Starting in the late 1950s, state-owned investors Primorje and Vladimir Gortan quickly began constructing soaring concrete skyscrapers all across Rijeka as a means of efficiently tackling this demand for new apartments, with many impressive examples being built such as those at Rastočine, Podmurvice and Sušak. In the late 1960s, the Vladimir Gortan firm began plans to construct a new set of towers in the Riejka neighborhood of Turnić, with the design work for the complex handed over to the in-house Gortan architect who is referred to in sources as D. Sironić (unfortunately I was not able to discern his first name in my research). Construction on these two residential towers began around 1970 and they were subsequently unveiled to the public after 5 years of construction in 1975.
Built to a height of 96m tall with over 28 floors, the Turnić Towers were the tallest buildings in Croatia at the time of their unveiling and the highest residential towers in all of Yugoslavia (the second distinction being one that was surpassed the very next year in 1976 with the opening of the Lamela Residential Tower in Zenica, BiH). The tower's themselves are assembled from prefabricated sections a bare unadorned concrete, giving the facade of these buildings a stark and what some might call a 'brutalist' architectural aesthetic. All together, the two high rise buildings contain over 330 apartments (six to a floor) and house nearly 1,000 residents. Meanwhile, as part of the infrastructure development of this complex, a department store was constructed on the ground level between the two towers named "Andrea" that still operates to this day. The Turnić Towers continue to be enduring symbols for Rijeka, however, they are often jokingly referred to as the "Tower's of Death" (neboder smrti) as a result of concrete panels falling off the structure in the past.
5.) UNITIC Towers, Sarajevo, BiH (97m tall)
Name: The 'UNITIC' Towers [originally the 'UNIS' Towers] (aka: 'Momo & Uzeir')
Location: Sarajevo, BiH
Architect: Ivan Štraus
Construction years: 1985-1986
Height/floors: 97m tall / 25 floors
Coordinates: 43°51'24.8"N, 18°24'20.1"E
Description: Sitting at the heart of the Marjin Dvor neighborhood of Sarajevo are the twin towers which are today know as the 'UNITIC' Towers, which stands for the 'United Investment and Trading Company', a joint venture between the BiH state-owned UNIS Holdings and the Kuwait City-based firm 'Kuwait Investment Authorities'. However, when these towers were initially conceived and planned in the early 1980s, they were simply intended to be the headquarters solely for the Sarajevo-based UNIS industrial conglomerate (among the largest companies in BiH). The architect that was awarded the commission to design these two towers was notable architect Ivan Štraus, who had become among Sarajevo's most admired designers after creating multiple buildings for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, the most popular and iconic being the Holiday Inn Hotel. Construction on the towers began just after the Olympics in 1985, with the work being eventually completed the following year in 1986.
The two identical skyscrapers of the original UNIS Towers were designed with a full glass facade, which tapered off at the bottom into an indented concrete base with a series of staggered square bump-outs, similar in style to Štraus' design on the Holiday Inn Hotel. At the top of the towers were situated a cantilevered concrete upper level (possibly intended to be an observation decks or a restaurant). From the sources I have found, most sources seem to indicate that the two towers both have about 25 floors and stand about 97m tall. However, their reported height varies greatly from source to source, with some putting the building as low as 90m in height, while others say it is inexcess of 110m, so, if anyone reading has more definitive data in regards the height of these buildings, please contact me. While the official name of the two towers upon their unveiling was the "UNIS Towers", they were often affectionately referred to as 'Momo & Uzeir', which was a popular radio and television comedy duo show "Zig Zag" that aired in Yugoslavia, composed of Bosniak comedian Rejhan Demirdžić and Serb comedian Rudi Alvađ.
However, despite the the UNIS Towers status as cultural symbols of Sarajevo's skyline, they only stood for seven years before the became artillery targets of VRS forces during the Siege of Sarajevo. Struck multiple times throughout the war, they burned thoroughly and were completely devastated by the end of the Bosnian War. In a paper by academic author Mirjana Ristić, she recounts that "their destruction resulted in a joke that, as the towers were identical and nobody could distinguish which was Momo and which Uzeir, the [VRS] attacked both. Their destruction transformed their meaning as architectural icons of Sarajevo’s ethnic pluralism into those of ethnic antagonism." Reconstruction on the UNIS Towers began in 1999, with UNIS entering into an investment agreement with 'Kuwait Investment Authorities' towards the reconstruction of the two skyscrapers. As a result, when the towers' rehabilitation was completed the following year in 1999, they were given the new name of this new joint venture 'UNITIC' as a symbol of that cooperation. But, while the name changed, the buildings were restored nearly exactly as Ivan Štraus had originally designed them. The UNITIC Towers continue to operate to the present day and remain as integral cultural components of Sarajevo.
4.) The Ušće Tower, New Belgrade, Serbia (98m tall)
Name: The Ušće Tower [original name: 'Palace of Socio-Political Organizations' or 'Central Committee Building']
Location: New Belgrade, Serbia
Architect: Mihailo Janković (with Dušan Milenković and Mirjana Marijanović)
Construction years: 1962-1964, renovated in 2005
Height/floors: Originally 98m tall & 23 floors / 110m & 25 floors after 2005 renovation
Coordinates: 44°48'58.2"N, 20°26'14.0"E
Description: Located in New Belgrade just over Branko's Bridge not far from the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers is a soaring skyscraper business center that is today called the "Ušće Tower", with the word 'Ušće' itself meaning 'confluence' in English. However, when this tower was unveiled in 1962, its original function was as the "Palace of Socio-Political Organizations", which operated as the headquarters for several of the nation's governmental bodies, such as the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (SKJ), the Socialist Alliance of Working People of Yugoslavia (SSRNJ), the Student Alliance of Yugoslavia (SSJ), the Association of War Veterans of the People's Liberation War (SUBNOR), and a number of others. However, the colloquial name given to the tower was the 'Centralni Komitet' (Central Committe) Building (but often abbreviated as 'CK' or 'CeKa'. Planning on the construction of this tower began as early as 1947, just as construction of New Belgrade got underway, but serious efforts towards its construction did not begin until 1960, when the commission to design and construct this important new government building was awarded to famous Belgrade architect Mihailo Janković (who had previous constructed such Belgrade icons such as the Partizan Stadium, the Federal Executive Council (SIV) building, and the May 25th Museum). The site chosen for the two was right at the west side of Branko's Bridge, the primary connection between Belgrade and New Belgrade. Construction on the tower began in 1962 and it was completed two years later in 1964.
When completed, the CK Building was an instant showpiece for the growing metropolis that was New Belgrade, standing conspicuously as a keen modern landmark for all who looked at it from across the Sava River in the Old Town of Belgrade. The tower was crafted in the International Style of architecture, with Janković very much influenced by the UN Building in New York City. This influence can be further seen in the fact that the CK Building was originally meant to have a large 800 seat plenary hall built right next to it (just as one sees at the UN), which can be seen in original concept art for the project, however, this idea was never realized. However, some sources note that this 'internationalist' approach to designing a major government building in Yugoslavia was controversial to some, with the design being criticized it for being of an 'anonymous' character and devoid of any observable Yugoslav or communist symbolism. Yet, despite such critiques, the building was met with much fanfare and became a significant cultural icon of New Belgrade. The original composition of the CK Building was defined by the glass and aluminum facade of its domino-like form which was punctuated at its summit with a extremely cantilevered floating canopy at the 24th floor. The tower stood 98m tall upon its unveiling, which made it the tallest building in Yugoslavia until the Beograđanka tower was constructed 10 years later. During the Yugoslav-era, the tower remained relatively unchanged, other than a 40m tall television-radio antenna being installed at its top during the 1980s.
Over the decades, the CK Building twice found itself targeted. The first time was in 1979, when a radical Serb nationalist hijacked an American Airlines jet in Chicago with the intention of flying it to Belgrade and then crashing into the CK Building in order to kill Tito. However, this plot was foiled midway through its execution as the planned as passing through Ireland. Then, twenty years later in 1999, the CK Building was struck by several Tomahawk missiles fired by NATO forces during the Kosovo War. Several levels of the building burned and were completely destroyed as a result of these bombings. Reconstruction work on the tower began in 2002 and was completed in 2005. In addition to the building being renovated, two additional upper floors were added. The height of the newly refurbished tower reached a height of 110m and 141m when counting the antenna. Meanwhile, with the dismantling of Yugoslavia and the fracturing of the League of Communists party, the tower became privatized and was transformed into a business center. It was at this point that the building became known as the 'Ušće Tower'. Then, in 2009, a large shopping complex named the 'Ušće Center' was built adjacent to the tower. In 2018, work began on a second tower next to the original, dubbed the 'Ušće Tower 2'. Work on this "twin" tower was completed in early 2020.
3.) Beograđanka, Belgrade, Serbia (101m tall)
Name: 'Beograđanka' or 'The Belgrade Lady' (aka: 'Belgrade Palace')
Location: Belgrade, Serbia
Architect: Branko Pešić
Construction years: 1969-1974
Height/floors: 101m tall (127m with radio antenna) / 24 floors
Coordinates: 44°48'25.2"N, 20°27'50.5"E
Description: Dominating the Savski Venac neighborhood of Belgrade is the business high rise named 'Beograđanka', which is a name which roughly translates into 'The Belgrade Lady'. The development history of this particular site goes back to before WWII. Plans existed as early as 1941 to build a high rise here at this triangular plot of land in Belgrade's Old Town between Kralja Milana and Masarikova streets, however, it was not until the late 1960s that work on the construction of a skyscraper actually began in earnest. This project to construct a skyscraper here in Savski Venac was largely backed and pushed forward by then-Belgrade mayor Branko Pešić, while the task of designing the tower was granted to a local architect from Zemun who also happened to be named Branko Pešić (no relation), who was part of Belgrade's Faculty of Civil Engineering. The customary public design competition usually held for such major state projects was not conducted in this instance, instead, Pešić's choice as architect was chosen by a closed-door commission of Yugoslav government officials. Work on the tower began in 1969 and was completed five years later, with its unveiling date being April 22nd, 1974.
While the official name of this new building was the "Belgrade Palace" (Palata Beograd), it was also affectionately given the nickname 'Beograđanka', as there was a Yugoslav trend in the 1970s referring to landmark high rise towers as a symbolic female incarnation of the city, with other such examples being the 'Zagrepčanka' in Zagreb and the 'Mostarka' in Mostar. The Beograđanka is most prominately characterized by the dark aluminum and glass facade of its trapezoidal shape which soared just over 100m into the sky (the first skyscraper ever in Yugoslavia to achieve this distinction). The building's dark color and tall modernist appearance stood out starkly at the time against Savski Venac more historic architecture, a complaint that residents and critics levied against the building at its opening (and some still even up until the present day). At this was the first skyscraper ever to be built in the Old Town of Belgrade, many were very sensitive to the construction of such a bold and imposing structure in such a traditional and historic neighborhood. Yet, despite such indictments, the Beograđanka evolved into a iconic structure and enduring landmark in Belgrade's Old Town that is much loved and cherished to this day. Within the lobby of the tower was installed numerous works of art and sculpture by notable Belgrade artists. In addition, a decorative bronze dedication plaque was affixed on the wall of the lobby which not only contains a listing of building's creators and investors, but also a stanza from the 1965 poem "Lament Over Belgrade" by Serbian writer and poet Miloš Crnjanski.
Over the years, Beograđanka has had many notable tenants occupy the building's space, among the most popular being an observation deck and restaurant with unparalleled views of the city operated at the top of the tower, but it sadly ceased operation during the 1990s for security concerns. The building has also been home to night clubs, department stores, newspaper offices, TV stations and other such businesses. However, being that it was owned by the City of Belgrade, it was also used for governmental purposes. The City of Belgrade continued to own the tower well past the Yugoslav era and retained ownership even as so many other former state-owned properties were being privatized. However, in August of 2020, the tower was sold for 16.5 million euros to an arm of the Marera Properties real estate development company. The sale included a stipulation that the buyer would put over 8 million euros in restoring the Beograđanka over the next few years, which has not had any significant renovations since its opening in 1974. As of early 2021, renovations of the Beograđanka have started in the building's lobby.
2.) The Lamela Building, Zenica, BiH (101m tall)
Name: Lamela Building (aka: 'Zenički Empajer')
Location: Zenica, BiH
Architect: Slobodan Jovandić
Construction years: 1971-1976
Height/floors: 101m tall / 27 floors
Coordinates: 44°12'14.6"N, 17°54'26.7"E
Description: Sitting right on the banks of the Bosnia River at the center of the industrial city of Zenica, BiH is the architectural giant known as the "Lamela" Building. Standing as one of the most significant symbols of Zenica, this immense residential tower has its origins back during Yugoslavia's urban expansion programs of the 1960s and 70s. As was the case with numerous other cities in the country, the population of Zenica grew by more than four times from the end of WWII up to 1970. As such, numerous residential construction projects sprung up around the city during this era, with the Lamela Building being by far the most ambitious. The commission to design and construct the Lamela project was awarded to architect Slobodan Jovandić of the Sarajevo firm "Plan"., while the site chosen for the tower was a central location at the banks of the Bosnia River along a road then-called "Brotherhood & Unity Boulevard" (today renamed as 'Ban Kulin Boulevard') and overlooking the historic Kamberovića Bridge.
Preliminary work began at the building site began in 1971, however, it moved along slowly from the outset because accommodations needed to be made for the 70 families whose homes were demolished to make way for the new tower. Progress on the building was slowed even further when technical difficulties were encountered by engineers and technicians trying to install plumbing and water to the highest levels of the tower. It is also interesting to note that the overall height of the tower was reduced by three floors midway through the project as the result of issues with air pollution at the structure's originally intended altitude — Zenica has a long history of problems with air quality issues from local heavy industry. Construction on Lamela, which was carried out by the local Zenica firm 'Izgradnja', finally concluded after five years of work in 1976.
When the Lamela Building was completed with a height of 101m tall, it stood, along with the similarly sized Beograđanka in Belgrade, as the tallest buildings in Yugoslavia. It was not until the Genex Tower in Belgrade was completed three years later that this height was surpassed. The city of Zenica was so proud of their new soaring skyscraper that it was given the nickname "Zenički Empajer" or "Zenica's Empire", a reference to the Empire State Building in New York City. Lamela's form is characterized by its gradually ascending composition that climbs 27 floors over six stair-step like connected towers. The facade of the building is made of bare concrete and was assembled in prefabricated sections, with many sources describing the tower as very 'brutalist' in its architectural stylings. Yet, what could have been an all grey concrete tower was given a touch of vibrancy by its architect Jovandić with yellow painted panels along the columns of windows. However, in recent years, these yellow panels have faded considerably and today appear more brownish than their original bright yellow. In fact, numerous sources indicate that the slowly decaying and tarnished facade of the Lamela Building (along with other issues) has resulted in many in Zenica becoming more frustrated, disappointed and even ashamed of the tower rather the pride that many once had towards it during the Yugoslav-era. Though, there are also others who still hang onto it as a pivotal symbol of Zenica and a reminder of the vibrancy of Zenica during that "Golden Era" of the 1970s.
1.) Geneks Towers, New Belgrade, Serbia (115m tall)
Name: The Genex Tower (aka: 'The Western City Gate')
Location: New Belgrade, Serbia
Architect: Mihajlo Mitrović
Construction years: 1971-1980
Height/floors: 115m tall (135m tall with the antenna) / 35 floors
Coordinates: 44°49'12.9"N, 20°24'18.0"E
Description: Soaring high over the city of New Belgrade from its western edge at Block 33 is the impressive landmark double skyscraper known as the Genex Towers, but more familiarly and appropriately called the "Western City Gate". The genesis of this project began in the mid-1960s when Belgrade architect Mihailo Mitrović was commissioned to create a modest commercial tower local for the state-owned import-export company "Generaleksport" (often abbreviated 'Geneks' or 'Genex'), which was the largest and most powerful single company within Yugoslavia (often comprising up to 10% of the nation's economy). At that time, Mitrović was a prominent architect in Belgrade, having been the former president of the Academy of Architects of Serbia, and being that sources relate that "Geneks wanted to show its power by building one of the symbols of the capital", they no doubt had faith that Mitrović would be able to provide them with such a landmark building. Mitrović submitted to Geneks the tower's first concept drawings in 1965, which depicted a double skyscraper connected with a sky bridge and capped with a circular observation deck/restaurant on top. Geneks subsequently approved this design for further development. The location decided upon for construction this project was right along People's Heroes Street just beside the "Brotherhood & Unity" Motorway (today E-70) that leads past Belgrade's airport towards the city center. No doubt the symbolic 'gateway' nature of this location between the airport and the city played heavily into Mitrović's concept design, as his 'double tower' concept was conceived as a 'Western City Gate' almost from the start. The tower's on-the-ground construction work, undertaken by the contractor 'Rad', began as early as 1971 and this process took nearly a decade to complete, with there being controversy and criticism all along the way for Mitrović, as the bold and ambitious concept had many detractors and harsh critics. It was finally completed in 1980.
The most striking and groundbreaking feature of the Western City Gate is the fact that it is two distinct skyscrapers (30 floors and 26 floors respectively) connected with a walkway between them at their summit. Even further, the tower then reaches even higher with circular restaurant vertical extension at its top, giving the whole united structure a total height of 115m tall (135m with the antenna), making it the tallest building in the whole of Yugoslavia upon its completion. The shorter south tower was set up as a business high rise while the taller northern tower was organized as a residential high rise with about 84 apartments. A dramatic two-story bridge connects the two towers at the 26th floor, making it among the first skyscrapers in the world to be connected in such a way. Architectural critics in the West often compare the Geneks Tower to architect Ernö Goldfinger's 1972 Trellick Tower in London (which also employs sky bridges), however, as shown above, Mitrović's tower is quite distinct from this and was conceived of seven years before the Trellick Tower was completed.
Meanwhile, the facade of the Geneks Tower's facade can easily be characterized by its pure concrete composition, which was, as many other Yugoslav high rises were, assembled with prefabricated concrete sections. The building's bare unadorned grey walls, its externalized cylindrical elevator/stair shafts, its circular elements, its unhidden structural components, its exaltation of function, and its bold monumental ambiance are all features which have led many to attribute the architectural style of 'Brutalism' to the Genex Tower. The charismatic British-born architecture writer Darmon Richter wrote an article on the tower where he described it as "one of the truest, most unapologetically Brutalist buildings I have ever encountered". While many architects and art historians in the former Yugoslav region lament that the term 'Brutalism' being heavily over-used and misused by global enthusiasts when examining the region's mid-century architecture (with some arguing it is more postmodernist than Brutalist), the case of the Genex Tower even has many academics concluding that it does indeed contain "obvious indicators of the presence and the use of Brutalist principles". Yet, despite its Brutalist stylings, the tower was not left entirely as a monolith of drab and colorless concrete — famous Serbian folk artist Lazar Vujaklija painted a series of whimsical murals around the base of the towers in 1979, which still exist to this day. Sources relate that it was the very first public mural in Belgrade. Images of these murals can be seen at THIS article about the hidden art of Belgrade by culture writer Srđan Garčević.
Upon its unveiling, the Western City Gate tower became one of the most iconic and distinctively in-your-face landmarks in all of Belgrade. Some adored the building and saw it as a beacon of Yugoslav architecture and technical innovation (it was the first computer-driven 'smart' building in the country), while others, even to this day, have found the building's grey and confrontational appearance to be jarring and unattractive (especially as it has slowly deteriorated in the post Yugoslav-era). Even many among the international press have written articles calling it among the weirdest and ugliest buildings in the world. Yet, for every detractor of the Geneks Tower, you'll find just as many who are in love with its many unique and unorthodox features. And of all the features of the tower that stand out the most, it is the circular restaurant at the top of the skyscraper's 35th floor that often draws the most attention. However, even during the hey-day of the Geneks Tower, the restaurant was never open to the public and was never fitted to be 'rotating' as many believe (though the intention for it to rotate was certainly explored but never put into place). Bedecked with expensive Danish furniture and luxury fittings, the restaurant was only intended to be used by executives of the Geneks company. However, after the collapse and bankruptcy of the Geneks company during the late 1990s, the restaurant was shuttered entirely. Some photos from 2013 of the interior of the restaurant can be seen at THIS Facebook post.
After the bankruptcy and legal issues plaguing the Geneks company, control of the Geneks Tower was taken over by the government. During this time, the business tower slowly emptied of tenants to the point where it was nearly vacant, a state in which it has remained until the present day. The primary utility of the business tower now is hanging massive advertisements. Even further, around 2005, the luxury-goods brand 'Zepter' was also given permission to install a massive neon sign on top of the tower. Though, despite all of these changes, the residential tower of the Geneks complex continued to be inhabited, though, the lack of facility maintenance and deteriorating state of the grounds around the tower greatly diminished the tower's living conditions. Through the 2010s, numerous attempts have been made by Serbia's government to privatize the Geneks Tower by putting it up for sale at auction, however, such attempts have all failed to draw in a buyer. Yet, efforts are still underway to sell the property. In recent years, many former critics have come around to re-evaluate the tower as an enduring cultural icon of Belgrade, noting that it has even become a tourist attraction for many visiting the city and is has been widely hailed in many circles as a piece of world architectural history. In a 2018 exhibit on the architecture of Yugoslavia at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Geneks Tower was a central highlight of the show and was featured on the cover of the book for the exhibition. In 2019, the Association of Serbian Architects put forward an initiative and official paperwork to have the building be recognized by Serbia's government as a cultural monument with full protections. As a result, in November of 2021, the Geneks towers was officially designated as a cultural monument by the Serbian Ministry of Culture.
*NOTE: All mentions of the designation "Kosovo" on this page are made without prejudice to the position on status, and is in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and the International Court of Justice's Opinion of the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.