20 Communist-Era Brutalist Buildings in Belgrade

Eastern Europe, and particularly Belgrade, is known for its brutalist architecture. This style leans more towards practicality rather than looks, often using concrete. Most of these buildings came up after World War II and were part of a special architectural style called “brutalism.”

In every panoramic view of Belgrade, you can spot the “brutal” Western Gate of Belgrade – the “Genex” tower, and its counterpart, the Eastern Gate or “Rudo.”

Once widely criticized, this brutalist style, a big part of Yugoslav socialist-realist architecture, has produced many symbols of Belgrade that have since become dear to the hearts of the city’s residents. So, any criticism today doesn’t hit as hard as it used to. This part of Belgrade was actually keeping up with the global trends of the time.

Today, in the 21st century, those concrete complexes and buildings are now protected cultural assets of the city. Block 23 has even made it into the permanent exhibits of several world museums. This style, typical of the 60s and 70s, really is a signature of the capital and marks an era.

Today, it’s hard to imagine building a skyscraper without any facade, but we’re in a time where there’s a greater variety of materials, and being eco-friendly in construction is really important. When these concrete high-rises were built, they were the latest in modern architecture, symbolizing progress with their towering heights and massive size.

If you’re into brutalist architecture, street photography, or urban exploration, you’ll be thrilled to discover Belgrade’s communist-era gems.

This guide highlights what I consider the most fascinating examples of communist architecture in Belgrade. These aren’t just structures to photograph; they’re places you can engage with. Some are still serving their original purpose, while others have been revamped or repurposed, and a few stand abandoned.

These are my favorite Belgrade buildings constructed in the brutalist style.

The “Toblerone” Building

The Karaburma residential tower in Belgrade, known for its unique appearance as the “Toblerone building,” was built in 1963. It was also nicknamed “the hedgehog” and “Marko Kraljevic’s mace” due to its protrusions resembling spikes.

Designed by Rista Šekerinski, it was initially considered controversial, both for its shape and because it was the only tall building in the area, perceived as “spoiling the look of the neighborhood.”

Although it is called the Toblerone, when viewed from a bird’s-eye perspective, the building is shaped like a Star of David.

The Military Geographical Institute

The first building associated with the aesthetic of brutalism is the Military Geographical Institute (1950-1954) in Belgrade, designed by architect Milorad Macura.

Experts consider this building a “significant early example of brutalism in Serbian architecture,” highlighting its construction from reinforced concrete skeletal structures, which are exposed as the façade material, a fundamental characteristic of the style.

However, some argue that this building represents the last echo of the modernist style, as its finishing includes artificial stone, which contradicts the basic principles of brutalism.

Pioneer Hall (Aleksandar Nikolic)

The Aleksandar Nikolic Hall is the second largest sports arena in Belgrade, after the Belgrade Arena. It was opened in 1973 under the name Pioneer Hall. The hall is located within the Pioneer sports complex, which is part of the SRC Tašmajdan. It was renamed in 2016 in honor of the legendary basketball player and coach, Professor Aleksandar Nikolić.

The immediate reason for its construction was the European Boxing Championship, which was scheduled to be held in Belgrade in June 1973. Seven design and construction organizations participated in the invited competition, and the winning design was from Energoprojekt, by authors Ljiljana and Dragoljub Bakić, who proposed a modular prefabricated building.

The Eastern Gate of Belgrade (Rudo)

These skyscrapers are located near the highway, and due to their size, they have become a symbolic gateway for those entering Belgrade from the east.

Many consider them the most significant legacy of communist architecture in the former Yugoslavia, and one thing is certain – they belong to the brutalist family.

The film “The Love Life of Budimir Trajković,” a teenage romance movie shot in the late 1970s, was actually filmed in the Eastern Gate of Belgrade (Rudo) building.

The movie is well-known for a particular elevator scene. The protagonist, Budimir, falls in love with a girl who lives on the 20th floor and rehearses a speech to deliver during the elevator ride up to her floor.

It’s hard to describe in words, but this scene is memorable and leaves a lasting impression when you watch the film. Btw, in the movie, both Budimir’s father and grandfather are architects who favor the brutalist style.

Residential Buildings in Vozdovac

While most brutalist, Eastern European buildings are located in New Belgrade, these residential structures in Voždovac are situated in the older part of the city, on a hill.

This location makes them stand out distinctly from their surroundings, lending them a more grandiose appearance compared to the buildings across the river.

Residential Buildings in Banjica

Near these beautiful beauties in brutalist style in Voždovac, there is a block of buildings from the communist era in the Banjica neighborhood. Urban legend says, in Banjica, the playground plays on you.

Jokes aside, these slides were made almost 50 years ago and as you can see, they are indestructible. Communists might not have made them look pretty, but they certainly built them to last.

The VMA (Military Medical Academy)

Located on Banjički Vis, the VMA (Military Medical Academy) building is one of the architectural symbols of Serbia. It was built according to the conceptual project of Colonel Josip Osojnik, a graduated architect, and Slobodan Nikolić, also a graduated architect.

They received the “December 22” award for their work, following a competition held in 1973. The building is exceptionally dynamic in shape but very minimalist in form, innovative for Belgrade’s architecture of the 1970s.

The Genex Tower – The Western Gate of Belgrade

The Genex Tower – two massive concrete towers connected by an aerial bridge with a long-closed revolving restaurant on top, resembling a spaceship.

It’s located on the route from Belgrade’s airport to the city center and is impossible to miss.

This 35-story residential building is also known as the Western Gate of Belgrade.

Tourists with a guide in front of the building.

The Genex Tower is one of the most significant examples of brutalist architecture and is among the most striking buildings in Belgrade’s skyline, also used for film set designs.

The “Television Set” Buildings in Block 28

The buildings known as “Television Sets,” located near the Sava Center, were nicknamed by Josip Broz Tito himself during his visit to New Belgrade on May 14, 1977.

They earned this name due to the distinctive appearance of their apartment windows, which resemble old television sets.

These buildings have become symbols of the socialist era and the mass construction of residential properties.

Kosmaj Memorial Complex

The Monument to the Kosmaj Partisan Detachment or the Monument to the Fallen Fighters was built in 1971. It is dedicated to the Kosmaj Partisan Detachment, which operated in this area during the National Liberation War from 1941 to 1944.

The monument is located on Mount Kosmaj, more precisely at its peak, Mali vis. It represents a sculptural-architectural composition consisting of five concrete arms, each 30 meters long. These arms symbolize the spirit of freedom and the spark of uprising.

Hotel “Yugoslavia”

This building is part of a massive construction project from the socialist era, built in 1969. The construction of the hotel began with a significant effort, as it is located on a riverbank, and was supported by work actions.

The Hotel “Yugoslavia” was the largest and most modern hotel of the former SFR Yugoslavia, featuring seven floors and auxiliary buildings, 1,500 rooms, 1,100 beds in 200 single rooms, 400 double rooms, and 23 apartments. The hotel hosted distinguished guests like British Queen Elizabeth, Neil Armstrong, and Richard Nixon.

It contains a 14-ton chandelier located in the hotel lobby, which is today among the largest in the world.

The Building of the Municipality of New Belgrade

The first clear indications of brutalist aesthetics are evident in the building of the Municipality of New Belgrade.

It was designed by architects Stojan Maksimović and Branislav Jovin between 1962 and 1964. It is believed that their design was inspired by Brazilian and Japanese architecture, which were particularly influential among architects in Serbia during the 1960s.

According to architect Jovin, the use of rough concrete in the façade design of the Municipality was driven by a desire for maximum functionality of the building, rather than a preference for brutalism.

SIV 3, the Police Building

Across from the Novi Beograd municipality building stands the so-called SIV 3, the Police building, which, besides a massive concrete facade, features dominant, distinctive yellow window glass that literally shines during sunrise and sunset.

The Urban Planning Institute of Belgrade

This building is considered the most significant achievement of architect Branislav Jovin and one of the most prominent examples of brutalism in Serbia. During its design, the emphasis was on functionality and the use of materials in their natural form.

Jovin later claimed that he only became aware of brutalism in the year 2000, suggesting that he instinctively became part of this movement, probably influenced by his colleagues who were adept at using “raw concrete.”

The House of Flowers

The House of Flowers is part of the Museum of Yugoslav History and remains one of the favorite tourist attractions in Belgrade today.

The building was designed by architect Stjepan Kralj and constructed in 1975, serving as a winter garden for the then-President of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito. It was already referred to as “The Flower House” at the time.

It covers an area of 902 square meters. Besides the central part, which included a fountain, there were rooms for work and rest – a workroom, bedroom, salon, guest room, and library.

The Palace of Serbia

Located in New Belgrade, between Mihailo Pupin Boulevard and Nikola Tesla Boulevard, the construction of this building, one of the first in this part of the city, began around 1947/1948.

It was constructed on reclaimed and sandy land by youth work brigades from all over the former Yugoslavia. Initially, it served as the headquarters of the government of socialist Yugoslavia, which is why it is often still referred to as the SIV Building (Federal Executive Council Building).

The Museum of Contemporary Art

The building of the Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the most significant achievements of post-war Yugoslav architecture and the most important example of museum buildings in the former Yugoslavia. It was designed by Ivan Antić and Ivanka Raspopović in 1965.

It is also among the most interesting examples of museum architecture in the world. Declared a cultural asset in 1987, it is under the protection of the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of the City of Belgrade.

Located in New Belgrade, on the left bank of the Sava River, opposite the Belgrade Fortress, it is one of the most significant buildings of brutalist architecture in Belgrade.

The Sports and Recreation Center “25th of May”

In terms of sports facilities, a significant example of brutalist architecture and a must-visit place in Belgrade during summer is the sports and recreation center “25th of May” in Belgrade.

Designed by Ivan Antić between 1971 and 1973, his intention was for the complex’s composition to evoke the angular forms of the Kalemegdan Fortress or sailboats on the water.

New Belgrade Blocks 22 and 23

The construction of Blocks 22 and 23 began in the late 1960s, designed by architects Božidar Janković, Branislav Karadžić, and Aleksandar Stepanović.

Both blocks are associated with brutalist ideas due to the use of rough concrete in forming façade surfaces and the clear emphasis on the structure of the buildings.

Similar conceptual foundations were used in building a series of residential buildings, complexes, and blocks in Belgrade, Novi Sad, and other cities in Serbia, where rough concrete and, in some cases, bricks were used.

Lamelas – The Longest Building in Belgrade

The longest building in Belgrade is located in Block 21, in the municipality of New Belgrade. It stretches nearly a thousand meters in length. The construction, along with the design process, lasted from 1960 to 1966.