Bara Venecija

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Bara Venecija (Serbian Cyrillic: Бара Венеција) is an urban neighborhood of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. It is located in Belgrade's municipality of Savski Venac, along the right bank of the Sava river.


Bara Venecija is located on the right bank of the Sava river, roughly between the Old Sava bridge and Branko's Bridge some 700–800 meters (0.4–0.5 mi) west of Terazije, downtown Belgrade. It is basically a small sub-neighborhood of the Savamala, which used to cover much larger area.


The area was originally a bog called Ciganska bara (Serbian Cyrillic: Циганска бара, "Gypsy pond"). The bog was charted for the first time in an Austrian map from 1789. It was a marsh which covered a wide area from modern Karađorđeva street to the mouth of the Topčiderska reka into the Sava, across the northern tip of Ada Ciganlija. Marshy area covered modern location of the Belgrade Main railway station and parts of the Sarajevska and Hajduk-Veljkov venac streets. Ciganska bara drained two other bogs. One was located on Slavija, which drained through the creek of Vračarski potok which flew down the area of the modern Nemanjina street. Other pond whose water drained into the Ciganska bara was Zeleni Venac. Romanies who lived in the area, used the mud from the bog to make roof tiles. They lived in small huts or caravans (called "čerge"), between the high grass and rush, with their horses and water buffaloes grazing freely in the area. As most of the huts were actually stilt houses, built on piles due to the marshy land, the area was gradually named Bara Venecija ("Venice pond"). By 1884 the bog was drained and buried under the rubble from all parts of the city and especially from Prokop, because of the construction of the Belgrade Main railway station. Filling of the bog was completely finished in 1898.Industrialist Mihailo V. Bajloni built a residential complex along the Sarajevska Street during Interbellum. It was constructed for the workers of the Bajloni's merchant company “Bajloni & Sons”. The complex included both the company administrative buildings and social housing.


Bara Venecija is almost entirely industrial and commercial area. Many hangars and depots, asphalt plants and oil tanks are located here, due to the proximity of both downtown Belgrade and Sava harbor (Savsko pristanište). It all gives the neighborhood industrialized, unattractive, gray look. Being on the lowest part of the Sava's bank, Bara Venecija gets flooded during the extremely high waters of the river. It was completely flooded in 1984 and during the major flood of 2006.


Belgrade Fair

Boiler house complex

The complex, located within the railway station compound, includes boiler house, adjacent depot, turntable and water tower. Construction of the original depot, water stop and coal loading ramp began in 1883 on a different location, closer to the central railway building. In time they became inadequate so the new complex, designed by engineer Nikola Raičković, was finished on its present location in 1925 and became operational in 1926. The semicircular object was used for storing and placing steam locomotives on the railway. It had room for 31 locomotive and included administrative building, blacksmith shop, sawmill, repair shops, foundry and gas factory. The water tower was demolished during World War II and rebuilt later. It was claimed that Milutin Milanković drafted the designs for the original water tower, but it can't be proved.The complex was placed under the preliminary protection as the cultural monument and became dispatched ward of the Railway Museum where locomotives from the 19th century were exhibited. Already in bad shape, after the construction of Belgrade Waterfront began and the Main Railway station was closed, the security was removed from the complex. A month later, in late August 2018, a group of people undetected for days and using gas burners, cut and destroyed two priceless locomotives ("Pula" from 1864 and "Presek" from 1884), hand cast railway wagon, seven planes and two vertical drills. The larceny lasted for days even though the police station is almost across the complex before it was noticed. Remainder of the exhibits was subsequently relocated.By February 2020, the already crumbling depot was partially buried under the piles of earth deposited from the construction site. Remains of four rusting wagons remained within the complex and there were some squatters despite everything was covered in overgrowth of ailanthus. According to the Belgrade Waterfront project, the complex should be adapted into the "modern and creative space" in 2020.

Cardboard factory of Milan Vapa

Industrialist and philanthropist Milan Vapa (1875-1939) established his cardboard and paper business in 1905 but decided to build a new, proper factory as the business expanded. He built a modern factory between the Senjak neighborhood and the Sava river from 1921 to 1924. Designed by Karl Hanisch, the Cardboard Factory of Milan Vapa was located next to the Old Railway Bridge, had its own pier, water pump, power plant and railway branch, electric crane, ambulance, chapel. The paper mill was equipped with the moderns German machines. It was the first industrial object built purposely for the paper production in Serbia and was the only one in the next 30 years. The factory was nationalized after World War II by the new Communist authorities and in the 1950s the machines were dismantled and relocated to Ada Huja. Former factory became the administrative building and the storage of the "Jugošped" company, a major freight forwarder and logistics company. The industrial complex was placed under the state protection. By the 2010s, "Jugošped" collapsed. Strong wind blew away part of the tin roof in the late 2019. When Institute for the protection of the cultural monuments wanted to contact the owner to fix it, all possible proprietors and leaseholders, including those named as such in the official papers (companies "Jugošped" and "Zepter", City of Belgrade, Republic of Serbia) denied the ownership. The roof was fixed but it is not known by whom.As of February 2020, part of the building is almost buried under tons of earth from the nearby construction site of Belgrade Waterfront.

Post Office No. 6

Just south of the railway station, there is a building of the Post Office No. 6. Originally built as the Post Office No. 2 in the 1920s, it was constructed by architect Momir Korunović. Due to the extravagantly ornamented façade, it was called "architectural beauty" and considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Belgrade and among Korunović's best works. It was damaged during World War II and reconstructed later. However, the new, Communist authorities considered its façade "too bourgeois" so they removed the remains of the façade and reconstructed only the skeletal architecture under it, which suited the style of the Socialist realism which was pushed by the government in the immediate post-war period. As such, the façade has been described as a "skeleton and unsightly". Ukrainian émigré architect, and informant of the OGPU (later NKVD), Pavel Krat, was given the task of reducing the façade to the basic social realistic style. He referred to the Korunović's design as the "typical example of unsuccessful use of our folk architectural heritage, overloaded with stylish elements".With the construction of the Belgrade Waterfront since the mid-2010s, and the complete overhaul of the Sava Square, there were signals from the city and the investors, both for the restoration of the original, rich façade and for keeping the present appearance of the building. National postal service, Pošta Srbije, announced it has no further need for the building, so the state, which is the official owner of the object, decided to sell it, foreseeing it might be adapted into the hotel. One of the bidding conditions will be the restoration of the old façade. In February 2020, deputy mayor Goran Vesić announced the restoration of the original façade, after the reshaping of the Sava Square is finished.Despite previous claims, in May 2020 it was announced that the building won't be restored to its pre-World War II appearance. City claimed the full reconstruction will be financially imprudent as the building lost its original structure. Instead, the architectural design competition will be organized in 2021, with the task of incorporating "authentic elements" of the original façade. The building was the last in the line of projects where city administration promised to reconstruct city landmarks to its old appearances, but instead mostly just refurbished them (Belgrade Main railway station, Belgrade Cooperative, National Museum of Serbia). After negative public backlash (pointing out to other cities which restore their landmarks like Berlin, Budapest or Warsaw, and to the lack of proper explanations why the reconstruction is not an option), chief city urbanist Marko Stojčić stated a month later that the original façade will be restored.

Pyramidal bunkers

Along the tracks and the Savska Street, German occupational forces built four bunkers in 1941–1942, during the World War II occupation. They were built in an unusual, not often applied, four-side pyramidal design. This way, the bombs wouldn't hit it directly, instead they would slide or bounce of its sloped sides. The bunkers were built of concrete, with very thick walls and were quite spacious inside. They were used by the railway workers but also by the Wehrmacht military crews which protected the railway and used bunkers during the air raids. One bunker was closer to the street while the other was closer to the river. The river one was smaller, but had an interior equipped for the prolonged stay of the soldiers, including quite efficient ventilation system and toilet. The larger one had 80 m2 (860 sq ft) of usable space. It was 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in) tall on the inside and the walls were 3 m (9.8 ft) thick at the base. It was divided in two shelters, 27 m (89 ft) and 14 m (46 ft) long, and could shelter 50 people.There is a total of 27 known German bunkers which survived until the 2010s, including two pyramidal ones in Bara Venecija. The street bunker was used as a storage facility for years, before it was adapted into the small kafana for the railway workers. In time, it became hiding place for the homeless and the waste dealers. As both bunkers were on the location of the controversial Belgrade Waterfront project, they were scheduled for demolition, despite the ideas of turning them into cultural or exhibition spaces, which is usually done with such objects in European cities. The river bunker was demolished in 2015 and the street one in August 2019.
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