16 June 1993
I just heard the most outrageous story today!
I always remember how passionate the Yugoslav people were about science and technology back in the sixties and seventies. Thanks to the Tito-Stalin split in 1948, it was easier for Yugoslavians to smuggle computers in from Italy compared to other countries in the Soviet Bloc. Since Nikola Tesla also came from Croatia, Yugoslavia has also contributed to the flourishing sci-fi, comic book and tech scene in this region. Some sci-fi stories even came with ideological messages from utopian communists for propaganda purposes.
This morning, the Ministry of Post Conflict Rehabilitation called for an urgent meeting at The Government Building. I was told that the agenda was to discuss the latest updates of Project M93, and I must come alone. I did not like this feeling of secrecy. The Ministry wanted me to meet a man named Ivan Pavic, who was one of the thirty Yugoslav engineers forced to leave his family, fake his death and funeral to move and work for NASA undercover, whilst everyone including their families thought they had been killed in a road accident thirty years ago! His return was an undisclosed arrangement by the state government for him to take up the position as a special consultant for Project : Mostar 1993, because the Ministry has decided to make Mostar a Yugo-Futurist Town! This development would serve as a space and astronautical science centre to protect and nurture Yugoslavia’s most intellectual resources. The nation’s greatest scientists and geniuses will be provided with a supportive work environment with state-of-the-art homes, facilities and institutions.
Mr Pavic’s story reminds me of the conspiracy theory of Yugoslavia being the forgotten third player in the Space Race after the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War , where Tito made a secret multi- billion-dollar deal with the United States for Yugoslavia’s clandestine space programme in the early sixties (perhaps explaining how we got overseas financial aid to boost our economy). The myth indicated that the United States was furious with Tito as the imported space programme was underdeveloped and failed to deliver its promised results for NASA’s future moon landing. Hence, the poor Mr Pavic and his entire space program team were forced to move to Houston to make the technology work.
Whether the story is true or not, the state government’s idea of creating an astronautical and space science centre in Mostar is rather brilliant. Considering Mostar was already the home for a Yugoslav military aircraft manufacturer, what could be more meaningful than bringing back the greatest interest of our Yugoslav people and making full use of our skills and knowledge in science and technology? Giving myself a head start on the new direction, I could already visualise how the science labs are going to sit under a socialist A-Frame, ziggurat structure, with a futuristic sci-fi movie setting, like one of those in Ken Adam’s Bond movies or Dr Strangelove.
Besides all the political complications, Vena, as a responsible architect, always explores ways to bring solution-based approaches to conflict-affected societies. In Mostar, she engages experimental preservation in response to the expanding scope of cultural heritage concerns, revitalising the architectural legacy of Yugoslavia by reinterpreting utopian architectural ideals, applying socialist-oriented solutions to accelerate the economy recovery and seeking to empower the greatest interest of the Yugoslav people in science and technology. Post-war reconstruction is a highly sensitive issue, politically and socially, as poorly conceived reconstruction priorities may lead to vast amounts of wasted time, money and compromised opportunities. All stages of reconstruction must consider humanitarian concerns as the top priority that drives the wider revitalisation effort forward.
Drawing techniques : Digital collage, film footage.