The fiction A Tale of Towers explores what the future of Belgrade and its 177 hectares of Waterfront development might hold in the decades to come. At the centre of its four scenarios is the Belgrade Tower, a 168 meters tower, conceived as the future symbol of the city – currently under construction in the city. How far will its future spiral off-script?

The scenario writers in front of an add for the Belgrade Tower at the Waterfront Development

On April 26, 2015, a select group of people come together in Belgrade to seal the fate of almost one million square meters of precious land at the riverfront. The agreement signed that day remains classified, veiled under a bilateral deal between the States of Serbia and the United Arab Emirates. A year after, under cover of night, a gang of masked man demolish buildings, obstacles to set off what is to become the most massive and contested investment Belgrade has witnessed for decades.

While this may read like the start of an obscure sci-fi novel, arriving in Belgrade, one can witness the unfolding of this plot in person. Here, an exclusive enclave of hundreds of thousands stacked square meters is emerging, offering apartments at prices that 99% of the cities’ residents will never be able to afford – while giant adds lure buyers with the slogan: “Claim your dream home at the centre of everything”. At the heart of this controversial development is the Belgrade Tower, its 42 stories of exquisite and luxurious managed apartments towering 170 meters above the waterfront.

A Tale of Towers fast-forwards the plot from this reality on the ground into a yet unknown future. Starting from a mix of scripting urban fiction and drawing-up storyboards, its four scenarios explore what the future of the Belgrade Tower might hold, some years after the class of “urban families and aspiring residents” are supposed to have moved into their apartments – the panoramic view of the city unfolding in front of them. The scenarios are made by participants from Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism (Carleton University, Ottawa), as a result of a 6-week design course by STEALTH.unlimited.

• The Waterfront Legend

by Natalie Gervasio & Natasha Basir

When Slavko (a maintenance man at the Belgrade Tower) accidentality discovers the Masterplan behind a foreign takeover of the entire waterfront area, a battle to reclaim this lost land in combat with foreign officials unfolds. President Akbaru of United Arab Emirates – a country nearing expiration due to climate change – now must reconsider this Masterplan to save his empire from vanishing. Meanwhile, residents of the Belgrade Waterfront get working together creatively to force a way out…

• unruined

by Patrick McGowan & Zachary Coughlan

In the year 2100, a young brother and sister are forced to embark on an epic journey through continental Croatia as rising sea levels push their country falls into a state of complete disarray due to an influx of displaced coastal citizens. On their way to a refugee camp, they hear about the massive development in Belgrade. They discover that a new society is occupying the former apartment buildings of the development – a crowded, walled-in city within a city. They learn to adapt and navigate this walled city, not only to find a new life but a new way of living…

• Misconduckt

by Erin Kirkland, Liane Lanzar & Caelan Mitchell

Today, in the year 2050, on the eve of the long-awaited completion of Belgrade’s Waterfront, the people of Belgrade duck into the shadows of Eagle Hill’s towers, awaiting the cover of night to slowly begin taking back what was meant to be theirs all along. For 10 years a group of people have prepared for this moment in a defunct state-owned shipyard, where parts of a massive structure have been assembled like a Trojan horse of sorts. Now, this new infrastructure is launched from the slipway and towed to the Waterfront, inserting itself between the cracks of the new development, for the citizens of Belgrade to revoke the sunlight and views that were once out of reach.

• The Launch

by Cassandra Sims & Ivana Rović

A covert mission is taking place within the development of the enigmatic Belgrade Waterfront project. Rumours are rampant as both investors and citizens of Belgrade speculate what is going on at that construction site of its large ominous tower, and what is really being built. Very few people know that the operation is much more sinister and private than the public truly expects: shock and confusion radiate around the world when, in 2065, the facade of Belgrade Tower falls away to reveal a rocket that takes off, transporting the most exclusive and carefully selected passengers to inhabit a new planet altogether.

Clues from a possible future to come

The use of fiction, scripts and storyboards is by no means new to architecture. In the 1970s, a number of groups operating in the more “radical” field of experimental architecture started using the format. But there might be another reason why to explore architecture from the field of fiction, scripts and storyboards: urban ambitions, architectural schemes and projects not seldom work out quite differently from how (and what) they have been conceived (for).

The radical plan of an emancipatory and “privilege-free” socialist New Belgrade finds itself some decades later in competitive market reality. The examples from Belgrade’s post-socialist, postmodern construction wave now stand like silly outdated caricatures spread through the city. And with the Belgrade Waterfront as the cities’ most ambitious agenda since the construction of New Belgrade, the question is how that “most attractive waterfront property in Europe” will fare in the future to come.

Each of the scenarios presented here is a work of fiction and therefore set to take an uncertain walk with reality. But then, reality ahead is uncertain, and largely still off-script…

  • [team: ] STEALTH.unlimited (Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen)
  • [seminars: ] A Future Archaeology, with contributions by Ksenija Radovanović (The most attractive waterfront property in Europe? / 2014 – 2045), Branko Belaćević (Stalled but self-completed / 2000s), Jelica Jovanović (A privileged dwelling for a privilege-free society / 1960-70s) and Nemanja Pantović (In the shadow of modernisation / 1960-70s)
  • [participants: ] Natalie Gervasio & Natasha Basir, Patrick McGowan & Zachary Coughlan, Erin Kirkland, Liane Lanzar & Caelan Mitchell, and Cassandra Sims & Ivana Rović
  • [timeline: ] January 9 – February 20, 2019