The Funambulist / Archipelago in the Western Balkans and Hungary: A Brief Photographic Report


Léopold Lambert – Paris on October 6, 2015
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Between September 22nd and October 3rd, I traveled on the roads of four former Yugoslavian Republics (Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, and Slovenia), as well as Hungary, in order to document the historical and current (geo)political relationship between architecture/urbanism and the bodies. The four main historical eras that were discussed in seven podcast conversations are roughly summarized here:
– The Second World War, during which Serbia and Slovenia were annexed or occupied by the Axis armies (Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria), while Croatia and Bosnia formed “the Independent State of Croatia,” often referred as a “Nazi puppet-state” that persecuted its Serbian minority. Serbian and Communist Partisans resistance led to the reformation of Yugoslavia in 1945.
– The Socialist Era, in particular the years during which Tito was President of Yugoslavia (1953-1980), a period of time that now corresponds for many as a nostalgic memory of prosperity and co-existence between the different ethnic groups of the region. My ignorance does not allow me to understand if it is a retrospective idealized memory — the generation born a few years after Tito’s death contribute to this narrative as well — or not.
– The 1990s wars, triggered by the political conflicts between the Serbian Nationalist government of Slobodan Milošević (1989-2000) and aspiring independentist republics (Slovenia and Croatia in 1991, Bosnia & Herzegovina in 1992, Kosovo in 1999) counting a Serbian minority (except for Slovenia). The dreadful war in Bosnia, as well as the subsequent ambiguous partition of the country between the Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska (where the ethnic cleansing of 1992-1995 against Bosniaks, i.e. Bosnian Muslims and, to a lesser degree, Bosnian Croats was crystallized by the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreements) was the most discussed during these conversations.
– The current era and its materialization of various borders. Part of the former Yugoslavian territory (namely, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia), as well as Albania are exceptional in their geopolitical situation: they are “surrounded” by countries member of the European Union without being members themselves. In the current displacements of bodies from the Middle-East and Central Asia towards Europe, these Balkanic countries exercise the E.U.’s externalized politics of immigration, registering refugees and economic migrants, as well as detaining some of them in various facilities, as we previously discussed with Lucie Bacon in a conversation entitled “Collecting Migrant Experiences at the Walls of the European Union.” The recent temporary shut-down of the border between Serbia and Hungary, followed a few days later by a similar action on the border between Serbia and Croatia is particularly symptomatic of the strong contrast between the fluidity of the Shengen space’s internal borders and the fortified characteristics of its external ones.

Following this far-too-brief summary, is a photographic series of this trip that, hopefully, can provide a more incarnated vision of this research.

Map of The Funambulist / Archipelago research trip in the Western Balkans and Hungary. Dark-grey countries are part of the European Union and the Shengen space, medium grey are just part of the European Union, light grey are part of none. The red line insists on the heavily-monitored borders of the Shengen space, and its continuous part between Hungary and Serbia represents the wall recently built by the Hungarian government (see photo above). The dotted white line represent the former sovereign space of Yugoslavia (1918-1991).

All following photographs by Léopold Lambert (2015):



In the thickness of the line (see past articles) between Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Many of the borders between the former Republics of Yugoslavia are materialized by rivers, thus embodying a thick paradoxical border between them.

When driving on the roads of North-West Bosnia (in the so-called “Republika Srpska”), one encounters dozens of ruins along the way. As explained by Selma Porobić later that day, these houses are likely to belong to Bosnian Croats who were the unfortunate pawns of a secret deal between Slobodan Milošević and Franjo Tuđman, the then-President of the newly independent Croatia. Despite the war that was occurring on Croatian ground between the Yugoslav (i.e. Serbian) Army and the Croatian one, these two politicians made a deal to the expense of Bosnia, that allowed the evacuation to Croatia and the naturalization of many Bosnian Croats while the Serbian troops could consolidate their occupation of this part of Bosnia. These Croatian houses were neither fully destroyed nor reconstructed and stands today as witnesses of the Croatian complicity in the Serbian shattering of Bosnia.

Crossing the industrial city of Zenica before reaching Sarajevo. Later that day, recording of the podcast conversation “Forcefully Displaced Bodies in Bosnia: From the 1992-95 War to Contemporary Fortress Europe” with Selma Porobić, director of the Centre for refugee and IDP studies at the Sarajevo University.


Attending to the Eid prayer in the European country with the largest percentage of Muslim population (40%).

The city of Sarajevo is surrounded by high hills, a topographical quality that was one of the main component that allowed its siege by the Yugoslav Army and the Serbian militias between 1992 and 1996. Looking to the West, one can visualize the several historical layers of the city: the Ottoman center, the Austro-Hungarian city, the most contemporary part of it, and further away, the Socialist city.



A podcast conversation in the form of a walk in Sarajevo in company of local architect Mensur Demir, now published under the name “A War that Shaped a City, a City that Shaped a War.” The four buildings showed above (Electrical Management Building, Holiday Inn, and the “Twin Towers”) were all designed by Ivan Straus and were both witnesses and targets of the siege.

In July 1995, in Srebrenica, the so-called Army of Republika Srpska (Bosian Serbs) coldly assassinated more than 8,000 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) men and boys defenseless refugees (the Dutch blue-helmets failed to defend them). More than 6,000 of them are buried in this memorial.

In the thickness of the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. Despite the ‘localness’ of this border (many seems to cross it by bike for instance), the search was thorough and exhaustive.

On the road to Belgrade.


Yugoslav Ministry of Defense bombed by NATO in 1999 following the deadly intervention of the Yugoslav (i.e. Serbian) army in Kosovo. In a strong symbol of capitalist developments, a Trump hotel is planned to be built in lieu of this impressive urban ruin.

Another drastic capitalist development in the city can be found in the Belgrade Waterfront project against which a demonstration was organized on this day. We later discuss about this particular project, as well as other aspect of Belgrade’s spatial politics in a podcast conversation with Ana Džokić, architect and co-founder of Stealth.unlimited (to be published next week).

In the small refugee camp of the center of Belgrade, young Iranians are playing volleyball while waiting for a distribution of goods by the Red Cross.

Visit of the massive Socialist residential part of the city, Novi Belgrade (New Belgrade) with Dubravka Sekulic.


New 4-meter tall wall built by the Hungarian government along the 150 kilometers of the country’s border with Serbia.

Podcast conversation recording with Tamas Bodoky, journalist and founder of the online news platform that resists against the legal restrictions of the freedom of press as initiated by the Viktor Orbán administration in 2010. We discuss about the Nationalist politics of the last five years in Hungary, as well as the recent events that saw an aggressive control and policing of refugees in their crossing of the country towards Austria.


Visit of the city with Urska Jurman, trying to focus on the various designed apparatuses that facilitates police control in the city. Later that day, I record a podcast conversation with Miloš Kosec, a young local architect whose thesis was investigating the ruin as a potent architectural typology. Together, we talk about three particular historical examples involving the Italian and German annexation/occupation of Slovenia during the Second World War.


I was invited by the association Obrat to give a lecture about militarized cities in a reclaimed garden that was originally promised to a housing development project. More of the garden can be seen in a short interview about the lecture released by the Slovene TV.


Two podcast conversations recorded. One with Iva Marčetić, a local architect who works with the organization Right to the City, as well as anti-fascist movements, in an attempt to fully mix the practice of architecture and political activism. The other, with Ana Dana Beroš, about the current political situation regarding the refugees in Croatia, as well as for her exhibition/publication Intermundiathat investigates the island of Lampedusa in its tension between the suppressive politics of Fortress Europe, and the aspiration to movement from thousands of economic migrants coming from various parts of Africa.


Participation to the Think Space 2015 Unconference about new spaces of “publicness” in company of Aristide Antonas, Ana Dana Beroš, Jan Liesegang and Karin Šerman. My presentation tackles both the inherent segregative effects of architecture, as well as the absolute necessity of architects to examine the inequality of access to this notion of “publicness,” in particular from a racial and social standpoint. Later on, the roundtable moderated by Tomislav Pletenac attempts to respond to the urgency of discussion about the politics engaged against the refugees in Europe.


Visit of three impressive residential towers nicknamed “the rockets.”

Wild visit of the abandoned construction site of what was planned to be a university hospital. This research trip was far too short to analyse thoroughly any of the historical and contemporary issues encountered; yet, it allowed a first approach to them that calls for others to follow. I hope that these photographs were able to provide an enriching account of the political encounters that I was able to make with various designed apparatuses.

In addition of the people already cited in this article I would like to thank the Graham Foundation, the French Institute, Kata Gaspar, Vesna Vrga, Damir Sekulic, Dea Dudič, Haris Bulič, Drazen Huterer, Kristina Božič, Polona Balantič, Matevž Čelik, Maja Vardjan, Cvetka Požar, the Oris Magazine team, and many others for their help, kindness and enthusiasm manifested in our encounter at various points of the trip. A big thank you to all of them.