Womxn in Design and Architecture

Womxn in Design and Architecture (WDA) is a graduate student group formed in 2014 at Princeton University School of Architecture. Our annual conference celebrates the work and legacy of a pivotal architect or designer with contributions from international historians and scholars, in addition to artists, curators, and practitioners.

About WDA

March 2, 2023-March 3, 2023

Svetlana Kana Radević: Aggregate Assemblies

Svetlana Kana Radević’s architecture is a radical act of mediation. Rising to prominence in post-war Yugoslavia, her buildings speak on all scales, engaging geo-political and social complexities. Drawing from knowledge of materiality and vernacular traditions within her native Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia), her work filters modernism’s globalized forces through an intimate, place-based lens. Radević’s civic spaces re-centered provincial knowledge and facilitated a socially-progressive public sphere within the Yugoslav socialist state. 

At age 29, Radević became the youngest and only woman to receive the national Yugoslavian Borba Award for Architecture in 1968 for her design of Hotel Podgorica. Prominent projects such as the Podgorica Bus Terminal, Petrovac Apartment Building, and Monument to Fallen Fighters express Radević’s commitment to generating a symbiosis between civic engagement and landscape design through the use of local building materials, bold forms, and generous proportions. Radević articulated her own cross-cultural practice, working simultaneously between the United States, Japan, France, Russia, and Yugoslavia, where she eventually returned for the remainder of her career. 

The seventh Womxn in Design and Architecture Conference at the Princeton School of Architecture honors the life and work of Svetlana Kana Radević. The 2022-23 conference proceedings will call on the discipline with timely topics and inquiries, such as What is architecture’s role in times of social and political transformation? How can architecture re-center local systems of power, collective memory, and vernacular tradition? Disrupting the dichotomy between periphery and center while standing as one of the most avant-garde voices of Yugoslavian architecture, Radević’s legacy raises questions that are as pressing now as they were during her lifetime. 

PANEL DESCRIPTIONS

Sociopolitical Frameworks 

As both a committed civil servant and autonomous practicing architect, Svetlana Kana Radević designed spaces that supported dialogue between the Yugoslav socialist state and its public. Growing up in post-WWII Montenegro, Radević bore witness firsthand to the destruction and reconstruction of the country’s capital, Podgorica. Following her graduation from the University of Belgrade in 1963, Radević led a prolific architectural practice that challenged provincial and patriarchal ideals and proposed new ways of living.

How did movements around class struggle and worker self-management intersect with shifting Montenegrin gender politics within the broader context of socialist Yugoslavia? What role did women architects play in restructuring domestic environments within postwar urban planning and architecture?

Structure & Style 

As the principal designer and sole proprietor of her own architectural practice, Svetlana Kana Radević formulated her own architectural language. Drawing from the globalizing lexicon of late Modernism and the vernacular traditions of her homeland, she engaged an expansive network of influences and resisted a singularly-defined style. Radević’s presence and practice disrupted traditional conceptions of gender within the Yugoslavian socialist state while negotiating between public and private practice and urban planning and architectural modes of engagement. Her architecture utilized concrete slabs with expressive curves, and sculptural forms articulated through techniques and materials drawn from the local environment. Ambitious in scale and form, Radević’s buildings address complex programmatic requirements with generous public spaces and careful attention to place. 

How did Radević’s morphological, material, and structural choices relate to her stylistic frames of reference? To what extent did they speak to the lived experiences of the public within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia?

Site & Situation 

Svetlana Kana Radević’s practice mediated a range of geographies and architectural discourses. Already an accomplished architect, Radević studied as a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, achieving her Master’s degree in Louis Kahn’s Master Class in 1972, and later pursuing her doctorate. She continued on to Tokyo, Japan, working at Kishō Kurokawa’s atelier and embedding herself within the Japanese Metabolist Movement. Working between Yugoslavia, Japan, the United States—and even France and Russia—Radević articulated her own axis of architectural influence. Later centering her practice in Montenegro, she maintained cross-geographic connections while differentiating herself from the market-driven West and the communist sphere of the 1960s and 70s Yugoslavia.

To what extent do Radević’s life and career lead us to question the relationships between center and periphery within the architectural canon? What repercussions might the inclusion of her woman-led, cross-geographic practice have within the field today?

Decommodified Space 

Svetlana Kana Radević envisioned her architecture as a tool, serving the public good and continuing the efforts of the socialist welfare state. Dedicated to workers’ rights to a high material quality of life, her architecture was driven by an ideological framework in which public spaces hold radical potential for social and political change. From the Hotel Podgorica to an apartment block for a workers’ cooperative in Petrovac-na-Moru, Radević’s work stands as testament to the strength of her political commitment, and her ability to translate her beliefs into accessible, egalitarian, and decommodified buildings of all types. Often operating as social condensers, Radević’s structures not only sheltered their inhabitants but framed new ideas of collective living and social cohesion.

How does Radević’s methodology serve as a precedent for moving outside of economizing logic and into pro-social ideals of self-management and collective ownership? To what extent does her approach model alternatives to modern-day architectural practice and ideology?

Participants

Ljiljana Blagojević, Ph.D.

Sonja Dragović

Dr. Lina Džuverović

Anna Kats

Ena Kukić

Vladimir Kulić

Vladimir Kulić is Professor of architectural history and David Lingle Faculty Fellow at Iowa State University. His previous work includes the exhibition Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2018), and the books Modernism In-Between: The Mediatory Architectures of Socialist Yugoslavia (2012), Unfinished Modernisations: Between Utopia and Pragmatism (2012), Sanctioning Modernism: Architecture and the Making of Postwar Identities (2014), Bogdanović by Bogdanović: Yugoslav Memorials through the Eyes of Their Architect (2018), and Second World Postmodernisms: Architecture and Society Under Late Socialism (2019).

Prof. a.D. Dr.-Ing. Mary Pepchinski

Dr. Dubravka Sekulić

Ljubica Spaskovska

Łukasz Stanek

Alla Vronskaya

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Preliminary Program Schedule

Thursday

March 2nd

6pm EST
Welcome and Introduction
Dean Monica Ponce de Leon
WDA Introduction and Land Acknowledgement
Keynote Presentation
Q&A
7:15pm EST
Reception
The “Link” (Lobby)

Friday

March 3rd

9:30am EST
Breakfast
10am EST
Introduction to Conference Program and Womxn in Design and Architecture
Dean Mónica Ponce de León
WDA Introduction and Land Acknowledgement
10:15am EST
Panel 1: Sociopolitical Frameworks
11:30am EST
Panel 2: Structure & Style
12:30pm EST
Lunch
1:30pm EST
Panel 3: Site & Situation
2:45pm EST
Panel 4: Decommodified Space
3:45pm EST
Closing and Invitation to Reception
Courtney Coffman, Manager of Lectures and Publications
4:00pm EST
Reception
The “Link” (Lobby)