Stela Kostomaj

The Practice of Everyday Life at “Cesta Kozjanskega Odreda 8”:

The Practice of Everyday Life in a Prefabricated Yugoslavian Towerblock from 1971 to the present day

My grandparents have lived in “Cesta Kozjanskega Odreda 8, Štore, Slovenia”, a prefabricated concrete tower block, since 1979. Their home has been continually adapted over decades but has done so within an uncompromisingly rigid structure, both literally and metaphorically. Literally: the building is made using the Yugomont technique and has immovable internal walls. Metaphorically, it was built in 1971 as one of many identical tower blocks across Yugoslavia [Kulić, Mrduljaš, Thaler, 2012, 168-183]. An outsider could see the structure as a concrete relic from a communist past. However, to my family, it is a homeplace that has responded “to outside pressures… in real time” [Douglas, 1991].

My grandparents’ clothes, furniture, and items are marked by efforts of craftiness and repair, a part of their “make-do” attitude reminiscent of communist times. These objects are representative of the life they have lived within the space. The study of these details and practices reveals that the “secondary production is hidden in the process of its utilization” [De Certeau, 1984, p.xiii], as theorised by Michel de Certeau. He describes “space [as] a practiced place”, contingent on “vectors of direction, velocities and time” [De Certeau 1984, p.117]. This investigation considers these vectors and examines the flat by studying the space, its inhabitants, and objects; picking out specific areas or moments which reveal this very secondary production. Specifically, the investigation focuses on the action of storage as a way of revealing the practices of everyday life within the flat. This investigation examines my grandparents’ home, which has been occupied for over four decades, under two major and opposing political systems, focusing on storage and its function as a method of tactics and strategies to proliferate.

To undertake this investigation, I examine archival scans and images, as well as secondary sources which explain the socio-economic context of the construction of the building. I introduce the importance of the empty flat, as a space in which the practice of storage takes place. I focus on the cellar, located outside of the flat in the basement as an important cyclical storage: continually re-stocked and re-emptied. I inspect the role of the photo archive as a personal archive and assess the significance of cumulative and long-term storage. I analyse wardrobes, which have overtaken what used to be a room for children, and assess how the origin of garments reveals various practices of making do.
A recent exhibition; “Toward a Concrete Utopia” (2018) presented the “unique mid-century architecture culture at the intersection of East and West” of Yugoslavia from 1948-1980 [Lowry, 2018, p.5]. It presented a selection of concrete buildings with a distinctly grey and imposing feel [Kulić, Stierli, 2018]. This exhibition falls in line with the trend of the “brutalist aesthetic” which has “a flurry of coffee table books on the subject” [Hatherley, 2015, p.7]. The structures are “half-ironically” admired as “the edifices left by a civilisation which it is hard to imagine died as recently as twenty-five years ago” [Hatherley, 2015, p.5]. A major shortcoming of the exhibition was that it presents these concrete structures, often examples of mass housing, as relics of a time gone by, rather than the homes of people who may have lived there for decades. Many of these buildings have since been renovated inside, whilst the outside concrete has been colourfully painted or paneled. Through this dissertation, I aim to explore Yugomont and prefabricated concrete housing from a personal and anecdotal perspective. This perspective allows the stories and routines of residents to come to the forefront, rather than only being perceived from the exterior. Architectural theory tends to focus on structural elements; however, this dissertation believes that the experience of architecture by the people inhabiting it is key to understanding the functioning of a space. [Suvanajata, 2001, p.46]