Rethinking the American-Yugoslav Project / Plus: An Insight into the Local Perspectives

Planning – urban, regional, spatial – is rarely considered a soft power mechanism. The currency of soft power supposedly includes culture, political values, and foreign policies. However, where do foreign policies end?

Constructing space, more precisely the methodologies used to envision and construct our built environment, are driven by the idea of progress. In today’s world they are presented as objective, scientific, measurable. However, research shows that the way planning methodologies were developed so as to serve the needs of developing countries and their financiers in the 1960s are not neutral. As such, they continue to shape the spatial planning procedures and have a significant effect on contemporary architecture culture.

A project that elucidates the reasoning behind planning methodology is the American-Yugoslav Project (AYP). Initiated in 1966, it was a joint project of the Wayne State University and the Urban Planning Institute Ljubljana (UPI) in collaboration with a vast network of Yugoslav institutions. The U.S. and Yugoslav governments, as well as the Ford Foundation supported it. In the end, it served the interests of the UN. Additionally, in the 1970s the local assemblies, amid the AYP in Ljubljana, adopted many regional plans and General Plans of major cities in Yugoslavia. Therefore, as we explore the AYP project, we also gain further insight into local perspectives and local and international connections, exchanges and influences that were obscure up to this point.

Presentation and Discussion

Taking part in the discussion:
Nika Grabar, Jelica Jovanović, Ljubica Slavković, Srđan Jovanović Weiss, Ana Miljanić, Vladimir Kulić, Tanja Damljanović Conley, Luka  Skansi


  • 1963 -

    Mušič 1963 enrolls in GSD Harvard and graduates at the end of the academic-year in 1964. He collaborates with the Urban Planning Institute (UPI) before his departure. He was employed at the UPI upon his return to Ljubljana and became the director of the AYP from 1966–70. While in the US, Mušič established connections with researchers from the field of planning. He found the work of John Friedman and the theory of planning particularly relevant for the context of Yugoslavia. Both John Friedman and John W. Dyckman were active at the Journal of the American Institute of Planners (JAIP) in the 1960s that dealt intensively with environmental issues and questions of regional planning.

  • 1964 -

    Winnick visits Yugoslavia to meet with Zdenko Kolačič, chief architect of the city of Zagreb and Branka Savić from the Institute for Housing and Town Planning of the Central Government Office Building in New Belgrade. The stops on his Yugoslav itinerary were Dubrovnik, Belgrade and Zagreb. He also traveled to Tel Aviv, Athens, Amsterdam, London, Beirut and Jerusalem.

  • 1966 -

    The Eastern Europe Fellowship Program (EEFP) program makes it possible for Vladimir Braco Mušič to establish a wide network of professional and personal relations. In this first phase (1966–68), the project sought to perform three main functions: introducing American know-how to problems of urban and regional planning in Yugoslavia; developing a multidisciplinary and regional planning research and training facility in Ljubljana; and preparing a comprehensive development plan for the Ljubljana region as case study. Despite relatively slow progress in the first two years, there were positive outcomes of the project: it established an infrastructure for research and training, assured American and Yugoslav participation and support, and legitimized the discipline of urban and regional planning.

  • 1968 -

    The Ford Foundation (FF) approves a grant of $180,000 to Wayne State University (WSU) over a two-year period to support the American-Yugoslav Project (AYP). The grant proposal made by Jack C. Fischer, Vladimir Mušič and Lojze Rojec to the FF in order to assist the American-Yugoslav Project (AYP) for Regional and Urban Planning Studies and to complete experimental plans for the city and region of Ljubljana.

  • 1970 -

    The FF receives a new proposal: a request from Yugoslavia for the establishment of a Yugoslav Center of Regional and Urban Studies and a parallel (double) request from WSU for the continuation of the AYP. The Foundation saw this as an opportunity for professional evaluation of both the accomplishments of the AYP and of the new request that predicted further activities and mobility of the AYP staff.  The report written by Raymond Vernon and David L. Brich of the Harvard Business School in April 1970 entitled “Urban and Regional Planning Project in Yugoslavia” served as the basis for rejecting further financial support of the American-Yugoslav project, even though the Ford Foundation continued to support smaller collaboration projects.


Nika Grabar graduated from the Faculty of Architecture in Ljubljana in 2003 and then continued her work as a researcher at the Institute for Architecture and Physical Planning in Ljubljana. In 2007, she received the Fulbright scholarship and for two years continued her research in the field of architecture and politics as a visiting researcher at Columbia University, GSAPP in New York. She defended her PhD thesis in 2009 at the Ljubljana Faculty of Architecture. From October 2009 to May 2013, she taught at the Academy of Design in Ljubljana. From October 2010 to February 2012, she participated in the European Culture Project “Unfinished Modernizations”. In 2012, she prepared the research project “Stories of the Slovene Parliament” and was involved in the 2013 Slovenian pavilion architectural research at the Art Biennale in Venice. Since 2013, she worked as an assistant and a researcher at the Faculty of Architecture in Ljubljana. In 2014, she enrolled in the PhD program Comparative Studies of Ideas and Cultures at the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Ljubljana.

Jelica Jovanović is an independent researcher. She obtained her degree at the Faculty of Architecture, University of Belgrade in 2010. Ms. Jovanovic was a University of Technology Vienna PhD student as of 2013; trainee of the Cultural Heritage without Borders; OeAD One Month Visit scholar (Austria) and SAIA (Slovakia) researcher. She was a founder and member of NGO Group of Architects; regional projects coordinator for the Unfinished Modernizations and (In)appropriate Monuments; secretary, project coordinator and web editor of Do.Co.Mo.Mo.Serbia; co-author of the web page Arhiva modernizma; curatorial assistant of MoMA Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980 Exhibition; Memberships: Do.Co.Mo.Mo. Serbia; Association of Conservators of Serbia; Association of Belgrade Architects; ICOMOS Serbia.


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