Old and secluded, this street at the very heart of Belgrade opens a new chapter in its long history this autumn. Hedonism fit for the new age will add another layer to its history, without disturbing the things it’s been known for for decades. Rajićeva Street is one of the prettiest and quietest in Belgrade. A secluded location at the crossroads of walkways, boulevards and other streets, which any metropolis has. It simply has to have them, as these are the places that, if you stumble across by accident, hold that allure of discovery, that something special. At the heart of the city, in the midst of the bustle, crowds of vehicles and pedestrians – and yet somehow entirely independent, autonomous in one simple aspect – its atmosphere. This is what Rajićeva is like, too. At the very core of Belgrade, quiet, peaceful, entirely its own, a perfect corner you could imagine being a part of any city, as if designed for a respite, for a pause before returning to the lively beat of the city.
The most beautiful part is the one sitting between Knez Mihailova and the private entrance to the French Embassy. This is the first face of Rajićeva, calling to mind the images of serenity, a melange of old and new architecture, bohemian lifestyle and art. A large mural on the side wall of the Gallery of Arts has served as an informal gate to Rajićeva for decades. On the right-hand side, there are mostly older buildings, a furrier’s shop that stood the test of time and defied the changes it brought, a coffee shop with a garden – because this street was made for a coffee-break, both due to its seclusion and peace, but also because of its beautiful surroundings. Rajićeva is a paved street in its entirety, giving it a special type of urban charm.
Just across, on the left-hand side of the street, is a passage connecting it to Kralja Petra Street, setted, small and charming and next to it a hypermodernistic building of one of the most successful banks. This is sufficient to establish an architectural, cultural and aesthetic dialogue in such a small space. All of this creates the dynamic of a contemporary city, diversity, a co-existence of different periods materialized. And this is where it ends: behind Rajićeva Street rises the colossal white expanse of the French Embassy and Kalemegdan. Apart from Pariska, which only runs through one part of this hill side, Rajićeva is the last side street of Knez Mihailova on both sides.
The street was named after Velimir Rajić, a poet who wrote at the turn of the 20th century. It owes a large part of its reputation to the legendary club named Akademija, which left a defining mark on almost four decades of Belgrade’s night life. It was situated within the Faculty of Arts, after which it was named, and has marked the youth of numerous generations. Akademija was literally the epicentre of the urban, alternative Belgrade. Golden years of Rock’n’Roll culture are rooted in this place, as the meeting place of the youth who grew up harbouring some other values and inside a completely different cultural environment.
It was opened in 1961 as the Club of the Students of University of Arts, reaching the height of its glory in the eighties, when it was the stage for performances of the top Yugoslav brands such as Disciplina Kičme, EKV, Električni Orgazam, Bijesovi. The address 10 Rajićeva Street was where alternative lived and today it is a memory, a toponym on the map of a different Belgrade, one that now lives in the archives, in nostalgic writings, in fiction keeping its memory alive.
The second part of this street and thus its other face is the product of modern times and, as such, stands completely opposite to the dominant atmosphere of an old Belgradian street. It is the location of a mall, opened this September, at the other end of Knez Mihailova, just next to the City Library, built on what was once a parking lot. It is characterized by contemporary architecture with discrete retro-classical elements. It was created to unite the cultural and hedonistic needs of the city’s visitors and residents of the city centre.
Photo: Jovan Praštalo
Surrounded by libraries, museums, galleries, legendary parts of town – Dorćol and Varoš Kapija, the mall’s 15,300 meters square answer to the other type of contemporary needs and habits. Hedonism is interpreted as lifestyle, fashion, fine dining, top-of-the-line city pause. Rajićeva got what no one had expected, its modern oasis, a treasury of brands recognizable in all languages, a shopping destination that is not in total contradiction to its quiet, authentic spirit.
Both in terms of its location and in the manner it was constructed, the second – or fashion-related and thus hedonistic face of Rajićeva, seems like a sequel, an addition, a life in another form, a change that does not disturb the peace and beauty of this secluded place.