Taken in a former Television station bombed by NATO in 1999 to disrupt and degrade the command, control and communications network (McCormack 2006, p. 381.). Despite being highly damaged due to airstrikes, the majority of the structure still stands 17 years later. The building – resembling a bunker, lies on the outskirts of Novi Sad in northern Serbia, a half an hour or so cycle from the city centre. From the top story you can find the best views the city has to offer.
For people willing to venture down the stairs to the pitch black basement, they are rewarded with spoils of what can assumed to have been the video archives of Serbia/Yugoslavia. The ground is covered in film reels as pictured above. From children’s cartoons to this man walking down the street. Thousands of hours worth of historical archived footage was perhaps destroyed and much more remains unclaimed at the basement of the building and scattered throughout.
If you take a step back and gaze upon the wreck, you begin to understand the events on those fateful days. The entry points of the missiles deployed from above become evident and the consequential collapse in the structure can be visualized with the application of a little imagination. As a structural engineer I was intrigued and impressed with the structural integrity of the building left for to decay for 17 years, with no attempt of repair or restoration. Where concrete had failed, deformed steel maintained column strength. Redundancy in design had served its purpose and the increase in load successfully shared.
There are documents and log books lying on the ground, fluttering in the wind as gently, peacefully and seamlessly as a flower in a field of grass.
It is an intense, humbling feeling standing in the middle of a crater caused by a missile. To see the scale of destruction and damage that we have the potential to employ at the stroke of a pen, or the nod of the right head. I grew up hearing things on the news like, “bomb raids continue in Baghdad” and even as a young teen you think/assume that we, the good guys are doing the right thing, to destroy the bad guys that are trying to steal our freedom from us, or so George Bush would have so boldly stated. You become immune to hearing about the damage and destruction from the comfort of our homes, and the ability to change the channel when the images of reality gets all too much. Until you witness the destruction first hand, before you stand in the crater of a bomb and climb around a building destroyed and abandoned due to conflict you cannot begin to comprehend what it must be like to live in a war zone. And by NO means am I suggesting that by simply exploring such buildings long after the conflict has been forgotten is anything near to comparable with living in a conflict zone, nor am I saying that I have any idea of the pain and terror one might experience. Having this experience brought my ability to empathize with people currently in similar situations one step further. Serbia’s (and other former Yugoslavian countries) war torn history – of which evidence proudly stands in the main streets in the capital of Belgrade as a reminder of the tragedy, opened my eyes to the scale of destruction we so easily employ.
End note: Of course due to the unwritten ethical rules of urban exploration I did not dare take so much as a piece of concrete as a souvenir, let alone as small piece out of the thousands of metres of reel that lay on the floor. Leave only footsteps, take only photographs – preserve the history. This to ensure the experience will be the same for someone visiting in another 17 years time.