Postmodern architectural freeze – teaching chronologies or histories of ideas

Submitted by Sonja Jankov, Serbia

Images from history of photography, film, camera development, television, movable print, or any other discipline which is taught at universities, are usually encountered in books or projected during lectures. Therefore, students encounter them once or few times during their studies. When permanently exhibited as a frieze in a faculty building (in halls, in classrooms, in library, in studios), these images are encountered daily. Not only students become more aware of the history of the discipline they are studying, but they can everyday perceive their own position in relation to that history. They can feel they have a rightful place in the history of film, or television, or whichever is their chosen profession. This frieze has been part of the building for almost 50 years, which makes it part of many generations’ student and professional life.

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In which context was the method developed?

The method was developed in the period 1972–1975 by Yugoslav black-wave film director Živojin Pavlović (1933–1998) who at the time was professor at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts and suspended from his position because his student Lazar Stojanović made a film Plastic Jesus (1971) which was very critical towards the communist regime. The frieze draws its educational and representational function from the ancient Greek frieze. It both gives historical context to the institution of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts and serves students to learn about history of inventions that it features and which are related to curriculum of the study programmes of the Faculty.

The building of the Faculty is the only realised part of the planned campus of University of Arts (architects Aleksandar Stjepanović, Božidar Janković and Mihailo Naslas), designed in 1964. The building was finished in 1975 (cinema hall was added in 1980) and it is characterised by Brutalist elements, late modernist aesthetics and influences of early post-modern architecture from West Berlin, Warsaw and Prague. The frieze follows its form, having interrupted narrative, rhizomatic appearance in form of collage that quotes images from history of technology and dramatic arts.

Settings and participants the method is best suited for

This particular frieze is best suited for students of photography, camera, television, dramatic arts, history of literature, even graphic engineers and designers (since it contains some images from the history of movable printing mechanisms). The same method, however, can be applied to other buildings and institutions for higher education, even to research centres, museums, in fact any public buildings that by its shape can “carry” a frieze.


This particular frieze is site specific creation applied to the building of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts, so it can be hardly moved to any other building without great loss in terms of its perception. However, any suitable building can get a frieze of the kind, but it would require a good editor (selector) who would be top in her/his profession, in the same way Živojin Pavlović as in his. For example, if one was about to make a frieze from images related to history of medicine, one would need a professional from the field. Apart from that, Pavlović collaborated with the architects of the building in the early 1970s, so in case of creating any other conceptually similar frieze would also require help from architectural profession.

Experiences with the method

This frieze presents a specific spatial and visual device and its purpose is to transmit knowledge. In that respect, it is also similar to a film tape, or any other media which serves as a carrier of information. I encountered this method in the building of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, while I was on my PhD studies. What the frieze was lacking were details on presented devices or inventions, as well as on the authors of illustrations and their sources, dates. Through my researcher, I provided these details for most of the images within the frieze. The value of the whole frieze is far more comprehensive when we know what each image presents. It is also a contribution to research on Pavlović’s work.


Živojin Pavlović’s frieze in the building of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts presents an adaptation of the ancient architectural element to early postmodern architecture, shaped as a teaching device about the beginnings of film, theatre, television – disciplines that students study at the Faculty. From numerous illustrations of technological inventions that present development of photography and film, Pavlović chose for frieze those that show a new relationship between man and camera, such as mobility, due to smaller camera dimensions or easier use that made film making more accessible to all. By focusing on early discoveries, such as movable printing mechanisms and the first concepts of aircraft, Pavlović points to those groundbreaking inventions that opened up completely new possibilities for human activities, unimaginable until then. Pavlović chose reproductions of highly qualitative illustrations for the frieze, and they are thoughtfully set in relation to the space of the Faculty building and the various functions it has.

In addition to contributing to educational tools and methods, this frieze can be seen as an example of applied art and/or as a collage of quotes in manner of postmodern concept such as Richard Hamilton’s installation Man, Machine and Motion. It also represents a significant contribution to the form of frieze in the twentieth century, applied to modern and early postmodern architecture.

Additional references

Jankov, Sonja, “Frieze as a teaching device: contribution of Živojin Pavlović to architecture of the early post modernism,” (in Serbian, summary in English) Zbornike Matice srpske za likovne umetnosti, 49 (2021), 263- 275. DOI:
Visual materials and bilingual descriptions (Serbian / English) can be found here: