Footprints of Jewish heritage

elek's factory

110th anniversary

Despite interventions on some original buildings and interpolations of new structures during the last century, the complex of the Sugar Factory in Zrenjanin managed to preserve its spatial and functional integrity. However, inadequate use and non-maintenance of the complex, from the cessation of sugar production until today, have caused the spontaneous deterioration of certain buildings and the degradation of their architectural values.

 

What are the greatest values of this unique industrial complex and can they be preserved?

historical and social context

viktor elek

Viktor Elek, a Czech-Jewish expert in sugar beet growing and processing, came to Veliki Bečkerek in 1911, invited by the founder of the Sugar factory to join a team of experts gathered around the new factory under construction. Thanks to his diligent professional efforts Elek quickly became a director and synonymous with the Sugar factory, which citizens of Veliki Bečkerek soon started calling Elek’s factory. During three decades spent in Veliki Bečkerek, Elek had completely integrated himself into a local Jewish community, actively participating in public life. The citizens of Veliki Bečkerek remember him as a great patron of sport and culture. Viktor Elek was the head of the Sugar factory until the beginning of the Second World War when he was executed by Germans.

urban context

modern factory

The Sugar factory complex in Veliki Beckerek was built in 1911 according to an ambitious plan by renowned Czech architect Viktor Benes in a peripheral area between the Begej River and Fabrika railway station. Inspired by the most progressive urban planning ideas of his time, Benes designed an extraordinary spatial and functional structure, setting very high technical, aesthetic, and environmental standards of industrial building planning. He clearly defined two main functional areas – working (industrial) area and residential area – separating them from one another by spaces for social interaction of employees and green areas. 

Designed in all respects in accordance with the European trends of that time, for several decades after its completion the Beckerek sugar plant was considered the most modern industrial facility in the region.

architectural context

geometric secession

The architecture of production facilities and warehouses, as well as the architecture of workers’ apartments and villas, bears the characteristics of geometric secession, a version of the Viennese Secession,[9] which became predominant in the 1910s, especially in industrial architecture. Benes created geometric elements and surfaces with great liberty, using polychromy for shaping facades, an approach that emerges particularly clearly if we look at three villas built inside the factory complex. Benes played with façade brick, using it to accentuate window frames, lesenes, wreaths, corner elements. The use of wood for making a bondruk on gables contributes particularly to the decorative character of the facades. The wooden elements at some points lose their original geometric shape and take curved paths, thus adding to the picturesque character of the facades and confirming the influence of the Secession.