Who Plans What for Whom Under the “Iron Law” of Megaprojects? The Discourse Analysis of the Belgrade Waterfront Project


Urban megaprojects exhibit various distortions: special regulations, budget overrun, additional funding sources, long-term timeframes, and ad-hoc actor networks. Coping with such challenges seems to be demanding even for the welfare states and advanced democracies built upon the governmental control of megaproject development. Therefore, it is interesting to observe the nature of urban governance of megaproject development in a transitional society facing immature institutional and regulatory frameworks. Against such background, this article examines the main forces behind the flagship project of contemporary Serbia—the Belgrade Waterfront megaproject. By collecting 38 articles from the daily press, the paper identifies relevant stakeholders and present their statements to depict their positions, interests, and specific value frameworks. Using the discourse analysis to interpret the statements, the paper offers the following results: first, recognition of conflicts and coalitions; second, elucidation of the decision-making flows, and third, identification of power structures in the mentioned project. In addition, valuable insights into the problematic contextual features, e.g., tycoon-initiated urban development, the politics-led planning process, and weak civil engagement mechanisms, are elucidated. Concluding lessons on how to curb the extra-nature of urban megaprojects appear relevant for similar socio-spatial settings.

Author Biographies

Ana Perić, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Ana Perić holds a PhD in Urban Planning from the University of Belgrade and works as Lecturer and Senior Researcher at the Institute for Spatial and Landscape Development of ETH Zurich as well as Senior Research Fellow at the Faculty of Architecture, University of Belgrade. She is the board member of ISOCARP (International Society of City and Regional Planners) and Excellence in Education board member of AESOP (Association of European Schools of Planning). Her research interests include collaborative urban planning, planning cultures and urban governance. In her research, she examines the relationship between the underlying contextual factors and the nature of planning processes with a specific focus on collaborative and participatory planning instruments, methods, and theory.

Marija Maruna, University of Belgrade, Serbia

Marija Maruna is a Professor at the Department of Urban Planning, Faculty of Architecture, University of Belgrade, where she received both MSc and PhD degrees in Urban Planning. Her research revolves around planning theory, collaborative planning instruments, methods of public engagement, and urban governance. She is the award-winning author of several monographs in the field of urban planning theory and planning methodology. Most recently, she received national recognition at the Urban Planners Exhibition for the book Planning Theory: A Contribution to Critical Thinking in Architecture (2019).

Zorica Nedović-Budić, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States; University College Dublin, Ireland

Zorica Nedović-Budić is a Professor Emerita at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States, and a Visiting Professor at the School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy, University College Dublin, Ireland. She is an active member of AESOP (Association of European Schools of Planning). She received her PhD degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research is about planning in different societal contexts (both developed and developing countries), planning history, and technology in spatial planning.


How to Cite
Perić, A., Maruna, M., & Nedović-Budić, Z. (2022). Who Plans What for Whom Under the “Iron Law” of Megaprojects? The Discourse Analysis of the Belgrade Waterfront Project. Changing Societies & Personalities, 6(2), 414–432. doi:10.15826/csp.2022.6.2.182