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News 06 Aug 14

Price Tag Soars for Skopje's Big Wheel

Macedonia is to pay much more than it originally planned for the construction of a big observation wheel, like the London Eye, in the centre of the capital, Skopje.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

 

By: Massabni Architects

Authorities in Skopje have agreed to pay €18.3 million to the local Beton construction company, the lowest bidder in the tendering procedure, to build the big wheel that will stand on top of a bridge on the Vardar River in Skopje.

The sum is one-third more than the originally planned sum of €12 million.
The city already spent another €500,000 for the project and design of the wheel, entrusted to two Austrian companies, a2 Hotelconcept GmbH and Massabni architects GmbH.

The office of Mayor Koce Trajanovski told Balkan Insight that the wheel will bring great benefits to the Skopje as “another star attraction in our city”.

But the new price tag comes as an unwelcome surprise as the head of Skopje’s public transport company, JSP, Misho Nikolov, which was designated to oversee construction, last year estimated the cost at €12 million.

The big wheel forms part of the ongoing government sponsored project, “Skopje 2014”, which has coated much of the city centre in styles inspired by Classical antiquity. The wheel will follow the same style as well.

The Skopje "eye" will have a diameter of 57 meters. Along with the pedestrian bridge on which it will stand, the entire structure will be 73 meters high. The wheel will hold 30 passenger cabins capable of transporting 300 people. A nearby cafeteria and a souvenir shop will also be built.

The construction period is set for five years.

The project, which was first revealed in 2012, has drawn much criticism from architects and from the political opposition, mostly concerning its location, which critics say will turn central Skopje into an amusement park. The cost for a city that barely manages to scramble €70 million euro for its annual budgets is also seen as high.

The Association of Architects of Macedonian, AAM, has also complained of a lack of proper consultation with the architects’ community.

The opposition mayor of the city municipality of Centar, Andrej Zernovski, opposed the wheel, which will lie inside his municipality. He said it was a waste of money, but he has no way of preventing construction.

“We have no legal way to stop construction. The riverbed and the river bank are under the authority of the City,” Zernovski pointed out.

Skopje’s city centre meanwhile continues to undergo a massive, government-funded revamp. Dozens of buildings and large-scale bronze and marble statues are already in place as part of the project aimed at beautifying the shabby looking surroundings.

Last year the authorities said the cost of the "Skopje 2014" project had reached some €200 million.

Critics of Skopje 2014 object to its artistic style, dimissing the Classical facades as kitsch. They also object to the project’s high estimated price tag which some say may have already exceeded €500 million.

 

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