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News 31 May 17

Macedonia's New Govt Halts Skopje 2014 Makeover

Macedonia's new government said it plans to halt the pricy and much disputed grand revamp of the capital, Skopje 2014, which became synonymous for reckless spending.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
 The new buildings and adorations changed Skopje's outlook: Photo: BIRN

As Macedonia's likely new Culture Minister announces a complete halt to the quasi-baroque revamp of the capital known as Skopje 2014, architects have said they hope some of the historic buildings given new facades will be restored to their original state.

"We must immediately stop Skopje 2014 because every day, like out of Pandora's box, it produces new kitsch monuments, sculptures, passages and colonnades that no one needs but for which we all pay a hefty price," Culture Minister-designate Robert Alagjozovski told Makfax news agency.

Alagjozovski announced a complete revision of the project.

"We will organize an international conference about the project aimed at developing future scenarios about what to do with it. We will be careful with the solutions," he said.

The massive government-sponsored revamp which transformed the look of Skopje was masterminded by the former government led by Nikola Gruevski.

It encompasses dozens of new buildings, hundreds of facades, giant monuments, bridges and other acts of beautification, mostly inspired by the artistic styles of classical antiquity.

The project has also been widely criticized for its lack of transparency, and has given rise to suspicions that it became a way to siphon out money from the state budget.

From the initially announced price tag of 80 million euros, the cost of the capital's new/old look has since risen to over 670 million euros, a BIRN database shows.

The former head of the Macedonian Association of architects, AAM, Sanja Regenovic-Jovanovic, said some corrections are now necessary. Like other architects, she suggest starting with restoring the former modernist look of the government headquarters.

The new look of the government HQ. Photo: BIRN

This building constructed in the 1970s by the award-winning architect Petar Mulickovski got a radically new look in 2014 when it was covered with fake columns, a tympanum as well as window and roof decorations designed to resemble the White House in Washington. It cost more than 16 million euros, according to available records.

"This building, without any doubt, should be restored to its original state," Regenovic-Jovanovic said.

She said she was well aware that it would take money and time to correct some of the mistakes, "but we have no other choice if we want to show our maturity and statehood".

Meanwhile, work on the project launched back in 2010 continues to this day.

For example, a giant Ferris wheel is still being constructed on top of a pedestrian bridge on the Vardar River in central Skopje.

Authorities also recently started the construction of the new Central Bank, despite the fact that this institution already has an HQ built during the 1970s.

A giant Ferris wheel is to be constructed on top of this pedestrian bridge. Photo: BIRN

Next to it, the authorities led by the provisional government of Emil Dimitriev, Gruevski's right hand in the VMRO DPMNE party, are finishing the new headquarters of the national Real Estate Agency. Last week, the facade was adorned with giant bronze statues of saints.

On May 22, the elite of the former ruling party attended a gala opening of the new Macedonian Philharmonic, which cost almost 40 million euros and is one of a few modernist-looking buildings that form part of the project.

Prime Minister-designate Zoran Zaev, whose new government is expected to be voted in parliament on Wednesday, warned that dismantling some of the gigantic monuments and removing the new facades from landmark buildings would be costly, calling for a thorough analysis before taking any concrete steps.

The new HQ of the national Real Estate Agency [left] and the foundations for the new Central Bank HQ. Photo: BIRN
The new Macedonian Philcharmonic which has cost almost 40 million euros. Photo: BIRN

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Skopje 2014: The new face of Macedonia, updated

The government-funded revamp of the Macedonian capital, called Skopje 2014, aims to give the city a more impressive and ‘historic’ appearance. See new images in this updated gallery.