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News 21 Oct 13

Macedonia's Baroque Mall Consigned to History

Macedonian architects have welcomed a decision to scrap plans to give Skopje’s iconic 1970s GTC shopping centre a Baroque appearance.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Protests in June against GTC makeover | Photo by: Darko Duridanski

The Macedonian Association of Architects, AAM, has welcomed last week’s move by the opposition-run city-centre municipality in Skopje to reject the government's plan to clad key buildings in a faux-Baroque style.

“We welcome this decision. No one has the right to change facades that make us recognizable to the world,” Sanja Regjenovic-Jovanovic, the head of the AAM, said.

“We are talking about a building that is of public interest,” she added, referring to a prominent mall that was next line for a Baroque makeover.

The municipality rejected the plan to coat several prominent modern buildings in central Skopje in Classical style in line with the revamp of the capital called Skopje 2014.

The iconic GTC mall, meanwhile, only metres from the central Macedonia square, is the biggest and most visited mall in the city.

Unlike others, this state-owned modernist mall, built in the 1970s, has open entrances from all sides, making it an essential transit route for people traversing the city centre each day.

In June, the AAM condemned the government's plan to close up many of the mall’s entrances and coat it in a facade of pillars and domes inspired by Classical Antiquity.

The government also wanted to construct an additional floor for the mall and erect sculptures on the roof.

Irate protesters formed a human chain around GTC, joining hands in a symbolic embrace to mark the launch of the “I Love GTC” campaign.

“We have saved GTC and [the adjacent modern building of] EVN,” the mayor of Centar municipality, Andrej Zernovski, said last week.

Protesters formed a human chain around GTC | Photo by: Darko Duridanski

“In our new plans for the area, this revamp will not be included,” he added.

Zernovski took office earlier this year and now runs what had been a key bastion of the ruling VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

Unlike his predecessor, Vladimir Todorovic, Zernovski has stood firmly against the revamp of the capital from the start.

His ongoing review of the municipality’s role in the state-sponsored makeover, seeking evidence of financial crime, has put him on collision course with the government.

Zernovski now says he is also not going to allow the planned construction of a version of Rome's Spanish Steps in Skopje.

The Transport Ministry recently sold the last remaining empty lot on Skopje’s main square to Albanian Amadeus Group exactly for that purpose.

The company, following government instructions, aims to build a monumental outdoor staircase that will lead down from an imposing commercial building.

Meanwhile, Skopje 2014 remains a work in progress. More than 20 buildings and dozens of statues and fountains are in place or are nearly finished. Among them are a new national theatre, a history museum, a foreign ministry and a concert hall.

Supporters say it will transform the image of a city blighted by decades of dreary Socialist architecture and neglect.

Critics object to the chosen artistic style as well as to the project’s high estimated cost, unofficially standing at €500 million.

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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.