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News 13 May 11

New Book Examines Skopje Buildings, Past and Future

A new book examines the architectural history of Macedonia's capital city, and turns a critical eye towards the latest city revamp plan, Skopje 2014.

Klimentina Ilijevski

"Skopje- the World's Bastard" was written by Milan Mijalkovic from Macedonia and Katarina Urbanek from Austria and looks both at the architectural history of Macedonia's capital city and plans for a major revamp.

For the authors of this book, Skopje is a hybrid with a heterogonous character and a turbulent past, that with its diversity has the potential to become a brand, as was imagined by the Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, who drafted the architectural plan for Skopje after it was ruined by the earthquake in 1963, a blueprint that was only partially carried out.

“The polarization of the city in the unsuccessful attempt to unify it after the catastrophic earthquake is what contributed to the diverse spirit that the city should have, to be forgotten and left by itself, very similar to the destiny of the bastard," Mijalkovic said during the book promotion in the Museum of the City of Skopje this week.

"That inner division of the city today represents a threat to the commercialization of the area, which is now used for narrating the history out of a fear of losing its identity,” he added.

The latest architecture project to hit Macedonia's capital is Skopje 2014, a government project which includes statues of Alexander the Great and buildings constructed in the classical architectural style, and will cost half of a billion euros, according to the country's opposition party.

The revamp is a controversial topic that divides Macedonians, as was clear at a debate held during the promotion of the monograph “Skopje - the World’s Bastard” at the City of Skopje Museum.

The reviewer of the book, Nebojsha Vilic, stressed that the book recaptures the sprit in which we live and represents our worries and the attempt to discover the essence of the problem of building in Skopje.

“This insanity that we live in today is just a confirmation that after 1963, and now with the new transformations in the city, Skopje’s destiny is to be ruined or to be divided. With this local policy we are missing out on the chance to brand our city," says Vilic.

During a debate on “The new visions and the old plans for Skopje”, renowned architects from different generations expressed their opinion about the Skopje 2014 project, saying that they expect the capital to suffer further architectural abuse.

Zoran Popovski, a digital artist, pointed out that this project is a summary of all bad things in the post-modern era.

"If we want to be open to the past, we should do this with subtle interventions, and not by completely changing the context of the city, which conceals the real culture," says Popovski at the debate, held in conjuction with the book's promotion.

The promotion of “Skopje- the World's Bastard”, a study of the architectural history of the capital, with the accompanying debate, was organised by the publishing house “Goten” and the Association of Architects in Macedonia.

The work was also promoted during the book fair in Leipzig.

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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.