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News 15 Jun 15

Photo: Seraphims Guard Macedonian Capital's Pricey Bridge

Bronze seraphims overlook the new ornamental fence on the Freedom bridge in the Macedonian capital, which some have caused an unwarranted extravagance.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The placement of eight richly decorated bronze candelabras with seraphims on top has added €260,000 to the already high €1.7-million price tag of the new fence rail on a bridge in Skopje.

Ever since the Skopje city authorities revealed plans for the revamp of the “Freedom” bridge in 2011, the high price tag has been a subject of criticism and ridicule.

Many say one of the poorest countries in Europe should spend its money differently.

In a spoof performance in May 2012, a group of predominantly young unemployed people formed a "permanent living human fence", saying that, for the same money, the authorities could hire them as a safety barrier.

A protest performance also saw the bridge covered in fake €100 banknote stickers.

The city initially justified the high price tag by saying that the money would also cover reconstructing and strengthening the bridge, which was erected in the 1930s.

However, public procurement bureau data show that the three contracts that the city has signed for a total of 1.7 million euros do not involve reconstruction work.

The fourth contract, signed recently with RZ Institute, is for the placement of the fence and its illumination.

The revamp of the bridge is part of a wider government-funded project, Skopje 2014, which aims to give the neglected, grey-looking centre of the Macedonian capital a more monumental appearance.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

In an interview for Radio Ilinden, one of the two authors of the bridge, Marjan Kamilovski, said the project was important because it "dealt a serious blow to Communist architecture". The two authors, Kamilovski and Konstantin Janev, were paid €237,000 for the ornamental fence.

Drawing inspiration from the architectural styles of Classic Antiquity, the Skopje 2014 project, launched in 2010 by the ruling VMRO DPMNE party of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, has seen the construction of several dozen new buildings, including museums, theatres, concert halls, hotels and administrative offices,  as well as façade revamps, including that of the government building, as well as large bronze and marble statues.

Recently published conversations of officials suggest that Gruevski, who has been power since 2006, was the "hidden hand" behind the makeover, acting as its chief ideologist and designer.

Apart from the artistic style, critics have focused on the cost of the project, which some estimate at a billion euros. The government has not released any fresh, comprehensive figures.

Critics say that Macedonia, a small country with a population of just 2.1 million and an unemployment rate of more than 30 per cent, should be spending its limited resources more carefully.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

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In Pictures

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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.