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News 21 Jan 13

Skopje's Much-Loved Army Hall to Rise Again

Preparations are starting on the long announced reconstruction of a city landmark, the Army House, which perished in the 1963 earthquake.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
The 'Army House' was built during 1920s

The imposing iconic building, which once dominated Skopje’s main Macedonia square, is being rebuilt by a private firm.

However, the project is in line with the mainly government-funded Skopje 2014 urban renewal project.

The investor, DC Prime Properties, owned by Greek businessman Dimitris Kontominas, has not set a date for the groundbreaking ceremony.

However, preparatory work on the ground is already apparent.

“The law firm representing the investor has asked us to remove our car park from there in seven days because they want to fence in the site,” Skopski Parking, the city utility company that operates Skopje’s car parks, told Balkan Insight.

The old Yugoslav Army building was built soon after the formation of the new state in the 1920s. Used frequently for grand banquets and galas, it became a favourite of many residents.

But in 1963 a devastating earthquake levelled the Oficirski Dom, or Officers Hall, as it was locally known. The building suffered such severe damage that the authorities decided it was beyond repair.

In 2007, the Macedonian government announced plans to reconstruct this historic building.

The old banquet hall


In 2011, DC Prime Properties bought the site for only 630,000 euro.

Under the contract, the Greek investor is to rebuild the army house in its original form and erect a large hotel next to it. The firm will get to keep the hotel and parts of the Army House for its own purposes.

Some parts of the building are to be given to the city for a new office for the mayor as well as for a wedding hall.

In the autumn, the Ministry of Transport announced that the investor had acquired a building permit to go ahead. The firm has six years to complete construction.

The building is part of a wider government-sponsored plan that aims to give the neglected, grey-looking centre of the Macedonian capital a more monumental appearance by drawing inspiration from the architectural styles of Classic Antiquity.

Part of the building will be used as a wedding hall

The plan envisages construction of many buildings, including, museums, theatres, concert halls, hotels and administrative offices, as well as a number of large bronze and marble statues.

The plan has proven controversial as critics object to its high price tag, estimated by some to be at least 500 million euro, as well as to the selection of artistic styles.

The Army House is one of only a few buildings planned in the revamp that actually existed in Skopje before the earthquake.

Others include the old national theatre, which is near completion and the already finished modern interpretation of the old national bank.   

See related gallery: Skopje 2014: The new face of Macedonia, updated

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