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News 06 Nov 13

Big Wheel to Soar Over Macedonian Capital

Authorities say plans to build a big wheel, much like the London Eye, in the centre of Skopje, are well underway.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

By: Massabni Architects

Authorities in the Macedonian capital say construction of the big wheel, which forms part of the “Skopje 2014” plan to revamp the city, will start in 2014. They hope it will become a star attraction, along the lines of the "London Eye".

The City of Skopje recently designated its own public transport company, JSP, to construct the wheel.

The estimated cost for the 73-metre-high wheel is €12 million, the head of JSP Misho Nikolov, said.

“The project is ready and we have set aside money for the start of the first phase, for which we will issue a tendering procedure,” Nikolov said.

He expects more money to arrive from the city and central government to complete the project. “Grants for this purpose will surely be coming and will be of great help,” he said.

According to the city 's urban plan, the wheel will be built on top of a new pedestrian bridge on the Vardar River that will be constructed near the existing landmark Stone Bridge.

Not everyone has warmed to the idea, and some critics say a big wheel will make the city centre look like an amusement park.

The Association of Architects of Macedonian, AAM, has also complained of a lack of proper consultation with the architects’ community.

The recently elected opposition mayor of the municipality of Centar, Andrej Zernovski, also opposed the wheel, which will lie inside his municipality. He said it was a waste of money, but, he has no way of preventing the construction.

“The project is likely to be realized. The river bed and the river bank are under the authority of the City,” Zernovski said.

Skopje’s city centre is currently undergoing a massive, government-funded revamp. This year the authorities said the cost of the Skopje 2014 project had reached some €200 million.

Dozens of buildings and large-scale bronze and marble statues are already in place as part of the project.

Authorities recently installed several riverside galleons in the Vardar river, which will serve as cafes and restaurants. They planted willows on small artificial islands in the river, and constructed two large fountains, also in the middle of the river.

Two other pedestrian bridges decorated with bronze statues and a fountain in the middle have also been constructed on the Vardar.

Critics of the Skopje 20014 project object to its artistic style, which draws inspiration from Classical Antiquity. They also object to the project’s high estimated price tag which some say may have already exceeded €500 million.

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