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Controversial Revamp Plan of Macedonia’s Capital Presented February 6, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia.
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To public reaction ranging from exaltation to resentful disbelief, the authorities finally revealed the video animation footage of the ongoing state-funded project to revamp the Skopje downtown area.

Dubbed “Vision of Skopje 2014”, the extensive showcase portrays the capital’s centre covered in elaborate bronze monuments, arches, obelisks, cascading fountains, new bridges, and buildings with wide domes depicting a blend of classical and baroque architecture.

“This is not some false representation of the project. Of course some parts will get even better in time,” the mayor of Skopje’s Centre municipality, Vladimir Todorovic proudly told press at the unveiling of the video.

Todorovic said that the ongoing project, envisaged to wrap up by 2014, would cover the grayish architecture from the old communist era when, as he said, Skopje was not on the priority list among Yugoslav cities.

Although the project is formally under the direction of the Centre municipality, the funds come from the state. The buildings of the old Macedonian National Theatre that were destroyed during the 1963 earthquake are now being rebuilt, while several museums and administrative offices are currently being constructed on the banks of the river Vardar.

The construction of one of the three new pedestrian bridges also kicked off recently. The video shows only two of them. Many of the bronze and marble statues have already been ordered and have begun arriving in Skopje ready to be erected.

The entire project has been kept largely under wraps since it began, which stirred controversy right from the start. Many objected to its high cost and the authorities’ reluctance to disclose precise figures. Others were offended by the lack of public debate while some disputed its architectural value.

Architecture students who formed the citizens association dubbed “First Archi-Brigade”, said that the suggested solutions were far from being in good taste and made unnatural combinations of style. They claim that the project brings back dead architectural styles in the wrong time and place.

Several elements attracted significant controversy from the public, including the giant 22 metre tall horse statue of the ancient warrior king Alexander the Great, who many considered to be oversized.

The church in the city’s central square was the source of a degree of ethnic and religious tensions with the ethnic Albanian, predominantly Muslim population, largely due to its questionable initiation and funding. The Archeology Museum, whose location and size shocked many, was also the subject of heated discussion.

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