Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Marija Mokrova - Skopje; "...not mine anymore."

This months cover by K.K.W.
Central Park, Fuji-film 400
Skopje; "...not mine anymore."
by Marija Mokrova. 

"Much like New York City, Skopje (capital of Macedonia-FYROM)is currently undergoing major urban change. Along with new, "Modern" designed buildings, there is also a series of antique-like civic buildings ("Skopje 2014") geared towards making it more like other major European cities. However, many feel the designs lack style, passion, and are best described as Kitsch. What is most interesting is the way this affects many of the people I have come to know who live there. Change through urban design is good, and yet quite awful when it does not take into account the people who have to live with, when it is done without a sense of balance or harmony." (K.K.W) 
Marija Mokrova, image courtesy of Miss Mokrova 
A few days ago I saw this catchy title of IFC's blog post and read it in a blink, in a heartbeat... The very title touched me. Its specific wording moved me. It did not ask me how I felt in my city, instead it cleverly asked me how Skopje made me feel. It made me think about what I felt... and I've been writing the answer to that question, trying to give it some structure. I've been trying to give some meaningful design to the emotional response it provoked.
Part of the "Skopje 2014" project (a re-vamping of the capital
of Macedonia by the Government, involving antique-like
civic buildings many consider to be kitsch). Photo by Matej Bogdanovski. 
It was some time in 2001 when I came across a very cool website called 'Virtual Tourist' where I have been posting what I consider to be useful information on the places that I have visited, and of course, on the place that has left the biggest imprint upon who I am. Neither then, nor now would I dare "promote" Skopje for its glorious appearance - outstanding buildings, intricate façades or particularly creative urban layout. It has not been a corner of the world that tantalizes the cameras with its sleek avenues, daring edifices or innovative constructional solutions. Particularly after the catastrophic earthquake it suffered in July 1963.

Part of the "Skopje 2014" project (a re-vamping of the capital
of Macedonia [Skopje] by the Government, involving antique-like
civic buildings many consider to be kitsch). Photo by Meglena Visinska.
...The endless charm of this city has always been its playfulness... Its unpretentiousness, its liveliness, its rough edges. It has seduced both its citizens and its visitors as they would enjoy a cup of coffee under the sunny skies, leaning into the chairs and overlooking the always busy Macedonia street (used to be called Marshal Tito, but that's a different story), where children's voices, as they run around, mash up together with grown-ups' conversations, music from nearby cafés, dogs' barking, and impatient drivers' honking. Skopje houses an eclectic street buzz that mixes in the loud laughter of its somewhat temperamental locals, the sounds of the roller-skates, bicycles and tennis shoes of those who opt for some recreation on the quay of the overly polluted Vardar, the juxtaposition of a jazz concert and the irritating notes of kitsch turbo-folk music from a nearby kafana ("kafana" - establishment less fancier than a restaurant with infinitely better food).
A proposal for the redesign of the facade of  a building,
more then likely to make it more in-line with others
in the "Skopje 2014" project.  The photo beneath this image
is of this building [on the right]. Image courtesy of Matej Bogdanovski.
It has captivated those who dare to look beyond the physical appearance with its numerous contrasts - an Orthodox church across a beautiful building that was once a public Turkish spa, a shoeshiner who carefully preserves his own craft in front of a modern, business center. Skopje has always been a capital that has embraced many cute neighbourhoods with a small-town feel. It's has a crowded center and yet, in the midst of what might seem as a sea of anonymity, more often than not acquaintances and friends run into each other, filling up the air around them with smiles and hugs. I've had a long-time love affair with this city. We've had our ups and downs, as any other relationship, but I've always cared so much about this love of mine.
Image courtesy of Matej Bogdanovski.
Until very recently that is...
Which brings me back to the question IFC asked me... Facing the completely-out-of-place, tasteless and irrelevant to Skopje's existence "Gate Macedonia", with my back turned to an over-sized monument that is falsely nurishing this illusion of national identity and serves to add tension to an already strained relationship, surrounded by imposed products presented to this city's people as "neo-baroque," I am looking for an answer to that question. "How does my city make me feel"? Sadly enough, through no fault of its own, it makes me feel as if it were not mine any more.
One of many "new" residential buildings in Skopje,
quite similar to those going up in many parts of NYC.
Photo courtesy of Meglena Visinska.
Part of the older section of Skopje that will soon be gone due
to new construction geared to giving the city a more modern look.
Photo by Matej Bogdanovski.
Center of Skopje, photo courtesy of Meglena Visinska.
Photo courtesy of Matej Bogdanovski.

One of many areas awaiting a construction plan,
in which something many citizen felt connected to is now gone,
so to become part of the "new" Skopje. In the distance is one
of many new statues for the "Skopje 2014" project, awash many think,
in nationalism. Photo courtesy of Meglena Visinska
A postcard of Skopje, most likely when it was apart of Yugoslavia.
Image courtesy of Matej Bogdanovski. 
If you would like to know more, go to:www.studiophoenix.blogspot.com/2011/11/see-it-now-skopje-in-autumn-blues.html, or:www.balkaninsight.com/en/gallery/skopje-2014www.cnn.com/2011/10/04/world/europe/macedonia-skopje-2014/index.html. "Art is the reason, art is the way"

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