In with the New: The Skopje 2014 Project

Skopje’s got construction fever, there’s no denying it. Statues and monuments have sprouted up like weeds in the city’s parks, and the banks of the Vardar River have been given over to glorious new museums and government buildings. It’s all part of Skopje 2014, an ambitious urban revival project.

We had the misfortune of arriving in Skopje in the summer of 2014, shortly before the project reached its culmination… catching the city in front of the mirror, hastily applying the final touches of makeup. Most of Skopje’s main square was still a construction site, and some buildings along the Vardar weren’t quite complete, including the stately new Archaeological Museum. But while it would have been nice to see the finished product, it was interesting to watch the city in the process of transformation.

From the outset, Skopje 2014 has been controversial, roundly criticized by a wide array of groups. Albanians and other ethnic minorities felt excluded from the celebration of Macedonian culture. Architects deemed much of the new work “kitsch.” Greeks were outraged over the heroic (and deliberately provocative) statues of Alexander the Great and Phillip II, heroes whom they claim Macedonia is trying to appropriate. And pragmatists balked at the project’s price tag, which was estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of euros.

From a purely aesthetic point-of-view, we’re on the fence in regards to Skopje’s newest additions. Some of the new buildings and statues are nice, while others are… curious. We love the massive statues in the main plazas, for example, and think the neoclassical museums should age well. But near the main plaza, there’s a copy of the Arc de Triomphe, which is straight-up bizarre. And it’s far from the only head-scratcher.

Skopje 2014 might be expensive, controversial, and of questionable taste, but its sheer scale is undeniably impressive. This is clearly a city intent on improving itself, and the project’s very existence bodes well for Skopje’s future.

We Rented Our Apartment Here from Skopje Apartments!

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. joel jason

    Sorry to say, but to my eyes much of the city looks gaudy and fake; quite Disneyesque.

    1. Magdalena

      @Joel, you can’t say that until you’ve seen it with your own eyes, in front of you, not like this. Everything that’s been built represents our history, and is part of who we are as a country and as a nation. Saying that this is fake would be the same as saying that London’s Big Ban or LA’s Hollywood Hill are fake. Huge part of these new buildings stand in the place of old ones, destroyed by the terrifying earthquake that struck Skopje in 1963 ( you can Google it), leaving the city almost completely ruined, and the monuments represent some of the most important people, places and events. I don’t have a clue what your idea of history and monuments is like, but if everything looks “Disneyesque” to you, than you should reconsider your views on the world.

      1. Petar

        Yes, maybe the buildings represnet our history (I’m not sure about Alexander the Great and Iustinianus though) but the reconstruction of the city and the planning is still Disneyesque. Just a tasteless buch of monuments and other weird stuff.By the way, it’s a fake argument that the goal of the project was to make the city as beautiful as before 1963. We’ve never had those Greek-like buildings in Skopje, nor any other Macedonian city… ever. Other towns have never been destroyed by earthquakes, but I’ve never seen this ¨Macedonian architecture¨ anywhere else. The new Skopje is not us. It’s not our identity.

        1. Lia

          What is our identity Petar?

  2. jan

    At first glance the photo with all the reinforcing bars shooting skyward looked like a multitude of yacht masts.  You do have to love the sheer size of the vision to reconstruct and improve the city.

  3. Lefter

    Hooooow beautiiiiiiiiful!!! And Magdalena has so eloquently put it, all those monuments are Macedonian historic figures and they all belong to  that square kilometer in the center Skopje (not to the towns & places they’re related to) , an they’re there as organic to the ambient as it is Westminster Abbey to London or Sacre Coeur to Paris. And baroque, it is  well known that it is actually invented in Macedonia some 75.000 years ago! And Jan, you’re right , when reconstructing a city it is always best to start from history & art, it is … how should I put it … priceless!

  4. Pinkie Pie

    Reminds me of Washington, DC. 

  5. Rob

    Absolutely love it, can not wait to see the next 20 years for Macedonia!

  6. guest

    As a Macedonian, I am horrified and appalled at this project. Millions of euros spent for this sh*t in a country that is so poor and has high unemployment, corruption, poverty etc. Its a kitsch. I’ve been there, I’ve seen these statues and it is so embarassing. They arent even of good quality. Plus they exaggerate and/or steal parts of other history/aspects, and irritate further our neighbours. The government is full of criminals. The country is at the brink of collapse. It should be ashamed.

    1. Lia

      If you’re  embarrassed of your own country telling and showing its true history. Something is wrong!…. You sound like an agitated typical Greek in an uproar. You should be embarrassed of yourself. Don’t worry, one posiive thing is at least Macedonia isnt in debt, like your neighbor down south.

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