SIA Gallery, Skopje, Macedonia
Project by Nada Prlja (artist) and Daniel Serafimovski (architect)
As capital cities of two comparably sized countries (both former republics of Yugoslavia), Skopje and Ljubljana suffered severe earthquakes in the 20th century and have undergone complete transformations in the process of their reconstruction. Important architects and urban planners (Jože Plečnik in Ljubljana and Kenzo Tange in Skopje) have played a significant role in the cities’ renovation and reconfigurations. Within this context, in the immediate aftermath of WW2, Edward Ravnikar, one of the most important Slovenian architects, designed the Faculty of Philosophy and Natural Sciences, now PMF (the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, built between 1949-51) in the district of Gazi Baba in Skopje. Intended as the first of a series of several buildings within the campus of the newly created University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje, but now a solitary figure positioned on the top of the hill, PMF is a genuinely monumental work, which remains undiscovered and largely unknown.
Later on, other Slovenian architects were to play an important role in Skopje, with the realization of two competition-winning projects from the time of Yugoslavia: MOB (the Macedonian Opera and Ballet, built between 1971-80) by the architectural studio Biro 71 and UKIM (the University Centre of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, built between 1974-78) byAtelier Marko Mušič. These ambitious projects defined large scale building ensembles and city-like structures that, despite remaining incomplete have, since their realisation, become symbols of Skopje as a Modernist city and a part of the collective memory of its citizens. These radical modernist buildings, with their clarity of architectural thought could be seen as ‘heroic’ as the result of their intended scale and the idealist vision of the future city that they represented. Yet they remain incomplete works, that have contributed to the reading of Skopje as a fragmented and ‘unfinished’ city – a collection of isolated, individual urban artefacts now destined to varying degrees of oblivion.
An ‘Archeology’ of Modernism
The exhibition HEROES FOR ONE DAY re-visits and re-evaluates the architectural, urban and social significance of these three buildings and their wider (and ever-changing) context. The exhibition builds on previous research – the original drawings models by the architects (Ravnikar, Biro 71, Atelier Music), photographs (Blazhev, Gale) architectural drawings and research (Deskov/Ivanovski/Ivanovska-Deskova), combined with new material, such as models (Guleski, SIA) and essays (Bakalcev, Korobar, Ivanovska-Deskova, Stajn) that provide new interpretations of the three urban artefacts. This process of research and documentation, a form of ‘archeology of modernism’, includes a series of new drawings of each building (Serafimovski/Gallery SIA), providing a comparative study of the intended scope of the projects as ideas, the reality of the built works and their destiny within the context of the current/future reality of the city. The buildings have also been extensively re-photographed (Tilić/Serafimovski) and a series of art works (Čalovski, Perčinkov, Petrovski, Prokopiev, Uzunovski) have been included in order to reflect on the relevance of the city’s modernist heritage and the modernist vision, as a much needed alternative to the contemporary reality of Skopje.
HEROES FOR ONE DAY represents a dialogue with the modernism of the past – for another day in Skopje.
Initiators and creative directors of the exhibition and related publication, are architect Daniel Serafimovski and artist Nada Prlja, founders of the independent Cultural Agency and Gallery SIA in Skopje. The exhibition has been made possible by the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Skopje and MOB, the Macedonian Opera and Ballet. The exhibition is part of the celebrations of the Slovenian National day and of 25 years of Slovenia’s independence – and is also within the framework of the cultural festival Skopsko Leto, 2016.
All images by: Andrijana Tilić
Past exhibition – Nikola Uzunovski