Skopje is a City which has undergone a series of traumatic transformations – both as a result of the devastating earthquake 50 years ago (and the subsequent partial implementation of the competition-winning Kenzo Tange masterplan), the socio-political changes at the beginning of the 1990’s, and the more recent interventions that define the project known as Skopje 2014′. All of these events in the city’s recent past have left gaps and scars and have resulted in a multi-layered and fragmented city. The centuries old city bears witness to its varied influences and cultural heritage, all of which contribute to a rich and vibrant urban culture, which was further enriched by the varied stages of its recent history in the 20th century.
The city is fast losing its sense of identity: numerous buildings are being replaced or transformed beyond recognition; entire quarters are becoming unrecognizable; the city’s rich modernist heritage has become an endangered species. Architecture as an authentic reflection of cultural value is under threat; important listed, modernist buildings are being de-listed and altered, and a sense of loss and powerlessness is ever-present. In these times, there is the need – more than ever before – to unearth, document, gather and collect what has been said and written about the city. Research and documenta- tion of the disappearing city is of absolute significance. What has already been studied needs to be documented and shared, made available for discussion and debate, and evaluated. Critique, and self-critique, is essential for the sanity of both the creative individual and the collective, wider society of which we are a part.
Archives exist but are not always easily accessible. New research is less evident and generally inaccessible in libraries and bookstores, not to mention public archives.. Yet a great deal of thinking, writing, drawing and research about the city, is taking place all the time. What is needed is a platform for this work to emerge and where cultural exchange can take place. An ‘Alternative Archive’ is such a place. It is imagined as an Open Archive where all are welcome to contribute, at first towards an exhibition and growing archive – and ultimately towards an encyclopedic book, or a ‘book series’ on the urban culture of the city.
The ‘Open Call’ for contributions is open to all citizens, and not just to architects and urbanists, but to artists and writers whose work has been informed or inspired by the city and the life within it. The ‘Open Call’ for contributions is open to all citizens – also to those who do not necessary belong to the cultural or intellectual circles, but who may nevertheless have developed a particular independent interest, formed a specific collection of books, photographs, maps or postcards – or simply developed a love for their city which alights their continuous curiosity and desire to participate in a public debate and/or public arts project which deals with the city and its complexities. Their insights can serve those of us dedicated to working with and contributing directly to the physical form of the city (architects, urbanists, etc) in one form or another.