Skopje, after the earthquake

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The year of 1963 is a turning point in the modern history of the Macedonian capital Skopje. This year, at 5:20 in the morning of the 26th of July, an earthquake that was a 6.1 magnitude hit Skopje. The disaster killed over 1,070 people, injured between 3,000 and 4,000, and left more than 200,000 people homeless. About 80 percent of the city was destroyed.

How to continue further?

This was the question that most of the Skopje people had in their minds. The world came together and helped Skopje to raise from dust to shine again like it once did. Within days after the earthquake took place, 35 nations requested that the United Nations General Assembly place relief for Skopje on their list of agendas. Relief, in the form of money, medical, engineering and building teams and supplies was offered from 78 countries. Years of helping and hard work created a city of solidarity. Skopje was the modern icon of a city holding the newest trends and ideas in architecture. An open call for an urbanistic solution brought the famous Architect Kenzo Tange to create a master plan of Skopje and a good part of which was allowed to be executed.

The rebuilding of Skopje was largely completed by 1980. The main elements of the Master Plan were realized on the ground, creating a new city that is today spacious and generally well-organized. The earthquake itself is a distant memory, and there are few surviving signs of it.

The Master Plan was a creature of its time. Architect-planners of the modern movement had confidence in their role of remaking the postwar world and worked with the state rather than with the people. Public participation for the public was limited to being allowed to view the scale model of the new city when the planners had finished it.

The modern city of solidarity was the label for Skopje up until the political disaster of a project Sk2014. Many of the modern buildings got destroyed and covered with a fake baroque facade.

In the Museum of the City of Skopje, you can visit the permanent exhibition of the history of Skopje, from the first recorded settlements around 3000 BC to present. This object was also partly destroyed in the earthquake and the clock that is on the facade is stuck on the time when the earthquake occurred: 5:20. One mayor once promised that he will fix the clock on the facade. Thank god that some politicians have the habit of just promising!

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The author

Zlata Golaboska

Zlata Golaboska

I am Zlata and I am an architect living in the Balkans. I am passionate about cities, how people influence architecture and vice versa, and how places change our lives.

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