October 16, 2014

Skopje Architecture at the ETH Zürich

To rebuilt the city of Skopje after the devastating earthquake of 1963 , a masterplan was made by Kenzo Tange.  The plan which was supported by the United Nations, was executed by local architects like Janko Konstantinov and was partly completed by 1980.
Tange’s master plan included urban planning and architectural design, a big scale composition with axis, city walls and gate situations was put over the little city on the Vardar river. Tange effort was to create symbols for the new Skopje. Being part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia made the project possible, also because the land was not mainly private properties  and so the big scale master plan could be implemented.

The first time I noticed the rich architectural examples in Skopje was when I wrote this post back in 2010. Then in 2011 I finally managed to visit the city and put my impressions of dissapointment down in this post. I loved Skopje but was really worried how the actual Macedonian government tries to transform the city in a historic capital with roots in  antiquity of period of Alexander the Great. 
Why couldn’t Kenzo Tange’s masterplan serve as base for the future of the city? It was a bit far from the traditional Macedonian legacy but blessed the city with a lot of attention an great buildings. 
Now the political attempt to rewrite Macedonian history throughout architecture is doing more harm than good and a lot of citizens do not support this development.
On the other hand, how can a plan of an architect used to cities like Tokyo (wich has a density of about 15'000 inhabitants per km2) be transfered to a city like Skopje (wich has a density of about 950 inhabitants per km2)?

The Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture of the ETH Zürich (In collaboration with Damjan Kokalevski, a doctoral student at the ETH Zurich and the Museum of the City of Skopje) discusses urban reconstruction on the example of Skopje and is holding an exhibition on the subject until october 31st.

Calling it a performative Archive, the exhibition shows models, study books, plans and photographs which provide a rich historical testimony and is used as site for academic exchange. The dialog is not only about the masterplan and urban planning but also about how to approach, like in that case, precarious archives.

Comparing old pictures and today's we see that Tange's visions didn't fit much into the city development, the economic and political situation didn't support the reality for hundreds of 80 meter-highrise buildings and generous park avenues.

The reality goes toward a historical retro thing..that is equaly difficult to understand (picture from skyscrapercity.com)

Skopje 2014: The new archeological Museum along the Vardar river 

And here two links I reccomend:

Great pictures of great buildings of Skopje (including indoor shots) can be found on Peter Sägesser’s website:

There's a pdf of Kenzo Tange, Skopje urban plan, in “The Japan Architect”, n. 130, May 1967. If you like to get this file send an email to nothingagainstserbia (at) gmail.com and I will mail it to you.

March 24, 2014

Belgrade - NATO Bombing Trail

From March 24, 1999 to June 10, 1999 NATO's military operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War left marks in the Serbian capital.
It's easy to forget, that not so much time ago, the beautiful country of Serbia was bombed, but the idelible signs of destruction are still there like memorials!

Years ago I made a guide to visit the NATO-destruction-sites around Belgrade and to commemorate this sad chapter of European history, I share the link again!

a page from the NATO bombing trail guide
There is a description to every bombed building (like here USCE tower)  

Other posts to NATO bombing:
10 years from the NATO agression: http://sajkaca.blogspot.ch/2009/02/not-to-forget-nato-agression-against.html
Diaries from NATO bombed Serbia:
Bombed buildings:
Avala Tower
Museum of modern art
USCE tower
Hotel Jugoslavija
Ministry of defence
Air force head quarter

March 14, 2014

Architecture in Presov, Eastern Slovakia

The last stop on my little itinerary through Eastern Europe that started in Prague (Soviet Style Architecture in Prague), then went to Brno (Brno Architecture) , Ostrava (Socialist Realism in Ostrava), Krakow (Brutalist architecture and soc realism in Krakow) and Zakopane (Zakopane Style Architecture) was Presov, an interesting town in Eastern Slovakia.

The city is a showcase of Baroque, Rococo and Gothic architecture. In the historical center, the main street is lined with churches and other buildings built in various historical styles. 
Presov, eastern slovakia, old town
Historical buildings in Presov old town
In the suburbs, however, the Soviet influence is clearly evident through the massive concrete panel buildings (paneláky) of the housing estates (sídliska) most of all in the Sekčov district. 

A pretty good example of Soviet-style architecture in the center of Presov is the impressive government building with its monumental park.

The fountain has seen better times but the viewer can immagine what a spectacle it might have been.
The fountain offers interesting views from different angels

The park side facade is composed following the typical features of Socialist Classicism

The Street side facade with access control :-)
This fountain in the city center is another tribute to the socialist era
Presov, instead of removing any memorials to do with Russia, decided to keep theirs as the 40 years of communism was part of their history.
Bosakova Bank (picture source)
Near the historical center there is a stunning Art Nouveau building designed by Engineer V. Glasz around 1923. The name Bosakova Bank was a tribute to Michal Bosak (1869-1937) a Slovak expat that became an important banker in the U.S.

Renaissance House Sigismund Rákóczi (picture source)
The The Rákóczi palace is one of the rebuilt houses from the main street in Renaissance style. Today a musesum is lokated inside.

Presov is worth a trip, so here are some useful links:
Pictures on Panoramio

February 21, 2014

Zakopane Style Architecture in the Carpathian Mountains

In the South of Poland there is a picturesque highland region known as Podhale, the beginning of the Carpathian Mountains. I made a stop in the touristy town of Zakopane, a place that  since the mid 19th century is a rising resort area. What is special regarding architecture, is a particular building style called Zakopane Style or Witkiewicz Style architecture. 

 When the place began to become a mountain resort the swiss chalet- or austro-hungarian alp-style where common for cabins and villas.
Until Stanislaw Witkiewicz, an art critic, architect, painter, novelist and journalist, was chosen to design a villa for Zygmunt Gnatowski around 1892. In his plans, Witkiewicz decided against using these foreing building styles and instead chose to utilize the local traditions used by the native people of the region (the Górals) and their modest but richly decorated houses, incorporating selected elements of Art Nouveau. 

This building is now known as Villa Koliba (Koscieliska Street in Zakopane) and is now a museum of the Zakopane Style of Architecture.

Today even new villas and hotels are built in this style and give the area that special atmosphere.

More works by Stanislaw Witkiewicz

"Dom pod Jedlami" in Koziniec
"Dom pod Jedlami" in Koziniec (picture source)

"Dom pod Jedlami" in Koziniec
Villa "Oksza" Zamojski Street in Zakopane
Church of the Holy Family on Krupówki Street inZakopane
Korniłowicz family chapel in Bystre

 Stanislaw Witkiewicz once wrote on the idea of the Zakopane style:

"The idea was not to build yet one more beautiful, typical house. The focus was something else entirely: to build a home which would settle all existing doubts about the possibility of adapting folk architecture to the requirements deriving from the more complex and sophisticated needs of comfort and beauty. To design a home that would inherently withstand all common grievances and undermine all customary prejudices. To erect a house that would prove that one can have a home, a dwelling in the dominant style of Zakopane and yet be confident that this home will not disintegrate, that it will effectively protect one from storms, gales and the cold, that it will possess the full range of comforts yet simultaneously be beautiful in a fundamentally Polish way."
The Zakopane Style soon found proponents among other outstanding architects, including Jan Witkiewicz-Koszyc, Wladyslaw Matlakowski, and Walery Eliasz-Radzikowski.

A beautiful example of Zakopane Style (picture source)
This is the fifth post of my little itinerary through Eastern Europe Prague-Brno-Ostrava-Krakow-Zakopane-Presov-Beograd. 
First post: Soviet Style Architecture in Prague
Second post: Brno Architecture 

Third post: Socialist Realism in Ostrava
Forth post:  Brutalist architecture and soc realism in Krakow 

February 9, 2014

Brutalist Architecture and Soc Realism in Krakow

Krakow is full of great historical architecture, no question. what I show in this post however are interesting brutalist (as in beton brut) building and what is left of the soc realist Nowa Huta district.

Szkieletor or NOT Tower in Krakow

Rising high over the Rondo Mogilskie (K-2) is one of Krakow’s biggest blemishes and its most overt reminder of the follies of communism. Officially named NOT Tower, but known locally as Szkieletor (from the Polish word for ‘skeleton’), this 22 storey bare beams structure ranks as the tallest building in the city, standing unfinished and unoccupied for over a quarter century. 
Originally designed in 1968 to serve as a congress hall and office block, work began in 1975 with local authorities pressuring architects to make it as tall as possible. Another eight floors were hastily added to the original blueprint, with a TV studio, hotel and panoramic terrace all part of the master plan. Alas, Poland’s economic crisis hit soon after and all work on it was abandoned in 1979, never to be resumed. 
Today the 91m tower stands fenced off from the public, a ghostly reminder of the golden dawn promised by the nation’s leaders. Over the years shoddy construction work has made the tower a crumbling death trap, and despite ownership changing hands numerous times, no one has taken on the expense of doing anything more with it than making it available for large advertisements.
(from In your Pocket guide Krakow)
How the tower looked before it was covered with billboards (picture source)

Hotel Forum
Address: Marii Konopnickiej 28

This enormous concrete-building (build from 1978, the opening took place only in 1989) is one of the most futuristic buildings in Krakow.(picture source)

From In Your pocket guide:  Awarded four stars, the hotel featured perks unknown in 80s Krakow: air-conditioned rooms, an outdoor electronic clock with temperature displays, swimming pool, mini golf and casino. Having passed from the Orbis brand to the Sofitel in 2001 the hotel was closed at the end of 2002, apparently because of a construction fault that led to frequent flooding of the basements. Today the vacant building is owned by the Wawel-Imos group, and though its future is uncertain it presently makes a handsome living as Poland’s longest billboard, while lending its former reception area to one of Kraków's trendiest bars (Forum Przestrzenie), and its parking lot to a go-cart track.(picture source)

How the Hotel looked when it was at it's best! (picture source)

Central Square (Plac Centralny) in Nowa Huta

With the propaganda architecture and social realist art of the 1950s and 60s the Central Square in Nowa Huta is placed on the list of cultural heritage.
Nova Huta, a town in the vicinity of Krakow, was a good example of Communism in Poland in the years 1950-1989.The Government forced Stalinist monumentalism and the doctrine of Socialist Realism. It involved all domains of art, but its most spectacular achievements were made in the field of urban design and Architecture as weapon in establishing the new social order by the communists. The ideological impact of urban design was valued more than aesthetics. It aimed at expressing communist ideas and to arouse a feeling of persistence and power. This form of architecture was implemented in the new industrial district of Nowa Huta, full of huge apartment buildings constructed according to a Stalinist blueprint, with repetitious courtyards and wide, tree-lined avenues.

old picture of the Central Place and avenue of Roses (picture source)

Nowa Huta's central Avenue of Roses featured a countrywide known statue of Vladimir Lenin unveiled on April 28, 1973. The bronze monument was pulled down in 1989 by the city, as a result of numerous protest actions by local citizens. Several thousand onlookers came to watch the dismantling. Then communist names of Street and Places where changed, also the Central Place changed its name into Ronald Reagan Place.

The Solidarity Monument in Nowa Huta

In the 1980s Nowa Huta became a place of many demonstrations and violent street protests of the Solidarity movement, fought by the police. At that time, almost 29,000 of the 38,000 workers of the then Lenin's Steelworks belonged to the Trade Union "Solidarity".

Tadeusz Sendzimir Steelworks in Nowa Huta

This Steelwork facility is the second largest steel plant in Poland since 1954.

During the Communist rule, the plant was called Vladimir Lenin Steelworks. The name was changed in 1990, following the collapse of communism, and the factory was renamed to commemorate the scientist and engineer Tadeusz Sendzimir. In its heyday – in the 1970s – the plant employed around 40,000 people and annually produced almost 7 million tons of steel. In the 1980s, it was one of the most important centers of anticommunist resistance, with numerous strikes and street demonstrations. 

old picture of the steel work (picture source)

The Steel Facility today

Krakow Center
A brutalist Building with 3D-effect facade near the historical center

The Main Market Square in Krakow with its historical architecture

The Cloth Hall has a nice souvenir gallery in the ground floor
Historical Bridge in the City Center
Who's interested in taking a architecture tour visiting communist architecture in Nowa Huta (it's not a Communist Glorification Tour!) will find some tour opportunities on this site:
www.seekrakow.com (http://www.seekrakow.com/communism-basic/#

This is the forth post of my little itinerary through Eastern Europe Prague-Brno-Ostrava-Krakow-Zakopane-Presov-Beograd.
First post: Soviet Style Architecture in Prague
Second post:Brno Architecture 

Third Post: Socialist Realism in Ostrava