Workshop report: Skopje Brutalism Trail

The workshop Skopje Brutalisam Trail was held at the Faculty of Architecture, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje from 28thto 30th of September. The theme of the workshop refers to the Brutalist architecture in Skopje, important legacy that represents the act of world solidarity in rebuilding the city after the catastrophic earthquake in 1963.

Over the years most of these buildings are endangered, eighter by the natural processes of decay, or inappropriate additions or transformations done for pure functional reasons. Moreover, in the case of Skopje, Brutalist architecture has been entailed negative connotation from the ideological legacies and therefore intentionally has been neglected or even obstructed by general public especially guided by the conservative governments.

Fig. 1-Visit to Macedonian Opera and Ballet

Skopje workshop aims to understand and valorize specificities of this architectural legacy and to re-establish its lost social and cultural values in the everyday life. In particular, the workshop focuses on one brutalist building, community center, colloquially referred to as ‘Domche’ (diminutive form of the noun ‘dom’, meaning ‘home’). This small-scale architecture, situated in residential neighborhood in the east part of the city, remains out of use for almost thirty years, hidden in the urban tissue but still present in the memories of the local inhabitants. It has been of high interest to private developers to turn the site into another housing development, but due to ownership issues the site is currently entangled in long legal procedures.

Fig. 2– visit to Student Dormitory Goce Delchev

The COST Action workshop adds to ongoing research by a group of local artists and architects- activists that work by means of public performances as action to provoke, educate and raise public awareness about the importance of this building, fighting against plans to demolish it and thus erase its social, cultural and architectural value. Therefore, the aim of the workshop was to explore the meaningfulness of architecture in relation to cultural production of urban space.

Skopje Brutalisam Trail lasted three days and included 32 participants: 22 COST members coming from 10 different countries, 5 local cost members, as well as 3 guest-members and 10 local students and young researchers.

Fig. 3– Performance I am building. Building as the main role at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje

The first day started with welcoming note followed by a lecture entitled Skopje Brutalism. Understanding Solidarity by Blagoja Bajkovski and Ana Rafailovska. Afterwards, the participants went on a guided bus-tour through Skopje and visited five distinctive buildings representing Skopje Brutalism (University complex Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Macedonian Opera and Ballet, Hydrometeorological Center, Skopje City Archive, Student Dormitory Goce Delchev). The first day was concluded at MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) with two activities: a lecture on Co-creation of Solidarity and Community by Aleksandar Stanicic and a short presentation by each participant of the workshop. Prior to their arrival in Skopje all of the participants prepared poster and short video about a building from the places they were coming from. The presentation was a small performance entitled I am building. Building as the main role, where each participant spoke on behalf of the building they had chosen.

Fig. 4-Visit to Domche

The second day started with a presentation by Filip Jovanovski about the method Reading Buildings that translates theatre making protocols into a performance in actual urban context. Later, all participants were divided and worked in three separate groups mentored by one of the guest-members: Filip Jovanovski(FR/U, AKTO Skopje),Miodrag Kuc(Z/KU, Berlin) and Boris Bakal(ShadowCasters, Zagreb).

During the day the participants visited Domche and met with representatives of the local community, interviewed citizens from the neighbourhood or collected artefacts from the site. Upon that, they started writing stories that combine narration with acting/performing.

Fig. 5– Collected artefacts from Domche

Fig. 6– Work in groups

The third day was dedicated to adapting the findings and the writings for the purposes of a public performance. The intensive, creative and productive experience culminated with the performance that took place in the yard of the Faculty of Architecture in Skopje where a scaffolding installation was constructed insinuating a part of Domche’s inner space.

The outcome was a theatrical performance in three acts (accordingly the number of working groups) and showed three general approaches in telling Domche-stories: the first act was a story of far-away buildings, in relation to the first task I am building. Building as a leading role where the buildings speak as distant relatives of Domche; the second act told stories inspired by Domche in different languages-spoken by the participants of this working group (narrations in form of poem, short story, or script); whereas the third act told Domche-stories through artefacts found on site and transferred the whole event in an auction where the audience took direct participation in the play/the Domche scenario.

Public performance at the yard of the Faculty of Architecture, Skopje

Public performance at the yard of the Faculty of Architecture, Skopje

This Fieldwork event was made possible by the local organisers Mano Velevska, Slobodan Velevski and Blagoja Bajkovski.

Check for more impressions also the following YouTUbe links:

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