Byzantine, Brutal, Baroque: The Insane Architecture of Skopje

When I visited Skopje back in 2013, I was left in awe of the city’s architecture. It seemed to illustrate three main phases of Macedonia’s history, and so when I come to write this post I felt it would be fun to play with that angle – let the buildings tell a potted overview of the nation’s story.

The first of those phases dates back to Byzantine rule in Macedonia, merging into the arrival of the Ottoman Empire. From this period, the city still features a number of prominent mosques, towers, and the old castle walls that rise on a hill above the centre.

During the 1960-70s – when Skopje served as an autonomous provincial capital within Yugoslavia – the city saw the creation of a whole new urban centre. These buildings were largely brutalist in style, and they’re honestly some of the best examples of the style I’ve ever encountered. Really striking shapes, crazy details and designs that manage to do things with concrete that I’ve simply never seen anywhere else.

Sadly, they’re no longer deemed fashionable by the Macedonian government – who are in the midst of a massive redevelopment project to either tear these buildings down, or cover them up with gaudy post-modernist facades. They’re adopting a kind of faux-baroque style for the city, as if attempting to rebrand and rewrite their own physical history.

Given the issues that neighbouring countries have long had with Macedonia’s appropriation of historical figures, facts and styles, this should give me plenty to write about as I draw parallels between architecture and history.

 
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