Master Plan

Yane Calovski

Taking into account that the mid-60s were a time of social and political prosperity of the Yugoslav model of idealism, where Tito’s ideology of strengthening the distinctiveness of individual nationalities was fully applied, the Skopje Urban Plan Project was a chance for the international community to become aware of the distinctiveness of the Macedonian national identity and especially of Skopje, “a functioning urban organism that was for the moment dead on its feet”.

The United Nations Special Fund, as well as the architects invited on the project, were able to navigate themselves through the intricate social and ideological relationships existing among the citizens of Skopje, their use and appropriation of space, history, modernity, as well as the potential for the future development of the idea of “society of citizens and forms”.  While Tange’s entry presented the basis of a “stage development plan”, in the immediate years that followed the city officials and the local team of experts that worked on the master plan changed and distorted the plan beyond the author’s recognition. 


The story of the Skopje Urban Plan Project is long and complex, and has been analyzed, discussed, observed and interpreted by art and architecture historians, architects, artists, urban planners, sociologists, environmentalists, politicians, and students over the years, with everyone always searching for a clue as to what went on and what went wrong. The mystery of how we ended up with an unremarkable result after so much international input and solidarity has inspired a great number of hypotheses and scenarios.

Contemporary Skopje could be seen as a result of a series of political decisions that had nothing to do with the architectural vision of Kenzo Tange, Skopje today, if anything, is an arena for the continuing power struggle among the local and national political entities. The value of intimate treatment of the inner city core, the integration of the left and the right banks of the Vardar river, the incorporation of the historic structures in the post-modernist tradition as suggested in the model by Tange, has been replaced by ideas that are neither convincing nor justified by any other standard than the standard of those on power. Yet sadly, the average citizen of Skopje could still be heard blaming that “Japanese” driven by ambition, who had mistaken a city for a video game.

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