a project for the Macedonian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2018

authors: Vlado Danailov, Mila Dimitrovska, Gordan Vitevski

The process of opening is most directly freeing.  Unbolting doors and windows, stuffy air is freed from any room. In cities where the air breeze is clean and fresh we feel more pleasant. Opening assumes removing a barrier so that some hidden insideness becomes available. Although it may sound freeing, we are not always ready to glance and see what lies hidden inside. Opening means broadening and getting a new spatial dimension. Yet, the act of opening might be really disturbing. Especially when it comes to delicate themes and spaces which were aggressively suppressed and imprisoned, sealed from all sides with no discussion, no conversation, not a single bit of respect.

In 2011, one year before closing the building of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, the film “The Skin I Live In”[1] was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The incredible story reveals a person who for several years does not live in his own skin, but despite all the traumatic transformations, he does not give up his own truth. Does the building designed by Mulichkovski gave up its truth? How does the imposed skin communicate with the building from within and in what way is the monstrous, grotesque intervention reflected on the environment, in the ideas and in the conversations about the modern city? What is a government building in this century? To what extent can we negotiate the border between the free and the controlled space? Usually, the public space around government buildings is controlled and empty, cold, filled with invisible tension in the air. How to open and free the captured building (and space) so that all concerned, all the citizens, are not to be exposed to a new trauma?

The government building, originally built as a Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, in a way depicts an idea of ​​openness and freedom. Through a partly free plinth above the ground and along the quay of Vardar, the ground floor is recessed reflecting the shadows of hanging volumes instead of a facade. Re-examining the very ground floor, is it possible to imagine a new scenario, with a liberated, civic ground floor, open with pervasive views to the river and the park? Thinking about the public space of the government as an integral and inseparable part of the city, it is necessary to negotiate between the physical, symbolic and program-spatial characters of the two: the holders of executive power and / vs. the civic nature of the park.

The aim of this project is to celebrate the process of opening and freeing, instead of offering a two-dimensional final solution that would answer the repetitive banal question: What to do with the government’s façade? Placing a scaffolding around the building is a spatial gesture that protects the “skin” in which the building is captured. Moreover, it emphasizes the meaning of the public space which derives from the conflict of opposites and the uneasy closeness in which these opposites persist. The act of closure was quick and invisible, indecent, in contrast to the opening conceived as a public process of slow and transparent dismantling of the superficial layers. A process open to all citizens, completely honest to its environment, prudently oriented toward the creation of spatial values.

[1]  La Piel Que Habito (original title), movie produced by Agustín Almodóvar, Pedro Almodóvar and Esther García, written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar, premiered on 19 May 2011 at Cannes Film Festival.