The project for reconstruction of the city of Skopje represented the occasion for world architects and urban planners to accomplish a truly world project, the universal project promoting the universal values of humanity achieved through the tools and instruments of architecture and international collaboration. The Skopje project demonstrated the importance of architecture as a collaborative effort in the divided world promoting the belief that the construction of the human habitat is a humane way to solve socio-political and economic obstacles of the contemporary world.
Following this idea a number of world architects were invited in Skopje, including Kenzo Tange from Japan, Jaap Bakema, and Van den Broek from Holland and Constantin Doxiadis from Greece, to contribute to this effort with their ideas, plans, and designs. The reconstruction of Skopje was a great opportunity to demonstrate the real potential of Tanges’ Metabolist architecture, Bakema’s Open Society, and Doxiadis’s Ekistics theory. They shared the belief that cities and societies can be designed and reconstructed through ideas and concepts that are inherent to architecture and urban design and are deeply humanistic. However, almost fifty-five years after the adoption of Kenzo Tange’s plan for the center of Skopje, the legacy of this international project led by the UN remains relatively unappreciated. It was anticipated that once the reconstruction would be completed, and given the engagement of such eminent designers, the city would provide solutions to the contemporary “urban crisis”, would prescribe a cure for the “sick cities”, and show the way for the “humanization” of the built environment. Even though mostly unattained, these ambitious goals gave life to an international debate about the future of both cities and planning. Revisiting the idea of the power of architecture and urban design as the drivers of reconstruction of the societies and cities and bringing upfront the ideas that are inherently architectural is in the core of the Skopje Project Symposium.
What if the reconstruction of Skopje happened today? What if, in the aftermath of the catastrophic disaster, the same unilateral call to solidarity occurred and the entire world came together in support of the city? What if leadership insisted on using this catastrophe as an opportunity to find new models for economic, infrastructural, political, and urban reconstruction? If that happened, what would architects, planners, policymakers, economists, sociologists, and other committed participants to reconstruction identify as the most pressing obstacles blocking a city from achieving recovery, unity, equity, and freedom? Based on the assumption that the fundamental ambition of the city is to enable freedom for its citizens, we ask for each writer to submit a statement that defines the contemporary obstacles we must overcome in order to enable freedom for the citizens of a city.