Zivko Popovski

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Skopje, an urbanscape of “temporary buildings”

Macedonian Philharmonics

December 21, 2017 Comments (0) Views: 425 Skopje, Virtual Memoirs

The new building of the Macedonian Philharmonics in Skopje

The overwhelming shades of grey of the entire structure of the new building of the Macedonian Philharmonics in Skopje just fit the general tone of this city in the recent years, a city which has assuredly suffered a significant loss of its green surfaces at the cost of parking lots and other urban development. On the outside, the roof of the Philharmonics may look like nothing but big giant metallic boobs. On the inside, things seem to be way more decent.

Inside the edifice, the shades of grey are slightly distorted by white ceilings, unruly geometric forms and sections that pop up from here and there, and a big Christmas tree set for the season. Aside from the Christmas tree, there are also few other fancy trees, as high as perhaps two floors, breaking the monochrome. Visitors can get a warmer feeling only when inside any of the two concert halls. There is the main one that accommodates up to thousands of guests, and a smaller one, that is only a third of its larger counterpart.

Life seems to be going on as usually ever after the controversial opening of this new venue, which took place earlier in 2017, in May, when the former prime minister, was notably late for more than just a dozen of minutes for the first ever scheduled concert in the new hall. Everyone had to wait for him as if he was Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth coming, though she is not quite remembered for being late anywhere.

The old venue that accommodated the Philharmonics, and everyone interested in classical music, was situated in the Army Dome, a worn-out modernist building, lurking hidden in the darkness, just behind the mess-of-a-memorial Mother Theresa house, popping up on the main street Macedonia in Skopje. While the old venue had a hint of Yugoslavia in its ether, and unusual warmth that can be only gained if a building has an extensive history of events behind, that is far from the feeling that one can get when entering the new concert halls.

First, there is the peculiar choice of colors for the chairs, with rows having either pink or lilac ones. Then, there is the subtly plastic feeling of the walls, which inside both the concert halls, are set to imitate wood but it doesn’t seem to be real wood. One advantage though, especially in the case of the main concert hall, there is much more room, and better lighting, unlike the old venue. Back in the Army Dome, the scene appeared slightly dim, especially if sitting in the back rows.

Whether one is determined to find errors in planning, you can’t miss some. An obvious one can be spotted in the smaller hall, or as one concert-goer on Thursday has commented, there is something like a counter that raises from the left entrance door to the hall and obstructs the view of at least one guest. And it is certainly not a pleasant feeling to be precisely that guest, who has purchased a ticket like anybody else and gets to have a seat with an obstructed view of the scene.

Judging the acoustics of the venue, it seems as good as the old one, or maybe even better, with many people having had already commented that the sound is now better in the new concert halls.

The controversies of the construction of the new venue for the Macedonian Philharmonics, at least for a moment, seemed to have stopped, though the costs for the building have well surpassed the initially set sum of six million euros, to supposedly some 37 million euros. That is the same case as almost any other building that got erected in the Macedonian capital within the controversial Skopje 2014 project.

Whether you doubt the music program, better don’t. The schedule of the Macedonian Philharmonics remains to be on the good go, just as it was in the old venue.

Have you attended a concert in the new Philharmonics building? Share your impressions in the comments below:


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