IF BUILDINGS COULD TALK
01.10.2015 – 30.09.2017
– FRU – Faculty of things that can’t be learned, Bitola/ Skopje
– Shadow Casters, Zagreb
– Supervizuelna, Belgrade
THE GENERAL THEME of the project is devastation of public space and social housing communities as a result of rigid agendas of mighty corporations, corrupted national and city governments as well as an ideological urge to clean all traces of previous governing thus obliterating the collective memory and phenomena of certain cities. That is resulting into almost complete disappearance of the concepts of “community”, “communing”, “social owning”, “self-government of reality” thus disuniting the citizens into “strong” individuals not taking care about their own surrounding.
SHORT DESCRIPTION ABOUT THE PROJECT
If buildings could talk (IBCT) is a collaborative project that unfolds the delicate, inner traces of the erasure of collective memory of the local history, exemplifying in through concrete urban spaces (buildings and their surroundings) which are/were landmarks in one city/area. This obliteration leads towards almost unrecognizable change of the local context affecting entire communities and various social strata as well as the overall urban tissue. IBCT attempts to speak creatively and interdisciplinary about local urban problems, sometimes relating to a single building or block – business or for living – in all partner cities. Through detailed analysis of this building/block components, contextualized with its surrounding and historical developments, IBCT relates to the tendencies of (un)solidarity, degradation, (re)newel of reality – showing also which are the conflicts in those buildings/blocks that potentially open ruptures in the general societal structure. The setting of IBCT is cruel and unpredictable period of so-called “transition” which tendentiously cleans all ideological, political, social, cultural and ethical components of the previous period. In a “wild” and naive desire for EU, trying to keep up with the late capitalist economic model, these policies have serious impact on community but also on the everyday life of the individual. Thus, the project – developed in Skopje, Belgrade, Zagreb and their local communities – acts as an envoy towards change of the perception, of thinking and acting, setting up an entire agenda of activities such as a performative game-structures containing the elements of theatre, film, lecture and exposed in public workshops, and walking tours “plays”, taking building as a reference (historical, architectural, political, artistic) point.
The title of the project is inspired by the short documentary film by Wim Wenders, having the same name, and shown on Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010.
The project If buildings could talk (IBCT) is funded by Balkan Arts and Culture Fund BAC. BAC is supported by the Swiss Government through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the European Cultural Foundation (ECF).
ACTIVITIES SO FAR:
ACTIVITY AREA I. Waking up the buildings
I.I. INITIAL RESEARCH of the partners
I.II. WORKING MEETINGS
Two work meetings were realized in this period, according to the schedule of activities.
The first one took place in Belgrade, on 24-25.10.2015, during which the partners determined the agenda for the meeting that would enable activities in the following period. The initial framework of the project was discussed in detail. This included allocation of funds, the criteria of building selection and the methodology to be used, a strategy for media coverage, as well as the outline for following meetings. The partners, although equally engaged in the project, discussed splitting certain responsibilities.
The second meeting took place in Skopje on 18-21.01.2016, during which the partners shared their research. Every partner had worked toward detecting three case studies, later to be chosen from.
The buildings FRU was considering were Zeleznicka building, the Student dormitory Goce Delcev and the building Automakedonija in Skopje. Bacaci Sjenki was considering Klub megjunarodnog prijateljstva, Zagrebacki Paromlin, brick factory Zagorka (Armin Mordekhai Schreiner) I Tvornica Penkala Moster (Penkala-Moster Company) in Zagreb. Supervizuelna was considering complex buildings Belvil, Workers buildings Dorcol (architect Jelisaveta Nacic), Salon MSUB, and restaurant bowery 3 Seljaka.
In accordance with the project agenda, at the end of the meeting FRU chose Zeleznicka building, Supervizuelna decided to go with Belvil, while Bacaci Sjenki decide to research on Tvornica Penkala Moster (Penkala-Moster Company) in Zagreb.
All of the buildings were being considered in terms of relevance to the project goals on one hand, and approachability on the other. All of them were pillars of history, carved with memories of social turmoil, but were slowly decaying. In Skopje, one of the criteria for selection of the Zeleznicka building was the potential the building had as a space valuable for its autenthicity, and in opposition to the government’s brutal employment of kitsch. As described in the project summary we feel that revitalization, contextualization and preservation of authentic spaces is vital for the development of culture.
I.III. METHODOLOGY DEVELOPMENT
Methodology was extensively discussed between the partners, but every partner established their own methodology autonomously.
ADDITIONAL ACTIVITIES – POP UP AKTO FESTIVAL (23-28.09.2016)
– A City for Everyone: Workshop on reading Detailed Urban Plans
(a project by Freedom Square, with the support of Heinrich Böll Stiftung)/ 24.09.2016/ Cinema Theatre of the Railway Workers Residential Complex in the frames of POP UP AKTO Festival for contemporary arts, Skopje (23-28.09.2016)
– A Collective Decision
Exhibition in the cinema theatre of the Railway Workers Residential Complex/ 27.09.2016/ Cinema Theatre of the Railway Workers Residential Complex in the frames of POP UP AKTO Festival for contemporary arts, Skopje (23-28.09.2016)
1. Newspapers Workers’ Collective and Ironworks ABC by Vladan Jeremic and Rena Radle (Belgrade)
2. Installation Institutions Need to be Constructed: Stasis, BADco.(Zagreb)
3. Installation I am also… by Nada Prlja and Daniel Serafimovski (Skopje)
4. Cultural Elevator project, Jelena Pashic and Matija Kralj (Zagreb)
The works by the art collectives Sviracinja from Skopje, Kula from Skopje, Elementi from Bitola and the project Artist as Audience: Talks Among the Audience by Mirjana Boba Stojadinovic, that were produced in the frames of POP UP AKTO in Bitola are included as well in the exhibition.
Music event by DSPH Sounds showcase/ MKD
– Workshop under the IBCT (If buildings can talk) project
A walk through the building in collaboration with the residents from the Household Council/ 28.09.2016/ Railway Workers Residential Complex in the frames of POP UP AKTO Festival for contemporary arts, Skopje (23-28.09.2016)
– Lecture: “Out of context: self-governance and sustainability as alternatives to the failed models of government”
Vedran Horvat, Institute of Political Ecology, Zagreb/ 28.09.2016/ Railway Workers Residential Complex in the frames of POP UP AKTO Festival for contemporary arts, Skopje (23-28.09.2016)
ACTIVITY AREA II. Reading buildings/ Workshops
II.I. PREPARATIONS FOR WORKSHOPS
Project leaders (FRU): Ivana Vaseva and Filip Jovanovski
Workshop participants: Slobodan Kocevic, Tome Karevski, Ivan Dzijanovski (tenants); Gala Naseva, Vlado Danailov, Mila Dimitrovska, Anastasija Petrevska, Oliver Musovik, Ilija Tiricovski, Biljana Tanurovska – Kjulavkovski, students from the Faculty of Art and Design Departments under the European University – Republic of Macedonia (within the course of Interior Design).
Several workshops were held within this program. Most of them were with the tenants of the building and had an informal character, starting with the explanation of what the purpose of the exploration was and who was leading the initiative. The informality and casual atmosphere were crucial because a qualitative approach was employed that focused on the research into the history of the residential complex and the socio-political context that had left marks on it. There was also a project task within the Interior Design Course from the Faculty of Art and Design Department under the European University of the Republic of Macedonia led by the architect Dejan Ivanovski and the assistant Ekaterina Namicheva that caught the attention of the students who articulated their perception of the historical, typological, cultural analysis of building and the advantages and disadvantages of this type of buildings.
This led to conducting and designing more workshops which aimed to discover the change in the general setting of the building (change of structure, people, and neighbourhood area) and devise a narration not so publicly known. The general story was built upon the personal memoires of three crucial protagonists – Slobodan Kocevic, Tome Karevski and Ivan Dzijanovski – of how they lived there and how the population of the building changed through time. This was supported by research of literature on the building as well as research into the different MA and PHD thesis in architecture and urbanism, as well as exercises of the students of architecture. The architectural drawings of the building served as a basis for the personal memories of the tenants who made up a fictional promenade apartment after apartment.
The finalization of the workshop process was a recording of the oral subjective history of the building that consisted of a sort of index of people that lived there, with the apartments and their inhabitants, histories of families living in the building through the years, changes and movement (some moved from one apartment to another within the building) of the inhabitants, their professional vocation (a lot of them railway employees, but not exclusively), major events in the communal spaces like the cinema theatre and the inner yard (like baseball matches).
ACTIVITY AREA III. Buildings as a stage/ Production
III.III. BUILDINGS IN DIALOGUE/ PREMIERES
The case study of the Railway Workers’ Residential Complex culminates in the final project event that consists of three activities in the building: a two-panel public discussion on the research conducted in the past 2 years and a discussion on the architectural qualities of the building, but also a research-based performative art project within the Young Open Theater Festival in Skopje and production and launch of this publication.
IF BUILDINGS COULD TALK
DISCUSSION IN TWO PARTS
Cinema theatre of the Railway Workers’ Residential Complex, Skopje (address: Rajko Zinzifov, 36)
11:00 – 16:00
11:00 – 13:00 first panel
Moderator: Ivana Dragsic, sociologist and cultural worker
Panel discussions’ participants:
Ivana Vaseva, Filip Jovanovski (FRU – Railway Workers’ Residential Complex)
Sasha Tkacenko (Supervizuelna – Business–residential complex “Belville”, Belgrade)
Boris Bakal, Sandra Uskokovic (Shadow Casters – “Nada Dimić” Factory – “Moster/Penkala” factory, Zagreb)
Slobodan Kocevic, Tome Karevski, Ivan Dzijanovski (the Household Council of Railway Workers’ Residential Complex)
And representatives of relevant institutions
In the first panel, the moderator Ivana Dragsic emphasized the qualities of social living and the potential of architecture to create sociability and social tissue. She writes:
People comprehended architecture’s polyvalence very early in history and we have learned about it from books, but also from our own experiences, especially living in two different political systems. Often instrumentalized to manifest excess of power or authority, architecture has definitely found its noble purpose in many causes: sustainability, accessibility, even solidarity. The historical development of architectural approaches to facilitating physical and mental disabilities, ethnic contestations, environmental issues and political instabilities is beyond fascinating, but also in obvious dissonance with the architecture we are experiencing at the moment. This potential of architecture to create sociability and social tissue is unfortunately under serious threat of great nation-state or market narratives, related to restoration, development and growth (of the nation, GDP, jobs, whatever) and our cities need to demonstrate resilience.
Our cities (Skopje, Belgrade, Zagreb), put in geo-political, but very describable terms, are ex-YU, post-YU capitals from the Western Balkans or South-East Europe, with a variety of political histories, one of which was obviously shared. They are all facing one serious problem and common struggle along with many other cities with a completely different cultural and political heritage, which is urban decay due to profit or growth-oriented urban planning. Victims of this new order are both the empty spaces planned under such principles, but also the existing structures which may have or have not been constructed as a statement of different historical and political contexts.
Such are the many public spaces, housing and infrastructural projects or industry complexes in our cities that have now decayed, been repurposed or refaçaded or just remained untouched, and we asked them what they had to say. Just some decades ago, they were producing micro-societies, goods, maintaining relations and providing decent living standards for the working class, and although that story is pretty much shaded now, the buildings have produced a society of generations of people that still share those values and can perhaps initiate a similar mode of existence.
14:00 – 16:00 second panel
Moderator: Dejan Ivanovski, architect
Panel discussions’ participants:
Slobodan Velevski (Faculty of Architecture, Skopje)
Helena Sterpin (architect, Pula)
Marija Mano Velevska (Faculty of Architecture, Skopje)
Tadej Kurepa (journalist, member of platform WHO BUILDS THE CITY, Belgrade).
About the second panel of the discussion the moderator Dejan Ivanovski writes:
This apartment block (Railway Colony) was built at the time when Le Corbusier was building the Unite d’Habitation in Marseille which is recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
The Railway Colony in Skopje is a building intended to provide housing for the persons employed in the State Railway Directorate – Skopje within the frame of the federal Yugoslav administration. The building is an apartment block which is organized by multiplying several sections around the central inner yard, with a large number of housing units, which on one side communicate through the ground floor staircase (entrance) with the access street and on the other with the inner atrium yard. There are a total of ten staircase units within the block out of which eight can be accessed through the services streets, and two through the Eastern side of the inner yard.
The ratio between the built and the non-built space within the frame of the lot is approximately 1:2. This parameter is very important for today’s living conditions and it is a key factor. If we take into consideration the surrounding buildings in the Bunjakovec neighborhood based on the Detailed Urban Plan 2020 we can conclude that the treatment of the empty space (greenery, playgrounds, public spaces) is becoming extinct. In the vicinity there are no buildings with a combined program for collective housing and public space within the frame of one lot. Furthermore, within the frame of this collective housing, the Railway Colony, there are other spaces which are semi-public and intended for common use, which are owned by the inhabitants of the apartment block. One of them is the old cinema theatre (this space is currently quite run-down) with dimensions of 19m/8m with a ceiling height of 6m covering a total space of approx. 150 m2. This space can be used as a multimedia space where debates and exhibitions can be held, and should be of interest to the municipal authorities. In this way the cinema theatre will continue living as common space for the inhabitants, and will not turn into fruitful ground for fulfillment of individual private interests.
The building also contains open spaces/terraces along the apartments which are oriented towards the central inner yard, as a contact zone between the private space and the semi-public space of the yard. Together with the collective content of the building they contribute to enriching the social interactions of the inhabitants thereby decreasing the feeling of isolation and contributing an integrated living. 
This symbol of Skopje as a prototype of a housing structure leaves room for rethinking and once again posing questions such as:
What is the meaning of the building complex Railway Colony built in the fifties for the urban tissue of Skopje? (with a focus on the building) and
What are the pros/cons of this kind of typology of a perimeter block which contains various types of public content such as an inner yard, cinema theatre, washing and drying rooms, green spaces, children’s playgrounds for the inhabitants today and in the past? (with a focus on the inhabitants)
 Блажевска З. Повеќедворната станбена куќа во функција на хумано домување на старите луѓе во рамките на семјството, необјавен труд.
IF BUILDINGS COULD TALK
RESEARCH BASED PERFORMATIVE PROJECT
01 October 2017/ 12:00 pm
Railway Workers’ Residential Complex, Skopje (address: Rajko Zinzifov, 36)
The research-based performative art project IF BUILNGS COULD TALK in Skopje is a collaborative action actively including the local community in the very process of its creation as one of the rare examples of collaborative practices in Macedonia.
It is a multidimensional and multidisciplinary project which was conducted and conceived by the artist Filip Jovanovski, curated by Ivana Vaseva, in collaboration with the architect and researcher Dejan Ivanovski and the creative team: actresses: Kristina Lelovac, Sanja Arsovska, Jasmina Vasileva, Dolores Popovic, Ilija Tiricovski, video production, Dejan Petrovic, sound design and Oliver Musovic, production. In the center of this project is the Railway Workers’ Residential Complex in Skopje, built as a rare example of social and communal housing in the frames of the post-war modern architecture.
This project is part of The International Theatre Festival “Youth Open Theatre” in Skopje in the additional program.
Important: This project can be followed only by 32 people simultaneously. The ones that would like to be in the audience please write in inbox.
Author: Filip Jovanovski
Curator: Ivana Vaseva
Dejan Ivanovski – researcher and co-author of the script
Actresses: Kristina Lelovac, Sanja Arsovska, Jasmina Vasileva, Dolores Popovic
Video production: Ilija Tiricovski
Participants: tenants in the building – Slobodan Kocevic, Ivan Dzijanovski, Tome Karevski
Producion: Oliver Musovik
Camera: Aleksandar Kotevski
Drone: Stojance Cavirovski
Editor and Sound Designer: Sashko Potter Micevski
ACTIVITY AREA IV. Promotion, documentation and networking
IV.I. Books as buildings, city as a book
Producing of a publication in a form of a study of the whole process. All partners are involved in its preparation.