By Sinisa Jakov Marusic
A giant observation wheel placed on top of a bridge in the centre of Skopje is the latest planned addition to the ongoing government refurbishment of the Macedonian capital known as “Skopje 2014”.
Authorities say construction of the wheel will start in 2012 and they hope it will become a star attractions, just like the “London Eye”.
“The wheel will be at least 50 metres high and should offer an excellent overview of the entire city centre,” said Jovica Ackovski, spokesperson for the Skopje municipality of Centar.
However, the municipality is still not sure about its definite final look or how much money it plans to spend on its construction.
According to the latest urban plan of the municipality, the wheel will be built on top of a new pedestrian bridge on the Vardar River that will be constructed near Skopje’s landmark Stone Bridge.
The municipality said that it had decided to place the wheel on the bridge to add to its attraction.
But not everyone welcomes the municipal plans for the central area of Skopje.
The head of the Association of Architects of Macedonia, Danica Pavlovska, has protested over what she calls the air of secrecy surrounding the plan.
She says major changes in the central area of the city should not be allowed to pass based on a simple presentation.
“The addition of new structures this way, without a comprehensive study and open public debate, is unacceptable,” she said, arguing that interventions of this scale ought not to be discussed solely behind closed doors.
Skopje’s city centre is currently undergoing a massive, government-funded revamp named “Skopje 2014”, which the government says will beautify the shabby-looking city.
Several buildings and monuments are already in place or are nearly finished. The construction of a new national theatre, a history museum, a foreign ministry and a concert hall are at an advanced stage.
Work continues also on a triumphal arch, an obelisk and two new bridges. Dozens of large statues have already been erected in the heart of the city.
The core of the project is a massive equestrian statue of the ancient warrior Alexander the Great, placed in the centre of fountain. Next year, the authorities plan to erect a similar, grand statue of Alexander’s father, Philip.
Critics of the project object to its artistic style, which draws inspiration from Classical Antiquity. They also object to the project’s high estimated price tag.