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UK team wins Skopje urban dining competition

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A team of UK graduates is one three winners of an international ideas contest for a public dining installation in Mother Teresa Park, Skopje

The competition – organised by researchers at TU Delft Faculty of Architecture – sought proposals for an experimental ‘democratic architectural intervention’, which could be used to host public meals in a prominent area next to the Mother Teresa Memorial House. The initiative aims to attract activities into the contested public realm of the capital of North Macedonia.

The three winners selected from 49 entries were Dining in the Urban by UK graduates Vishwa Shroff, Rosanna van Mierlo, Charlie Levine and Katsushi Goto; FreeДОМ by Bulgarian-team Boris Netsov and Despina Kaneva; and Picnic Ritual by Chenhao Ma and Yutan Sun.

Goto studied at the Architectural Association while Shroff studied at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, Levine at Birmingham City University, and van Mierlo at Goldsmiths, University of London.

The Dining in the Urban concept ‘reveals how everyday rituals such as dining are embedded in everyday objects such as furniture’, according to a statement by the winning team. The project, they say, ‘creates a temporary performative space; the tables and chairs are props for the act of dining to take place; the performance reveals diversity and knowledge.’

The call for concepts was part of a research programme at TU Delft, known as The Intimate City, which aims to harness interpretation and collaboration to reveal cultural knowledge within prominent urban spaces. The winning team’s designs will be incorporated into the wider research project, The Intimate City.

In a statement, the competition judges said: ‘Skopje is a city where the appropriation of spaces, from the Old Bazaar to the smaller markets in the city is tangible. The selected works have adopted different postures regarding this characteristic of the built environment. They introduce: a minimal order for appropriation, welcoming individuality into a community table and the formal definition of a lawn.

‘All three of the shortlisted projects use temporary events to implant a strong identity of dining to the site, creating common ground in the city. Through simple elements, the projects reveal embedded social rituals and develop conversations around individuality and inclusivity.’

Skopje is the capital and largest city of North Macedonia. It was part of the Ottoman Empire for more than 500 years before becoming part of Bulgaria, Serbia, and then Yugoslavia before winning official recognition as capital in 1944.

The city was struck by a disastrous earthquake in 1963 which killed more than 1,070 people and left 200,000 homeless, with 80 per cent of its buildings destroyed. Skopje was rebuilt to plans by Polish architect Adolf Ciborowski, who led the reconstruction of Warsaw following the Second World War.

The reconstruction focused on reducing density and creating new green spaces and infrastructure for future expansion, but many historic monuments and structures were lost. In recent decades a controversial approach to renewing the city has focused on the reconstruction of former Neoclassical landmarks, which had been lost as a result of the earthquake.

The latest competition set out to explore ways of encouraging public participation in the renewal of the city. The call for concepts focused on a park which surrounds the Mother Teresa Memorial House – a monument marking the birth place of the Nobel Peace Prize-winner.

Judges included architectural researchers Andrés Stohlmann de la Iglesia, Holly Dale and Jorge Mejia Hernandez.

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