Lately | Architecture

Small Talk: Destroy the old, build the new?

By - 08.05.2017

Join us at K2.0 on Thursday, May 11, at 17:30.

Throughout the years, we live in and connect with the city, making it our playground. When we die, and others come after us, that playground stays as a resemblance of the times in which we lived, of our ideology, taste, and of what we could afford to build — a reflection of our collective memory. But what happens when all of this is erased or radically transformed? Where does our memory stand?

Only a few weeks ago, students protested against the transformation of the modernist building housing the Technical Faculty at the University of Prishtina, a building that was designed by the renowned architect Evard Radnikar, apprentice of the famous architect Le Corbusier. The radical changes were seen as demonstrating a complete lack of interest in preserving what some define as part of the ‘identity’ of the city, not to mention the loss of the building’s architectural and historical value.

The changes, not only in this case but also in other modernist constructions in Kosovo, remind some of the post World War II motto of ‘destroy the old, build the new,’ which at the time produced the space for socialist constructions during former Yugoslavia times. About two years ago, Prishtina’s mayor, Shpend Ahmeti, suggested that perhaps a referendum should be organized to decide whether a monument to the socialist ideal of “Brotherhood and Unity” — the ‘trekëndeshi’ — should remain at what has been re-named as Adem Jashari Square.

People’s opinions about this topic are often divided between the need to preserve the collective memory through these constructions, and the need to move on towards something aesthetically in line with the city’s evolution — something less gray, more ‘beautiful.’

So the question is, when does the motto of ‘destroy the old, build the new’ end? And who decides what gets to go and what gets to stay? Who decides what’s beautiful? And how do these changes affect the identity of the cities and our identities? What role does the heritage of last century play in our lives? And who is ready to, literally, keep it up? What would you have voted if Shpend Ahmeti’s referendum proposal had taken place?

Join us for an open, participative discussion at K2.0’s garden on Thursday, May 11, at 17:30. To get the discussion going we will be joined by:

Skender Boshtrakaj, director of the Museum of Kosovo and head of the Department of Integrated Management at the Ministry of Culture.

Eli Krasniqi, socio-anthropologist and founder-member of Alter Habitus – Institute for Studies on Society and Culture.

Grese Musliu, architecture student at the University of Prishtina and one of the organizers of the protest against the recent changes to the university’s Technical Faculty building.

The discussion will be moderated by Rron Gjinovci, founder of the education organization Organization for Increasing the Quality of Education (ORCA).

So let’s talk about this. K

Feature image: Majlinda Hoxha / K2.0.