Oops – Eureka in Reverse!
Is Prishtina a kitsch? An act of mimesis? Or is it an original work in itself? Is Prishtina a city of mania for appearance? Refined? Touristic? Consumed?
What on earth is Prishtina? …heureka! It is a remix culture.
Yes! Eureka. But, in reverse.
Prishtina, this energetic capital city, tells a tale of history and evolution through its architecture. One side of this narrative centers on the Modern period buildings that have long stood as symbols of progress and innovation. As time marched on, these buildings faced disfiguration in the form of neglect, urban development, and sometimes even war related damage. In addition to them, a cultural transformation is under moving, one that not only reshapes the city’s architectural landscape but also challenges conventional notions of authorial purity and the role of mimesis in creative processes.
Prishtina’s Modern-era buildings characterized by sleek lines, aesthetics, and a vision of a brighter future, were emblematic of Kosovo’s aspirations in the mid-20th century. At first glance, they might appear as relics of the past, struggling to retain their original glory. Yet, their narratives of yesteryears, instead of celebrating victories, resurface as haunting reminders of our society’s apathy towards the challenges that plague our cities. Far from being abandoned to the ravages of time, they have become the canvas upon which modern artists, architects, and thinkers collaborate to create something new, to mend and reimagine the original, and to doubt the final creation.
The question of authorial purity once stood as a bastion preserving architecture from the hysterical tides of change. The conventional ideals that held architecture in a state of detachment from the tumultuous world beyond its façades, now are gradually giving new ways to call for protest. In the case of Prishtina, they may seem silent but are resolute in their stance against the daily suffocation that the city endures. The modernist movement in architecture, on a functionalist basis, tried to create an architecture that expiated history. In our context, it appears as though a second erasure is taking place, mirroring the principles of modernism. This (un)intentional repetition raises questions about the direction of urban development and architectural choices within the city as well as how an artist or creator maintains control over their original vision and design without significant alterations or compromises.
In the midst of these questions, shifting paradigms, and architectural debates, the city’s residents become both witnesses and participants in its transformation. They are the ones who navigate the streets, and daily encounter visual chaos and ugliness. But, in Prishtina, there exists a paradox. The city’s perceived ugliness seems to be a consequence of its inherent beauty. In this architectural metamorphosis, the city’s buildings bear the marks of not only physical change but also a nuanced struggle between authorial purity and the communal urge for self-expression. Starting from the smallest changes, extensions at
ground floor level, vertical additions, balconies converted into internal use or added surface of the apartment through consoles, the seemingly random murals, and haphazardly placed posters, to continue to large changes that transform important buildings of the city, all act as the rebellious brushstrokes of a city yearning to assert its identity.
This inclination towards ostensible decoration actually reflects a deeper sentiment, our collective dissatisfaction with the city and a testament to our inclination towards comforting illusions. While these acts may be perceived as defacement, they also represent an unapologetic claim to the urban canvas by its inhabitants. In this developing narrative, the concept of authorship extends beyond architects and designers to include the city’s diverse population, each adding their unique strokes to the story of Prishtina’s ever evolving urban fabric.