Beware of Antiquity
The Porta Macedonia triumphal arch, erected in 2012. Photo by Peter Forsberg/Alamy Stock Photo

Beware of Antiquity

An Architectural Lesson from Skopje
Stach Szabłowski
time 8 minutes

Sometimes a regular trip can become a journey through time—and an instructive history lesson at that. Especially in a place like Skopje, the North Macedonian city whose ambitions—and design—date back to the times of Alexander the Great.

I passed through Skopje in fall 2022. I had heard a lot about the exceptional fate of this city in the 21st century, but to hear is one thing, and to see is another—there were still some shocks and surprises.

As I walked through the streets of the North Macedonian capital, I thought about Planet of the Apes. Franklin J. Schaffner’s movie—released in 1968—is pretty old, yet is hard to forget. One sentence in particular stuck in my mind: “The question is not so much where we are as when we are.”

In Planet of the Apes, a team of astronauts find themselves in a world where an alternate evolutionary scenario took place. The roles of apes and hominins were reversed: the hominids (Hominidae) created language, culture, technology, and civilization itself, while humans (Homo) function on the margins of society. Thus they do not have the status of people and the rights that go with it; they are the equivalent of what we still like to call “animals” in our anthropocentric culture.

Downgraded to the level of animals, the astronauts wonder where they are; how this world can be so similar to theirs, and yet so diffe


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On Memory and Architecture
Natalia Domagała

The Notre Dame Cathedral was burning. It was a serene evening and the cobblestone streets of the Latin Quarter were shrouded in violet mist, thick smoke glistened in the setting sun. A seemingly imperishable building that embodies eight centuries of French and European history was at risk of collapsing, engulfed in flames weakening its construction. 

For many, Notre Dame is a symbol of pride and a glorious past, success and cultural legacy that is common for most Europeans. Crowds on the streets of Paris and millions glued to their screens around the world were weeping, praying, hoping, begging for the cathedral to survive. Perplexed, all I could think of was that they were crying for the stability the building embodies, now that it was under threat. Not only did the crowds mourn losing the Gothic architectural masterpiece, but also the possibility of their collective memory and a sense of historical and cultural unity being erased, going down in flames in a split second. It wasn’t the first time that I witnessed certain buildings evoking equally strong emotional reactions. After all, architecture occurs at the same time with the most basic units of social organization, encompassing a metaphoric and physical extension of the social architecture and organization. As the most durable, long-lasting and easily retrievable out of all the material cultures, architecture is crucial in understanding societies.

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