Interview with Minas Bakalchev about the Architecture Biennale in Venice: Artifacts for a collaborative work

Part of the author's team of the project together with Ljupka Deleva in Venice

The Macedonian pavilion at the 18th Architecture Biennale in Venice will be set up from May 20 to November 26, and through the stories about the Summer School of Architecture in the monastery of Saint Joachim Osogovski, the stories of the authors of the project will be revealed to the visitors.

The authors of the project "Laboratory from the past for the future: Stories about the Summer School of Architecture in the Monastery of St. Joachim Osogovski, 1992-2017", which is the national representative of the 18th Architecture Biennale in Venice, are professors from the Faculty of Architecture, Minas Bakalchev, Mitko Hadji Pulja, Sasha Tasic, Aleksandar Radevski and Dimitar Papasterevski. The curators of the project are Aleksandar Petanovski, Marija Petrova, Gordan Petrov, Darko Draganovski and Dimitar Krstevski.

Professor Minas Bakalchev, as one of the authors of the project, how much did the theme of the curator Lokko make it easier for you to choose the project?

- According to Lesley Lokko, curator of the Architecture Biennale 2023, the theme "Laboratory for the Future" can be seen as a time and space in which speculations about the relevance of the discipline for this world - and for the world to come - take place. The summer school in the monastery of St. Joakim Osogovski at the Faculty of Architecture at the University "St. Cyril and Methodius" was our place to rethink the future as a collaborative effort of all participants. He acted on the geopolitical trends of his time in the tumultuous 1990s. In a time of separation – he united, connecting different people from different backgrounds in a common work.

From the beginning, the Summer School of Architecture not only had an architectural, pedagogical and aesthetic character, but also imposed a social, cultural and ethical attitude towards the world. At the beginning of the 90s of the last century, it started with a few people, the professors of the Faculty of Architecture, Zivko Popovski and Aleksandar Nikoljski, but over time it was supported by a series of important personalities, such as Boris Chipan, Vladimir Georgievski, Ranko Radovic, Dimitrije Golubovski, Anton Schwejhofer , Petar Gabrielcic; Gotse Aji Mitrevski, Dominika Boškovska, Martin Guleski, Zorica Blazevska, Stefan Sandžakovski, Georgi Konstantinovski, Maria Lozanovska, Metodije Zlatanov, Tycho Stojkov, Blagoja Chushkov, Hrvoje Njiric, Vlatko Korobar, David Bigi (Rural Studio), Klaske Havic, Sebastian Veldhausen, Lorin Nicolae, Alexander Brodsky, Elia Zengelis, Han Tumertekin, Sammy Rintala, Peter Wilson, Michel Rydijk, Juliet Beckering, Ales Vodopivec...

In the same way, this project was carried out by a large team, students, young architects, senior architects, assistants, teachers from the Faculty of Architecture at UKIM in Skopje. This project can be seen as an open work. All of them, firstly, gave it a transgenerational stretch, secondly, they weaved different experiences from youth to adulthood, with different knowledge and skills, from communicating to making, handcrafting from the objects of the setting to the setting itself. This is how a real school was created in the original sense, an association/association of students and teachers, as a rhizomatic structure from which we all learned a lot.

How many times have you personally participated in summer schools?

– I was partly present at the first Summer School, but my formal participation began with the second Summer School in 1993. The head of the Summer School was professor Zivko Popovski. The theme he set was "House", the first of a trilogy of successive themes, "House" (1993), "Street" (1994), "Neighborhood" (1995). The initial structure of the Summer School was one topic assigned by the head of the school and a series of subtopics by the mentors. I worked on the theme "House/Tower" with a group of students, two interpretations of the house models are also exhibited at the exhibition in Venice.

Martin Gulevski's second school, "Street" (1994), was also unique in that it was not held in the Old Inn, otherwise a continuous place for the schools, but in the Bishop's Inn, which was ceded to us by Bishop Kiril, because at that time the Old the lodge was hired by workers working on Deve Bair's natural gas transmission system. I participated as a mentor, together with Goce Aji Mitrevski, Domnika Boškova and, of course, Martin Guleski, on the topic "Dromomen" inspired by the writings of Walter Benjamin and Paul Virilio.

Other schools followed, and in 2005, together with Mitko Hadji Pulja, we were leaders with the theme "House in a transition period". Continuously in a series of Summer Schools, we had a different role, and in the last two, as dean of the Faculty of Architecture, I was in the background and supporting their realization.

The last Summer School that was held in the monastery of St. In 2017, Joakim Osogovski, with the guest tutor Ales Vodopivecs with the theme "Sense of Home", was on the upper plateau, under the canopy constructed and realized by Dimitar Papasterevski, together with Darko Draganovski and Pavel Veljanovski. The old Guest Inn was already closed for "renovation". That was also the reason why the Summer School of Architecture found another place in the picturesque village of Lazaropole. He continued his history there, but those are already other stories...

In the photo from left to right: Gordan Petrov, Dimitar Krsteski, Dimitar Papasterevski, Sasha Tasic, Maria Efremova, Dita Starova Qerimi, Minas Bakalchev, Aleksandar Petanovski, Maria Petrova, Darko Draganovski

How was the team created for this presentation of ours in Venice?

- From the very beginning, the presence of Dita Starova Qerimi from the National Gallery gave the project a certain background, in that way Iva Petrunova was able to follow up on the project and become its host with the young association "The Beautiful City". Thus, in that composition, exhibitors from the Faculty of Architecture, a commissioner from the National Gallery and the host association "The Beautiful City" created an inclusive composition. I think that the future that Leslie talks about is precisely in overcoming authoritative weights and allowing the various participants to engage and contribute to all the most important issues.

How long was the project worked on?

– We focused on memories, on memories, not on factography, but on a series of personal traces, records, pictures... It consists of three phases: first, creating an imagined archive of memories, stories, pictures and records; second, their cataloging and collection; and third, exhibiting on a common table as artifacts for a collaborative work. The first stage involved an invitation to a range of participants, domestic and foreign, with a request: attachment (1) textual commentary, story (about 500 words), and (2) a selection of three images, photographs and/or drawings related to the School. Cataloging and presentation of the collected material followed, creating the material basis of the construction of the exhibition.

It is about an ambivalent project which, on the one hand, implies a certain structure, chronology, on the other hand, a labyrinthine flow of its fulfillment, the objects with images and vertical bursts of interpretation of the selected models and/or the creation of an island from some of the models that were realized during the School. This means thickening, thinning or overlapping the displayed material. So this project started from the bottom up, and its inclusiveness, co-creativity is not just words, although it really was that, sharing the stories of many.

This exhibition wanted to address a place and a time, very significant for all of us in the formation of a unique pedagogical experiment, in the background of turbulent geopolitical events; feat, which seems to have been conceived already with the work of protomaster Andrea Damjanov with the church dedicated to St. Joakim Osogovski.

Pavilion in "Scuola dei Lanieri" – we focused on memories, on memories, not on factography, but on a series of personal traces, writings, pictures

How do the different materials of the setting correspond to each other: wood, 3D model, photographic print?

– The exhibition consists of a table, similar to the common tables in the guest house where we worked, talked and exhibited, and two cupboards with 12 niches each. These elements are made of wood from the Krivopalanecki area. On the table are wooden cubes in three dimensions with pictures of the participants, individual portraits, group portraits, local residents, the buildings of the monastery, the landscape. On each cube is written the year and the serial number of the contributions from that year. Thus the images on the cubes make chronological sets. Some of the cubes have reinterpreted models from school projects.

On the table itself are placed the models of the pavilions realized in certain schools: The two interventions by Hrvoje Njiric (2006), in the Roma neighborhood in Kriva Palanka and on the quay of Kriva Reka; Alexander Brodsky's interventions (2011), the sunset wall and the "amphitheatre" for sunrise, in the surroundings of the monastery; Sami Rintala's Nature Chapel (2014); the canopy of the upper platform by Dimitar Papasterevski (2017), place of the last Summer School in the monastery. On the table are also three models of the three houses dedicated to the monastery by Martin Guleski: a house for candles; sister Zlata's house; house to work. In the niches are a selection of models and fragments of the buildings from the monastery: the church of St. Mother of God, the church of St. Joakim Osogovski, The old inn, The inn with a high facade, The lord's inn, The bakery, The writing house, The rice barn, The chapel. In the niches are also the drawings and sketches of Domnika Boshkova and Gotse Aji Mitrevski. The whole composition forms a topography, as a psychogeographic assemblage of different places, events and persons.

The materials are different, wood, plywood, 3D print. In some cases they interact, the wooden base is carved for the model in the 3D print, which becomes a kind of inlay in the wood. We liked that transition and mutual dialogue of the materials. Architecture contains this not as exclusivity, but as cooperation in relation to a common work. Look at the continuous line of frames on which the participants' texts are placed, one sheet is missing. One frame is left empty as a window through which the background, the picture of the saint on the wall, is seen. Interaction, correlation, dialogue is always possible, we just have to let things go and the real dialogue will emerge.

"Scuola dei Laneri" (Scuola dei Laneri) is an extraordinary space, a beautiful room that touches the intense currents of Venice. And exactly that counterpoint, an extremely frequent current and an inner peace of the room gives a special character to the exhibition, said Bakalchev.

The Macedonian pavilion at the 18th Architecture Biennale is located in the area of ​​the "Scuola dei Laneri" (Scuola dei Laneri) in Venice

Curatorial Practice: The Simplicity of True Architecture

About the exhibition, Aleksandar Petanovski, one of the curators, points out that "it is non-trendy and simplified to the basic architectural principles. The formal organization of the setting is a model of a return to the simplicity of true architecture."

– We arrived in Venice as a collective of over fifty people with a single and common goal, the culmination of our months-long work in Skopje to present the Macedonian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2023, perhaps the most important ceremony of uniting thinkers and practitioners of architecture in the world since 1895. The Architecture Biennale offers an exceptional opportunity to see ourselves in relation to others, to set parallels with world trends, an excellent opportunity to directly compare ourselves with other colleagues, a kind of mirror of what we have actually achieved and created. And indeed, we did not fail, but on the contrary, in addition to the general tendency to produce a superficial, one-layered mass-society and mass-culture, we managed to transmit traces that will preserve and transmit our personal experiences of architecture as a common creative collection of collective knowledge. for the future.

Venice settings are always complex because they go through a different environment, land, water, land. Without the support and commitment of our friends, and those who received the material and put it together, it is impossible to set up the exhibition. The artist Ilker was here with his team, as well as professor Dimitar Papasterevski with Darko Draganovski and Goran Trajanovski, who put together the structure of the exhibition in a thoughtful way. From an empty room they created a place from the guest house of the monastery of St. Joakim Osogovski. We worked and socialized together as one fluid body through the streets, canals and piazzas of Venice. Like the architecture itself, the exhibition remains open, in a continuous process of creation. We felt that something special was being created and that this experience would change us forever, adds curator Petanovski.

Author of the text: Ljupka Deleva, visual artist, specially for "Culture Press" from Venice

(The interview was published in "Kulturen Pechat" number 180, in the print edition of the newspaper "Sloboden Pechat" on 27-28.5.2023)

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