An exhibition on the urban planning trends in today’s very popular neighborhood of Debar maalo in Skopje.
What Debar maalo used to be, what it is and what it is not today.
Shown form 20.09 to 04.10.2018
Most of the neighborhoods (maala) in the City of Skopje were formed with the migratory movements throughout the course of the centuries. The locality of Debar maalo was formed with the spontaneous immigration of settlers form the town of debar and the villages of the Reka region. The residents themselves called the locality, which was not sizable, a neighborhood (maalo) and as they generally originated form the region of Debar, they started calling it the neighborhood of debar – Debar maalo
This was the period when the threat of WWI and the inevitable decline of the ottoman empire were becoming more apparent. Certain eminent ottoman families that had acquired significant expanses of land begin a silent emigration and sales of their properties. Thus, the western part of the city was meticulously divided in building lots, and a process of selling of the western periphery, which was generally very fertile land, was started. It must be pointed out that at this moment the ottoman empire had an established land registry and each allotment had its own deed.
The emigration from debar was not a typical migratory movement, on the contrary it was a silent relocation taking care that the villages, and the town of debar and its vicinity, are not entirely abandoned. There was an air of hope that one day they would return to their home and hearth.
At the time the neighborhood (maalo) would have its identification depending on the traditions and customs that the residents practiced in their new surroundings, the holidays that they observed in their native region and other rituals that they performed. Everything was occurring spontaneously, and slowly they mentally started becoming part of the new environment, they adapted and started a new life in the newly established conditions.
The newcomers bought land each to their own allowance. Generally, the allotments were small, the smallest 100 m2, generally 300m2 to 500m2. The allotments are spread out over small blocs with narrow streets like village thoroughfares. Most dwellings were at ground level with two rooms, a bedroom and a living room intended for all other needs, cooking, dining, resting, working and handcraft. The lavatories drained in septic tanks. The families had many children.
The living conditions were at the very minimum but a faith in a better tomorrow was strong. And a better tomorrow did come, with and enterprising spirit and industriousness as well a family unity many families quickly surpassed the city’s upper-class families. With the profession that the residents of Debar maalo took up, they contributed to the rise of the City of Skopje. They were milkmen, wool spinners, builders, stone masons, wood processers, carpenters, and even hospitality operators – the Bristol Hotel was at a certain moment bought and operated by Jache Kunoski a wealthy Debran 1 . More and more parents were interested in educating their children; a process of mass education of children was started accompanied by relocating of the households to the centre of the city.
Debar maalo lives as a community, a collective, proud of their origins, feisty and emotionally connected. Outgoing and willing to help one another. They are not selfish to be one across from the other. They say that it the hardships that have made them attached.
With the help of tradition and patriarchal upbringing, as the elderly like to say, as well as family upbringing in the spirit of mutual respect the community functioned for a long time in the boundaries of the newly acquired happiness and the new conditions of the new surroundings. During the time of Vardar Province, there were some urban planning undertakings in relation to the street network. The streets were lined with gravel up until the socialist period when they were asphalted for the first time. It is exactly these streets, intended for pedestrians and cart and buggies that have remained in the present urban plan.
The residents of Debar maalo (Debarmaltsi) that has financially stabilised built modest houses form quality materials, they even attempted to give them an individual trait; every house has yard, the more innovative amongst them have forint garden filled with flowers whilst behind da house a backyard where depending on the size fruit trees and an outhouse. In any case, the sense of proportion of the buildings and the open space is stunning. Debar maalo gets individual residential building, but they are not of the type with an haute parterre as in Bunjakovec. They do not imitate, they whish to give a signature of individuality.
Debar maalo did not rise collectively. It had developed spontaneously and so continued until the opening of Pandora’s box – private land ownership. It was promoted rightly so, however a speculation with the land occurred and each owner used their 5 minutes of glory.
We should be sincere in saying that the neighbourhood had fulfilled its role as a family shelter.
It was not overly picturesque, but it was cultivated, not usurped by automobiles, but with front yards with flowers, and residents that enjoyed neighbourly socialising and respect, and helping old residents.
When the first collective residential buildings were built the residents viewed them as something alien. The piece of the old residents was disturbed while they remained reserved.
With the arrive of the cars in the locality and the creation of parking spaces a part of the public space used for children’s play was lost. The children used the road for their game. Although there were few cars (Fiat500), the tranquillity was distressed.
The resident of the neighbourhood that bared the name of their past hometown felt the need for socialising amongst themselves, going back to the stories of their parents and grandfathers. 1 Resident of the Town of Debar
They had understood the extent of their fight with the newly arisen circumstances, but their unyielding spirit did not allow for their defeat. At the end they realised that their grandfathers were fond of a good drink and socialising in taverns. Had they been alive today we would have called them bohemians, yet today there are no such bohemians. New structures today fight for the memory and rejuvenation of this spirit. They slowly succeed, which means that Skopje needs exactly that, and perhaps a little bit more excitement.
Just a little note as a reminder, the tavern Idadia is a signature place of the city only very few poets, painters, builders and musicians have not had a drink there.