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Student Dormitory Goce Delchev

Skopje, North Macedonia
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Archival Photo

The Student Dormitory “Goce Delchev” is one of the masterpieces built during the post-earthquake renewal of Skopje – bold in its architectural expression, daring in its structure and powerful in its spatial figure. On the one hand this building clearly reveals the influence of the American brutalism and the experience that its author, architect Georgi Konstantinovski acquired in 1960s, first as a graduate student at Yale University, where he studied with Paul Rudolph, and later as an employee in the office of I.M.Pei. On the other hand, it shows the impact of Japanese Metabolism, introduced in Skopje with Kenzo Tange’s master plan for the city center.

Konstantinovski was awarded the dormitory commission after a competition at the beginning of 1969. The construction began the same year and due to the size and the complexity of the building was conducted in two phases. The first phase (first two dormitory blocks) was completed in 1971, while the second in late 1977. Providing inexpensive accommodation for 1.200 students, the building should be also appreciated as an important social project.

The original site for the dormitory was a square plot within one of the new residential neighborhoods built as a result of the growth and extension of the city towards west. Four identical housing blocks were built on a territory of nearly one hectare (100x100 m). Each unit was positioned at a ninety-degree angle to its neighbor, so that together they form a dynamic spatial composition around a central open space. Each of the four blocks is composed of a conjoined five-story building and a thirteen-story tower that share vertical circulation units (an elevator and a staircase). The groups of residential units are arrayed along the central corridor of each block, in the manner of late-modernist experiments in minimal housing standards. On the sixth floor, the four dormitory blocks are connected by “flying bridges”, thus forming a “sky square” that contains spaces for entertainment and social interaction (recalling the “streets in the air” proposed by the British architects Alison and Peter Smithson). The residential areas in the complex are complemented by an adjacent low-rise restaurant and a student store. The sports hall, planned on the northern side of the building plot, was started but never finished.

The student dormitory is one of the many examples from the late 1960s and early 1970s in Skopje of sculptural form expressed by means of exposed concrete. The exclusive use of that brutalist material per excellence subverts the conventional modernist distinction between structure and enclosure, resulting in an ascetic reduction in terms of materiality and color. Nevertheless, strong rhythms of “serving spaces” and pronounced textures – fluted surfaces, embossed geometric ornaments – ultimately generate a highly aestheticized building.

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vldmr, May 31st, 2023
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