People feel comfortable when they have access to the surrounding nature, the experience of open fields and agriculture; access to wild plants, birds and animals. Because of this approach, towns must have borders with the village, almost everywhere. At the same time, the city becomes a good place to live only when it contains dense interactions between people and work and different lifestyles. Because of this interaction, the city must be continuous, not broken.
The dynamics of construction at the beginning of the 21st century is becoming more difficult to control. It is conditioned by the very growth of the cities. But such growth does not necessarily mean the provision of quality urban space in the places of expansion of the city. The ground that is best for agriculture is by chance the best for construction. But,it is limited and once destroyed, it cannot be recovered for centuries.
One of the issues is the void as an architectural element, but also, its treatment in the context of the city of Kichevo. In this sense, the project is aimed at increasing the density in the existing city voids and turning them into quality collective spaces.
The most noticeable architectural gesture is the linear structure – a residential building. The concept of linear structure as a city edge not only clearly emphasizes its function but also sets up a kind of inner-city wall. Therefore, what is inside is a city, and what is outside is not a city. The void is organized with a minimum of architecture, but a maximum program. In this way, this part of the city is activated, and at the same time, its border is emphasized.
The research primarily addresses the park, and then, the heterotopic theme park, through a series of examples that will determine how their organization and circulation works. The theme park allows a person to afford a new identity, and on the other hand, completely pulling one out of the context of the place where it is located.
In order to achieve a space that will represent a parallel world that a person experiences as real and wants to return to again and again, the entrance is experienced as an absolute passage into another universe that will give you the effect of an “interspatial journey”. Then, the same space should be large enough to create the effect of a whole world. The boundaries are lost on the horizon and they should not be marked with clear lines, as is the case with ‘Westworld’ and ‘Disneyworld’.
Although the thematic parks are considered as consumeristic and enclosed places, in a context such as the town of Kichevo, one should think about opening such spaces to the public and turning them into collective spaces.
What prompted the project?
First of all, the uncontrolled spreading of the city on unoccupied land that was used as agricultural fields, while leaving voids inside the city tissue, which become terrain vague, as the years go by. Furthermore, the periodical congestion of the city center in the summer becomes a problem for the locals. Therefore, the aim was to propose a strategic intervention that would influence the wider area of the city of Kicevo and not just the chosen location of intervention. In this way, the overall circulation and concentration of processes in the city will be influenced, at most in a certain period of the year, and to some extent throughout the whole year. With this cyclical way of functioning, the periodic decongestion needs of Kichevo would be satisfied.
How and to what extent has your personal experience of the city and the countryside influenced how you approach the project?
Growing up in Kichevo, which is a small town, I experienced a serene way of living where the majority of households grew their own food in their own yards. Today, houses with courtyards, located near the city center are being replaced with apartment buildings and people are starting to build new houses towards the borders of the city, forming new residential islands without a defined collective space. Thus, this project is trying to organize the apartments in one linear block, leaving a small footprint on the ground. The rest of the site is occupied by collective spaces, including, farms and crops of vegetables and fruits, which are grown by the locals. In this way, the project tries to adjust the contemporary way of life with the habits of the local people.
What informed the choice of Kichevo as a site?
One of the reasons I decided to work and explore Kichevo is because it is my hometown, and also, is presumably, going to face radical changes in the next decade, as more and more residential houses in the city center are being demolished and replaced by apartment buildings. Meanwhile, public space seems to be forgotten. This changes continue to occur at this time and will continue in the future, as there haven’t been any solutions or ideas offered by the local government and even less research has been done to try to prevail this unconstrained building and urban planning of the city.
Could you define the notion of the theme park?
From the analyzed examples of thematic parks, it can be concluded that the theme park is almost in all cases based on the principles of consumerism, closedness, and obeying certain rules. Therefore, it becomes an exclusive space, unavailable for all, and thus leads to the question of its persistence in the future.
The very perfect appearance of the theme park makes its distinction from the real context where imperfection and disorder prevail, and the invisibility of the border of the park makes the visitor feel that one is in a new world that is infinite, a world where one can lose orientation and get lost.
This project treats the notion of a theme park in a way that it is adapted to the city it resides in – it becomes open and inclusive.
How is this programmatically organized?
The intervention uses a number of programs with a minimum of architecture. The newly proposed solution programs the entire surface of the site, not operating with buildings, but again with a void. Apart from the linear composition – the edge which consists of modular apartments, the rest of the location is designed as a collective spaces (square, amphitheater, market), productive and artificial landscape that contains: forest (orchard), water (swimming pools and artificial lake), mountains (artificial hills), beach that frames the water surfaces. Promenades and pavilions are distributed through the location and serve as kiosks, public toilets, bars and whatever the people want them to be at a certain period of time. The park is surrounded with evergreen trees and artificial hills which represent natural border that tries to decontextualize the park.
How do you envision these pockets integrating and interacting with the surrounding context?
Building a new collective space on an area that once was an industrial site, which is surrounded with houses is a way of integrating those residential pockets with the city.
The creation of a new public theme park is expected to define this point of the new city axial.
Although one of the aspects of the thematic park is the disconnection from the surrounding, this park does it subtly through an evergreen wall of trees that stops the views but doesn’t close the access to the inside.
How do you envision these park evolving as cities get more and more dense?
In this particular context, flexibility and opportunity for adapting the intervention to the needs of Kichevo in the future are provided, the need for building new apartment buildings is satisfied, outside the existing frames of the city, the arable land in the southern part of the valley is preserved. Following the growth phenomenon and changing of the borders of the city, the new intervention seeks to control it, so it becomes a wall, that is, it limits the growth of the city in that direction, thus preventing the destruction of arable land in that area.
The program and the theme of the park depend on the density and the character of the city, so it is important for it to be flexible and able to adapt to the needs of the people in different periods of time.
Can we talk about this speculation as a prototype for every city?
Yes. The notion of city edge as a visible structure is applicable to many cases and the park can be programmed according to a particular city’s needs. In order to answer the question of what should be the theme of a theme park, it is primarily necessary to answer what do the people lack in a certain period of time and what are the needs of a certain place. In the case of the city of Kichevo, as in many cities in Macedonia, people do not have sufficient water contact. In conditions where the only river flowing through the city dries up in the summer, one should consider a place that will compensate for this deficiency. Taking into account the infinite number of activities that can be offered by a water surface in a single community, the new concept will function as a water park.
With this kind of programming of the parks, they can accordingly answer the very needs of different towns. Every city needs its fun? Or, maybe, every city needs its thematic park?
What power do we as architects hold in controlling and safeguarding the growth of cities?
Architects cannot control the growth of the cities, but they can control the way the city expands.
Anyway, architects should be very responsible when it comes to planning the city because it is a role that is a privilege of few and architects or planners should always carefully think about how they affect the environment with their actions.
What is for you the architect's most important tool?
For me, the most important tool of an architect is to critically reinterpret and rethink the examples of the past. I think that through truly understanding how the people in the past solved simple problems, what were their needs then, how have they changed in the present, the architect gathers precious data that later serves as a material for generating solid ideas, as in fact proven by the great Le Corbusier.