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Ernest Weissmann’s “World City”

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The Reconstruction of Skopje within the Cold War Context

image of Southeastern Europe

On July 26, 1963, the city of Skopje was struck by a powerful earthquake which left behind almost nothing but ruins. Financially precarious, technically unprepared and politically non-aligned, the Yugoslav government needed neutral, long-term and specialized technical assistance if the Macedonian capital was to be rebuilt. Thanks to mediation of Ernest Weissmann, an architect of Croatian origins and a UN officer at ECOSOC, the United Nations joined in the reconstruction on October 14, 1963, and, in the following years, some of the most renowned contemporary architects and urban planners were invited to present their vision for the New Skopje. According to Weissmann, the city was to became nothing less than a “world city,” providing solutions to the contemporary “urban crisis,” prescribing a cure for “sick cities,” and showing the way for the “humanization” of the built environment. Even though mostly unattained, these ambitious goals gave birth to an international debate about the future of both cities and city planning, which was decisive for the definition of the UN’s later interventions. The goal of this paper is to deal with Skopje’s reconstruction, highlighting Ernest Weissmann’s role in it, and to describe the city as a node of knowledge within a network of specialists in urban matters established by the United Nations during and – most of all – in spite of the Cold War context.

Affiliations: 1: University of Bologna, Italy,


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