Virtual reconstruction of the Old Theater Building in Bitola
One of the few high-ranking Ottoman officials who served in Bitola and left a lasting mark on the city was Abdul Karim Pasha. He was appointed governor in 1895 and immediately embarked on reforms that gave Bitola a different “modern” look. Several important public buildings were erected, including the one behind the “Shark” Hotel (Orient), which was to serve as a tobacco processing facility and a wine customs house. The revenue was to cover the costs of the city hospital, which was also built during that period.
But there were already a Muslim cemetery at the site, which created resistance among the Muslim population. Prisoners were assigned for the labor action that took place on an unknown date in 1897, and deep in the night they were ordered to make the place flat “like a casserole”. The next day the foundations were laid, with military music adorning the act. The governor did not wait to see the building completed because, under the pretext that he was in poor health, he retired from service in 1901.
It is not known until when and whether it was used at all for its original purpose, but soon after the construction the building began to be used for cultural activities. Located behind the “Shark” Hotel, various cultural events, like film screenings, concerts, circus and theater performances have begun to take place here. According to the chronicler of Bitola and the last director of the Cadet School, Mehmed Tefik, there were three theaters in Bitola in 1911.
The building was severely damaged in the period 1911-1915, when theatrical and other events were transferred to the Municipal Hall in the school “St. Sava ” (today Goce Delchev school).
After the end of World War I, life in the city slowly began to stabilize. The need for cultural events imposed the idea of building a new, more modern cultural center on the very site of the burned building. The task of renovation was entrusted to the young architect Vangel Samardzic.
The renovated building of the Bitola Theater was inaugurated on April 23, 1926, with the premiere of the play “Death of Uros the fifth V” by Stefan Stefanovic. As a gift from the royal couple, the theater received an asbestos curtain on which an open stage was painted with “faces in colorful folk costumes and decorative ornaments”.
The theater building housed performances by various theater groups, and housed the cinema “Balkan” until 1945, when it was decided to perform only theatrical performances in the hall. Meanwhile in 1939, the “Bosnia Hotel” burned to the ground, giving the theater building a immediate entrance to the main Shirok Sokak Street.
On November 14, 1944, after the liberation of Bitola, the first theatrical play in Macedonian language, the one-act play “Gjorgji Magarevski” by Vlado Maleski, was shown here.
The theater building was renovated and expanded in 1946, followed by a period in which a respectable cultural institution was formed. The Bitola National Theater, on February 28, 1953, celebrated its thousandth play “Without the Third” by Molan Begovic, directed by Dimitrie Osmanli.
The 1960s were also a time when many artists left the theater for various reasons. One problem was the building itself, which did not meet the requirements for a modern theater and it was necessary to find an appropriate solution.
At the beginning of 1960, a project for reconstruction was submitted to the Municipality of Bitola, where it was planned to obtain a new and expanded theater building in two phases. However, it was decided to go with a smaller intervention and temporarily to alleviate the need by building a rehearsal hall, expanding the stage and upgrading 2 auxiliary rooms.
On August 2, 1969, at the national level, a decision was made to build cultural memorials in 25 cities in the Socialist Republic of Macedonia, as a lasting memory of the First Session of ASNOM. For the memorial home in Bitola, part of the funds were provided through the self-contributions of the citizens, who on two occasions 1975-1978 and 1978-1982 allocated 1% and 2% of the personal income for the construction of buildings of public interest. The House of Culture in Bitola was a new “colossal” project that would solve the spatial conditions for the cultural institutions in Bitola and began to be built behind the existing theater building.
With the completion of the construction, the idea of demolishing the Old theater building spread to the public. According to some, this was a known fact when choosing the location for construction, in accordance with the plan which provided for a complete spatial solution for the Goce Delchev square.
The final decision was yield on October 3, 1979. after which the urgent measures were to be taken for the preparation of technical documentation for the existing building of the Theater, as it could be on 15.10.1979. to approach its demolition.
Part of the citizens and the intellectual public opposed this decision. Already on October 8, the NI Institute and Museum – Bitola adopted a Decision to determine the status of a cultural monument of the building of the National Theater Bitola, with a special regime of protection of the interior of the building. This temporarily stopped the demolition procedure, but another legal battle started, which resulted in a judgment of the Supreme Court (U. No. 135/80 of 03.07.1980) which again allowed the demolition of the building.
One of the options that was taken into consideration was the complete dislocation of the interior from the old to the new building, but that idea was not accepted.
Shortly after the verdict at the end of the month, the theater building was demolished again under the veil of night. The institution National Theater Bitola was already dislocated in the new building, which was solemnly handed over for use on October 11, 1980.
Actors and plays
3D reconstruction of the Old Theater Building in Bitola
The people of Bitola seem to have never regretted the old theater building. As part of the life of many generations, it is constantly mentioned with sense of nostalgia, which in a way was the impetus for a project through which the building would be renewed and popularized, but now through the use of modern technologies.
The realization was made possible through the project named “Interactive and virtual presentation of cultural heritage and cinematography” – CINEMA CULTURE, funded by the European Union and the national funds of the participating countries within the INTERREGIPA cross-border cooperation program “Greece – Republic of Northern Macedonia 2014-2020”.
The virtual presentation of the old theater was made by the GAUSS Institute from Bitola, whose team of experts accepted the task with admiration and a sense of great responsibility.
Through consultation and interviews with experts and citizens of Bitola, processing of professional and technical documentation, all the necessary preconditions for “revival” and affirmation of this never forgotten object were provided.
The obtained technical solution presented here, in the first place, provides quality technical documentation and a permanent mark on the building, and the possibilities that open for further exploitation are practically unlimited.
The 3D model fully meets the quality requirements that open the possibility of its use in the direction of tourism promotion, video games, and film industry. And why not for a physical reconstruction of the Old theater in a new modern form.