The interview was conducted by Diana Tomić, at the request of “Blesok”.
“Blesok” would like to thank the esteemed architect and her daughter, the artist Diana Tomić.
Mimoza Nestorova Tomić was born in Struga, in 1929. She graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at the Technical College in Belgrade. After graduation, she returned to Macedonia to help her family and help build her country. Shortly after her arrival in 1953, she began working at the Faculty of Architecture as an assistant at the Department of Housing, where she remained for 12 years. Afterwards, in 1965 she was employed at the Institute of Urban Planning of the City of Skopje, where she worked until her retirement. Immediately after the Skopje earthquake in 1963, the Institute of Urban Planning of the City of Skopje, with a circular letter, requested professional assistance from all design companies and from the Faculty of Architecture. It was then that Mimoza Tomić joined the work teams of the Institute of Urban Planning, where needed. The entire expert team was tasked with reviewing existing urban planning documentation so that when United Nations teams arrived, they could begin work immediately. She was on a study visit to the University of Berkeley in 1964, for 3 months, together with her husband who was beneficiary of the Ford Foundation, and she has also participated in the work of the Department of Sociology of Urban Planning, followed by a one-month stay in London and Rotterdam. She continued her work at the Institute of Urban Planning, where United Nations teams have already been formed. She was involved in the socio-urban team of POL Service, the UN team from Poland. Later on, she became the leader of the Macedonian team. Through the connection of this issue with the study of housing and traffic and the general urban plan, she was included in the main team for preparation of the General Urban Plan of Skopje, which was completed in 1965. Sje participates in the design of the western industrial zone, together with POL Service, and then with the team from the Institute of Urban Planning in the preparation of the detailed urban plan and revitalization of the Skopje Old Bazaar. In the following years, until 1968, she prepared the project for reconstruction of Suli An which was completely damaged, of the complex of craft shops, the project for revitalization of the Čifte Amam complex which was not carried out, and in 1970 she designed the catering facility Menada. In 1977 she prepared the project for architecture and interior of the “Beko” department store. In 1977-78 she made a preliminary and main project and realization for the Museums of Macedonia in the old bazaar, together with architect K. Muratovski, for which they received the “13 Noemvri” award. In 1983 she initiated the concept and realization of the interior design solution for the Museums of Macedonia in the departments of ethnology and archeology. The following year she prepared the project for the Yugoslav People’s Army residential complex in Kapištec. With a team of architects she participated in the development of the conceptual and main project for the “Business Center” of the “City Gate” complex, a competitive solution of the architect Kenzo Tange, (unrealized). In 1985 she prepared a project for reconstruction, adaptation and acoustic intervention of the Universal Hall building in Skopje, together with interior design.
From 1986 until her retirement in 1989 she was director of the Institut for Town Urban Planing an Architecture.
She has participated in many conceptual solutions and competitions in Macedonia and Yugoslavia, teamed up with her husband Lj. Tomić, or with architectural teams. Some of those works are still unrealized. She has won the first prize in a competition by invitation, together with a team of young architects, in 1985, for the project of the Republic Secretariat for Internal Affairs on Partizanska Street, which remains unrealized. She is the winner of the Academy of Architects of Macedonia national award, ANDREJA DAMJANOV, for lifetime achievement. She participated in the exhibition “Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980” in MOMA, New York, in 2018 at the initiative of a team of architects. She is also the winner of the “Opera Omnia” award from Share Architects for 2019.
D: Was it easy for a young woman to leave her hometown and go study with a desire for the profession she loves?
M: My uncle, who lived in America in 1948, advised me to choose the Faculty of Technology, that the future was there. – Technology is the future of humanity –. That was my choice, Faculty of Architecture.
It was a great stress for the family that I went to university in Belgrade. It was in a time of a patriarchal opinion that girls should fight for the literacy of their people and should be teachers.
After the war, there was already a slow emancipation towards the decision to educate women. Young people showed a desire for vocational education, where they could afford to be educated, in a nearby region. It was stressful for me too, to be separated from my family, but when a dream appears in your mind, you are constantly struggling to make it happen. These were difficult situations, but you go with optimism and enthusiasm to learn more. There, in Belgrade, the atmosphere was very interesting, there were students from all over Yugoslavia, everyone wanted to socialize, that situation after the war was optimistic and there was no difference between the republics. My family was in a financial crisis, so in the third year I applied for a scholarship and so I graduated in 1953 in the shortest possible time. I returned to Macedonia eager to help my family, but also to get involved professionally in building my country.
D: What impression did the cultural life in Belgrade leave on you?
M: For the first time I went to the National Theater and watched the ballet “Ohrid Legend”, then I went with pleasure to the Jugoslovensko dramsko pozoriste (Yugoslav Drama Theatre) whenever I could find a ticket, there was a student discount. There were wonderful bookstores, rare literature, we went to good concerts in Kolarac with my colleagues, we visited exhibitions. It was a culture shock for me. When I returned to Skopje I was not disappointed, the Macedonian National Theater was pulsating at full capacity, with a selected and quality program. It was the time of the appearance of modernism, we visited exhibitions, we attended concerts, we simply felt the spirit of the new time.
D: You started working at the Faculty of Architecture as an assistant, in 1953, but you transferred to the Institute for Urban Planning of the City of Skopje, in 1963/65. How did that happen?
M: I met my husband Ljubomir Tomić at the university, we both agreed that it would not be ethical for a married couple to be at the same university, so at the first opportunity I went to another job. There is pedagogical work at the faculty, I was very satisfied in that regard, the communicattion assistant-students was great, but there is no design work, I missed the practice. It’s every architect’s dream to design.
After the earthquake on July 26, Tito came to Skopje on July 27, and declared – Skopje will be more beautiful and more modern, with the solidarity of the whole of Yugoslavia, but it needs help from the United Nations, and that will be solidarity from all over the world. And by decree of J.F. Kennedy, part of the US Army from the field hospital in Berlin came to help in Skopje and was placed in Kumanovo. There were 18 surgeons, from the Scandinavian countries, from Germany and France, who cooperated well and effectively with our doctors. A week later, Khrushchev called and sent rescue equipment and seismology experts from the USSR. Suddenly in Skopje, to that shaky terrain, two opposing armies came together and began to function normally. It was the time of the Cold War. The entire operation for the reconstruction of Skopje was led by the architect Weissman, who graduated in Belgrade and was then director of UNESCO. He announced that three superstar experts will come to Skopje: Maurice Rotival from France, who taught at Yale and was an urban planner on two continents; Doxiadis of Greece, who specialized in the theory of ekistics, and the third, Kenzo Tange of Japan, the father of the theory of Metabolism. As a UN project manager came the famous architect who raised Warsaw from ruins, Adolf Ciborowski. A member from the Yugoslav, i.e. the Macedonian side was the Institute for Urban Planning of the City of Skopje director, architect Risto Galić. An international jury made up of prominent urban planners chose the Tange project, because it had an outstanding organization in the city. There was a call from the Institute of Urban Planning to several construction companies and to the Faculty to get involved in helping with the construction of demolished Skopje, so I applied and received assignments. Later in 1965 I was officially employed at the Institute of Urban Planning.