The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Friday, December 3, 2021

Tirana's 'pyramid' puts checkered past behind it for new tech future
This aerial picture taken in Tirana, Albania, on February 7, 2019 shows a general view of Tirana's pyramid, a former museum that was named after late Albanian communist dictator Enver Hoxha. The sprawling, space-agey 'Pyramid' in the centre of Tirana has cycled through many uses before falling into ruin: built as a museum for a dictator, it later hosted a NATO base, a TV studio, a nightclub and more. Gent SHKULLAKU / AFP.

by Sally Mairs and Briseida Mema

TIRANA (AFP).- The sprawling, space-age "pyramid" in Tirana's centre had many uses before falling into ruin: built as a museum for a dictator, it later hosted a NATO base, TV studio, nightclub and more.

After years of neglect, the crumbling structure is now set for another rebirth as an IT hub in the heart of Albania's fast-changing capital.

"I don't think there is anyone who thinks it is beautiful," admits Joni Baboci, a city hall architect involved with the redesign.

"But it's a sort of a landmark of the city, and people want to preserve them in a city that has lost a lot" to development, he added.

The 127,000-square-foot (11,400-square-metre) behemoth has triangular wedges of graffiti-covered marble and dark window panes that meet at a peak, giving it the pyramid look.

For the project's architects, its overhaul is about striking a balance between preserving and reclaiming a relic from a dark period of Albanian history.

The bizarre building was originally erected 30 years ago to glorify the life of former communist dictator Enver Hoxha, who ruthlessly ruled Albania for four decades until his death in 1985.

After communism collapsed a few years later, the museum was shuttered and the pyramid became a venue for a merry-go-round of uses, reflecting the explosion of culture in a country that had been hermetically sealed under Hoxha's iron grip.

But for the past 10 years the building has sat virtually abandoned, aside from the locals and tourists who can be seen scaling its walls for the 360-degree city view at the top.

When authorities announced plans to demolish the pyramid several years ago, protests broke out, revealing how the unusual monument had won its way into people's hearts.

The demolition plan was scrapped and city hall came back last year with a project to turn the pyramid into a digital learning centre.

'Open to everyone'
"We thought there couldn't be a better symbol than giving the building back to Albanian society in its best form, to the kids, for their future education," said Martin Mata, of the Albanian-American Development Foundation, which is funding the more than $10-million (nine-million-euro) renovation.

It is a fitting purpose for a country suffering from high youth unemployment and emigration rates.

Designs revealed last month by Dutch firm MVRDV will open the structure on all sides of the ground floor, bring light into the atrium with more glass, surround it with trees and carve stairs onto its exterior to make the pyramid walls a safer climb.

"The pyramid will be open to everyone" and the building will be nearly "transparent", the chief architect, Winy Maas, said at the presentation in Tirana.

Inside will be a mix of commercial space and a learning centre for youth, run by non-profit group Tumo, offering classes in programming, design and other digital skills.

'Making Albania great again'
For Tirana's mayor, Erion Veliaj, the project is a "story of resurrection" -- for the pyramid and Albania itself.

"Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the start of (Albania's) transition, the question has been how do we make Albania great again?" he told AFP.

The pyramid's renovation is part of a dizzying amount of transformation that the country's capital has undergone in recent years.

The collapse of communism unleashed a massive wave of migration from rural areas to the capital, leading to unchecked construction, an explosion of cars and chaotic urban spaces.

As mayor of Tirana in the early 2000s, Edi Rama, who is now prime minister, gave the city a major face-lift by splashing its drab communist buildings with bright colours and bold patterns.

Veliaj says he is trying to further spruce up the city by cracking down on illegal construction, creating more parks and recently turning a massive Skanderbeg Square traffic roundabout into a pedestrian space.

Architectural hodgepodge
The changes are raising Tirana's profile on the tourist map.

Its vibrant cafe scene now comes in for praise, as well as the unique hodgepodge of architecture, including Italian fascist buildings, Soviet-style tower blocks, Ottoman-era mosques and, of course, the pyramid.

But not all of city hall's revamps are popular.

There have been regular protests in the last year over plans to knock down homes and shops for a ring road project.

In the centre, a crowd has been demonstrating daily against a government-backed project to bulldoze Tirana's national theatre, built in 1930, and replace it with a modern one.

As for the pyramid, some would have preferred to see it become an archaeology museum or national library, among other things.

But for Rama, the transformation of a "symbol of dictatorship" to a "symbol of each individual's power in a new time" is an apt roadmap.

"I am happy that we have managed to solve a problem that has vexed us for 30 years now," he said.

© Agence France-Presse

Today's News

May 2, 2019

Tate announces four artists who have been shortlisted for the Turner Prize 2019

Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art launches digital archives initiative

Christie's to offer Apollo 11 Lunar Module Timeline Book

Sotheby's announces highlights from its May Evening Sale of Impressionist & Modern Art

Drinks with Mona Lisa: A special night at the museum

Souls Grown Deep announces four new museum acquisition agreements

$13 million marks highest auction total for Prints & Multiples at Sotheby's since 2007

Food for thought: Maiolica on view at the Georgia Museum of Art

Jeff Wall's first exhibition with Gagosian opens in New York

Artcurial to offer a set of 15 pieces of art on paper entitled 'Salvador Dalí: Metamorphoses'

Tirana's 'pyramid' puts checkered past behind it for new tech future

Patrick Heide Contemporary Art exhibits recent works by Susan Schwalb and Caroline Kryzecki

Christie's sales of Post-War and Contemporary Art in Amsterdam total $8,750,736

Luhring Augustine opens an exhibition of new paintings by Sanya Kantarovsky

Egyptian Queen, Frank Frazetta's 1969 masterpiece, may bring millions in auction debut at Heritage Auctions

Middle Eastern Art Week led by £5.4 million portrait of Suleyman the Magnificent & 12 artist records

Mitchell-Innes & Nash now represents Gerasimos Floratos

Brazil's 'godmother of samba' Beth Carvalho dies

Fort Gansevoort opens Zoya Cherkassky's first solo exhibition in the United States

Sebastian Errazuriz sculpture exhibition opens at the Elizabeth Collective

Exhibition explores the inequalities in the global food system

Exhibition presents jewellery, glass and ceramics as envisioned by gallerists

Music as part of art - Winnipeg concerts

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful