Photowalk: The Evolution of Tirana

Tirana has been the capital of Albania since 1924. The traces of earlier establishments related to the city are associated with a trove of archaeological evidence.

A plethora of ruins can be found around Tirana, and these are all indicative of the evolution of the city. The photowalk conducted around a few key areas in Tirana aimed at having a better understanding of the cultural transformation of the city over time.

Several epochs with distinct characteristics were experienced by the city, and this is evident from the material culture associated with it! The Ottoman conquest filtered the context of Tirana in distinct ways, but the impact and importance that buildings of religious purpose had during this period stand paramount. Buildings like the mosque of Et’hem Bey and the grave of Kapplan Pasha are exemplary of these important religious sites.

Several socio-political agreements took place between Albania and Italy in the 1920’s. Urban interventions took place between 1925 and 1939, and since Tirana is the capital city, the developments and evolution of the area are quite evident.

A vila-rustica, excavated in the city, which was dated back to the 1st Century AD, was transformed into a Christian Chapel in the 5th Century. This hypothesized change is indicative of the emergence of Christianity as the central religious faith in Albania.

One can look at the evolution of Tirana in the modern period through the archaeological evidence associated with it, but certain characteristics can discern and typify the local architecture as distinct. The ‘typical’ Tiranian home is marked by its central hearth, which acts like a ‘lung’ for the home, as well as its two-floor structure.

Post 1925, a large scale urban planning project was carried out by the Roman architect, Armando Brasini. 11 buildings were proposed as a part of the project, but only 7 were built. New structures of cultural importance were created throughout the city, and the aesthetics employed resonated with those of older buildings. The Ministries Complex is one of these 7 buildings, and it is proportionate in size when compared to older structures that surround it.

The Ministries Complex in Tirana.
Image Courtesy: Irini Meci

Vittorio Ballio Morpurgo provided the design for the Abanian Bank, and its construction was completed in 1938. It is situated in close proximity with the Ministries Complex. It’s façade is characterized by geometrical brick layers that reflect the old techniques used to construct buildings of religious importance. Thus, structures in the city blend with one another in a synchronous manner.

The Bank of Albania was designed by Vittorio Ballio Morpurgo.
Image Courtesy: Elisabeta Kodheli

 

Gherardio Bosio is another well-known Italian architect who worked on the remodeling of the city. Starting work in 1939, he contributed to the design of structures such as the Palace of Culture, the Univerity of the Arts and the Polytechnic University of Tirana, to name a few. The techniques used mirror the architecture of much older structures within the city.

The Polytechnic University was earlier known as the home of Fascism.
Image Courtesy: Elisabeta Kodheli
Colonnade at the Archaeological Institute, built in 1939.
Image Courtesy: Elisabeta Kodheli

 

 

The University of the Arts, Albania, was built by Gherardo Bosio.
Image Courtesy: Elisabeta Kodheli

 

The Prime Minister’s Office, built by Gherardo Bosio.
Image Courtesy: Ina Lapi
Palace of Culture Tirana. Now used as the Theater of Opera and Ballet and where many privates institutions have their offices. Its project was made by arch. Gherardio Bosio.
Image Courtesy: Sara Mahmuti

The main purpose of this Photo Walk  was to experience the built heritage of Albania that was created within the era of modernity. People usually associate heritage with structures that are 200-300 years old. However, a cross section of Tirana proves that the way architecture develops with time is indicative of socio-political changes within a context. Looking at the architecture of Tirana, one can deduce that the city has traveled through a plethora of cultural epochs, marked by distinct events.

 

 

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