MVRDV to transform Albania's communist era pyramid into a Centre for Technology, Art and Culture
MVRDV revealed its initial design for Tirana Pyramid in the presence of Prime Minister Edi Rama, Mayor Erion Veliaj, The Albanian-American Development Foundation (AADF), members of the Municipality of Tirana and public. The 11,800m2 former communist monument will become a large multifunctional technology education centre for young people. Mayor Veliaj declared that this project ‘will completely change the current building, putting it in service of innovation, technology, art and culture, not only in Albania but to the entire region.’ The project will be completed in June 2019.
The Tirana Pyramid located in the city centre and former Enver Hoxha Museum opened in 1988. It was designed in honour of Albania's former communist leader by a group of architects including Hoxha's architect daughter, Panvera Hoxha. The building has undergone several uses over the years. It served as a temporary base for NATO during Balkan Wars, and Post-War, it has been used as nightclub and event space. The pyramid has a unique silhouette which gives it a strong physical presence in its locale, and it has long served as a prominent gathering point for numerous social and political events even though most recently it went into decay and at the same time became a favourite spot for young people who climbed up onto its roof. MVRDV's concept embraces this use and makes the roof officially available for all visitors. The dark interior becomes an open, bright and green technology education centre.
“Though in the past, there were plans to transform this monumental building into a national theatre, this never materialised which left this fantastic building in ruin for more than a decade,” says Winy Maas, co-founder of MVRDV. “The Pyramid of Tirana will rise again by becoming a new centre of technology and learning for young people. Maas continues “It is a symbol for many Albanians. For the older generation, it is a memory to the cultural events during communist times, for the recent generation it became the place to celebrate the new era. They will use it as a hangout, as a place to glide of, and for concerts and gatherings. We will open it up to its surroundings as a structure in the park, that can be populated by people, trees, and containers for co-working. We will make the beams accessible and safe so that we can all climb to the top and celebrate the structure, with views of the city of Tirana. We create an inhabited monument.”
Despite the generous use of glass on the outer façade, the building is currently closed and inaccessible. MVRDV’s design will open up the ground level on all sides, making the entire program porous and accessible. This will also allow the current darkened atrium to become light-filled and attractive, as well as lift the current dreariness of interior spaces making them more welcoming. Due to the vast ceiling height within, trees and other greenery will be introduced into this monumental atrium.
The concrete beams will be used for sightseeing, temporary events and will also be populated with pop-up structures of sorts, such as pavilions, platforms and settlements. The aim here is to give the building back to the city and its inhabitants by transforming the current façade, giving roof access, and presenting a new perspective to the city from above.
Essential to MVRDV's vision is the respect of the current informal use of the building mostly by young citizens of Tirana, and to strengthen this use by inviting all citizens to share this function. The new building will be run by TUMO, a new kind of learning program where teenagers are in charge of their own education at the intersection of technology and design. MVRDV collaborates on this design as a commission of the Municipality of Tirana.