Albania is a country in the midst of an economic and cultural makeover. The repainting of grey, communist buildings in bright colours - a gesture that ignited civic pride - was the first move in a transformation that has culture at its heart.
Tirana is opening up and the democratisation of once state owned space has become a priority, with barriers being dismantled to create new public spaces.
The house of the communist dictator Enver Hoxha is located in the Block area of Tirana. Although hard to believe now; the Block was once the ‘silent stronghold’ of the regime and Hoxha and his ruling elite lived here in large villas. Now the Block inhabits a new economic and cultural landscape humming with a youthful energy and brightly lit by bars and restaurants. The Villa sits like a mausoleum in the heart of the area. It is a powerful symbol of the inequality of the Communist regime. The Villa is clearly visible from the street but remains almost entirely ignored by passers-by, only occasionally photographed by groups of intrigued tourists.
The Homegrown proposal supported by the British Council, Albania formed part of an ongoing discussion about the future of the building and was a unique and exciting opportunity to contribute to a collective vision for Albania’s future in terms of progress, reform and citizen empowerment. Homegrown aimed to take the first vital step towards democratisation of the space enabling the Villa to become a place for the people, a site to be enjoyed by all who visit.
Stanton Williams are a multi award-winning practice. They state that their ‘commitment to design quality and spaces that work is matched by our design integrity, culture and attention to detail. Our architecture is about how people experience place and how place affects them’. Stanton Williams have successfully completed numerous high profile architectural, urban design, master-planning, exhibition and interior design projects, winning more than 100 awards. Director Paul Williams was one of the first British architects to lecture in Tirana after 1991.
Stanton Williams proposed the ‘Shadow Pavilion’; a temporary structure to enable a programme of events and lectures to happen in all weather and times of day and evening. The structure would provide a venue for local and international curators, artists and architects to shares ideas. It could function as a gallery and café, creating a new social space for the public to share food, drink and experience new and exciting work.
Edible Bus Stop are a London based award-winning collective, comprising landscape architects, garden designers, horticulturists, artists and activists. They proposed a ‘Green Link’; a simple structure that would form a canopy of plants overhead with seating beneath. The canopy would bridge the garden and the street, vaulting over the fence to connect both sides. This connection was an important part of the Homegrown project thinking. The garden has been cut off and closely guarded from the public for years and it was deemed important that even when, by necessity, the garden is closed that a link remains to the outside world: the canopy and its seating would allow that connection and become a symbol for the project.
Written by Vanessa Norwood, Curator