Capital of Albania by chance, Tirana has attracted international attention for its difficult transition after the fall of the Communist regime. Anarchy and disorder reigned during that historical transition, as excellently portrayed in Gianni Amelio’s film Lamerica (1994), documenting Albania’s epic mass migration. Meanwhile, Tirana’s urban structure has exploded: the city has been literally overrun, demanding all of Albania’s resources and attention. Its arduous period of contemporary formation has been shaped by an absence of models, as it was caught between rapidly shedding its socialist identity and a superficial assimilation of Western ways. Lacking dominant cultural anchor points, though likewise no preconceptions, particular experimental approaches to urban planning have been taken, possible developments have been explored, and urban renewal strategies tested out. Now that the early days of its youth are bygone, the Albanian capital has reached maturity in its metropolitan consciousness, its population has almost tripled, and its size has burgeoned beyond all bounds. This book aims to understand a process of architectural and urban identity-building in progress, document its contradictions, and suggest a frame encompassing layers of landscape, history, political propaganda, and spatial consequences. These overlapped perspectives create an original, multi-layered, and never-linear reading. Though perhaps informal, such an approach is well suited to translating a city as complex and elusive as Tirana, one that has shown so much resistance over the years to any form of control. Beyond its European aspirations, its globalized camouflage, and its dialectical exercises in planning, Tirana’s path is often circular and keeps on returning to a Tirana that has always been there in its never-ending uncertainty and syncretic brilliance.
Andrea Bulleri, PhD in Architectural and Urban Design, has taught at the University of Pisa, the University of Florence, and the UFO University of Tirana. Since 2007 he has distinguished himself as one of the founders and curators of the Florence Architecture Workshop. His publications include: Tirana. Contemporaneità sospesa (Macerata 2011); Suture(s) (Pisa 2011); Italo Gamberini: gli elementi costitutivi e la dimensione urbana del progetto (Pisa 2006).