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This communist monument in Albania is being transformed into a new cultural hub

Tim Gibson

18 February 2021

 

CONSTRUCTION work has commenced at the Pyramid of Tirana in Albania; a former communist monument that's now being given new life as a vibrant cultural hub.

The Brutalist structure was first opened in 1988 as a museum of dictator Enver Hoxha who had died three years earlier.

Designed by Hoxha’s architect daughter Pranvera Hoxha, the Pyramid was one of the most expensive structures ever built in the country. Because of its sheer size and scale it colloquially became known as the “Enver Hoxha Mausoleum”.

Since then the Pyramid has been reinvented several times; first as base for NATO during the Kosovo War, then as a nightclub and event space.

The Pyramid now locally represents victory over the regime for Albanians. A powerful symbol that isn’t lost on MVRDV, the firm responsible for the structure's 2021 redesign.

Above: The redesign will allow visitors to safely climb the monument. Image courtesy of MVRDV. Below: What the Pyramid originally looked like. Image courtesy of Brosen.


Embracing the symbolism, MVRDV has added sloping concrete beams across the exterior, making it safe for anyone to literally walk over this monument to a former dictator.

Albanians will be able to climb right to the top of their reclaimed pyramid.

The building’s interior, which is currently hermetically sealed and inaccessible, will be completely opened up while elements from previous renovations will be removed.

Trees and greenery will be placed inside as well as boxes containing individual rooms, creating a village of classrooms, studios, cafes, and restaurants.

TUMO Tirana, a non-profit educational organization, will be the primary tenant of the Pyramid. They will provide free after school education for teenagers across subjects such as software, robotics, animation, music, and film.

Above and Below: The interior of the Pyramid will be opened up and include spaces for free after school education. Images courtesy of MVRDV.


“Working on a brutalist monument like the Pyramid is a dream,” MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas said in a press release.

“I immediately saw its potential, and that it should be possible to make it even more of a ‘people's monument’ instead of demolishing it.

“The challenging part is to create a new relationship between the building and its surroundings. I am confident our design establishes this.”

This redesign is part of a growing movement to preserve Brutalist structures rather than demolish them.

Recent high-profile Brutalist redesigns include the Standard Hotel in London and the Flying Saucer in Sharjah.

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