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TiranaWorkshop II:

Bringing the city together: 

Interventions in former-state residential complexes of Tirana



Over the last 20 years, Tirana, the capital of Albania, has undergone remarkable transformations. The transition from centrally planned economy to capitalism, along with global trends in urban development, had a direct impact on the social, economic and spatial structures of the city. Since the early 1990s Tirana’s urban space has been rapidly transformed, along three main directions:


  • The city centre and the main road axes have been dramatically transformed. New land uses such as commerce, offices and entertainment have been introduced, while new housing complexes have been constructed. Through interventions on the major public spaces and through the upgrading of public infrastructure a new image and a new identity for the city centre was attempted to be constructed, aiming to regenerate the whole city and attract new activities and investments.
  • An extended periphery of informal small-scale housing was gradually developed - mainly by internal immigrants - without planning, social and technical infrastructure or provision for public spaces, resulting to the creation of a poor urban environment. At the same time, informal development processes have taken place within the existing urban fabric, occupying former public land and blocking passages by erecting small, medium or large-scale constructions.
  • Large-scale housing and commercial complexes developed by the private sector, as well as large public projects, have appeared randomly in the near or distant periphery of the city, with no apparent intention to integrate to their urban surroundings. In this context of growing fragmentation of urban space and of intensified socio-spatial inequalities, new modes of urban interventions seem to be necessary.



The former-state residential complexes represent an integral part of the city of Tirana, covering an extended area of the city’s surface, and housing nearly 20% of the city’s population. They are mainly located in and around the city centre, but are also found along all the major road axes. They were constructed by the state during the era of state socialism, in line with the principles of the modern movement and the post-war urban planning practices that applied to most of the Eastern and Western European cities. They constitute one of the main elements of Tirana’s urban space; not only due to the population they house, but also due to the spatial qualities they offer.

The residential complexes were privatised after 1989. Former tenants became owners; the state withdrew from the maintenance of the buildings and common spaces,while the management of the open spaces passed to a large extent under the jurisdiction of the Municipality. Beyond signs of neglect or decay that urgently call for refurbishment, today these complexes seek a new identity, in the context of the broader urban restructuring.

Fragmented interventions by residents or by the Municipality of Tirana intend to deal with questions about the function and the identity of the former-state residential complexes. The Municipality launched a programme of painting the façades along the main streets, aiming at transforming the image of the buildings and their reflection on the public space of the capital. Residents’ interventions intend to appropriate the space by converting the ground floor flats into commercial shops and small workshops or by constructing horizontal and vertical extensions on the existing buildings. New formal and informal buildings are constructed by occupying public and common space.

On one hand, these interventions neglect common good by shrinking and fragmenting public and common space.On the other, the multiple spatial qualities that are produced invert the uniformity of the initial plan.

In this controversial context, the former-state residential complexes of Tirana emerge as contested spaces of social interaction and spatial creativity. Their spatial and social integration into the city and their future role in the process of urban development of the Albanian capital are challenging issues of major significance. Similar issues arise nowadays in several European cities and have given way to a multiplicity of intervention approaches.




The Study Area is located in western Tirana and is surrounded by Lana River (south), the second ring road (east), an informal housing zone (north) and a former industrial zone of an evolving character (west). It is crossed by Kavaja Str., one of the main axes of the Albanian capital with commercial and mixed uses. This year’s project seeks to investigate the future development of the former-state residential complexes of Tirana, by exploring a wide variety of possible interventions at the specific Study Area that intend to improve the living standards and the everyday life of the inhabitants, as well as to enhance community life.

In this context, the project will raise the following questions:


  • How will the social and spatial characteristics as well as the identity of the Study Area evolve in the future considering the existing dynamics and proposed interventions?
  • How can we reflect on the future character of the area in order to test planning models and promote new ideas about public space?
  • How can participatory planning, institutional frameworks, public and private initiatives and elements of time inform the design process and the proposed interventions?
  • Which solutions could respond to the existing and future problems of the former-state residential complexes and their residents’ needs?
  • How can interventions encourage various forms of collective/ community life and multiple ways of using space by different social groups?


Aiming to promote the upgrading of the urban environment and meet the challenges of future development, the workshop will explore a multiplicity of interventions, ranging from mild patterns of neighbourhood regeneration and problem solving to the partial redevelopment of the entire area, addressing also the aspect of time in the design process. The variety of responses will contribute to an experimental educational process and to theoretical discussions among the participants during the workshop.

Throughout the workshop, tutors will discuss extensively the students’ ideas, present relevant case studies and work closely with the groups in order to facilitate the formulation of analysis, proposals and presentations. 

  Brief and Map of Study Area [PDF]



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