Surrounded by dramatic mountains and a wide arcadian valley Korça focuses a region of 360,000 inhabitants. Its urbane morphology reflects the wealth and ambitions of returning emigrants. Many Novecento and Art Nouveau villas are now restored. The aim of the competition was to find a concept which integrates a traffic and pedestrian rational with the qualitative and development needs of the city – a commercial strategy providing administrative facilities and a framework for residential development. The competition brief also emphasised that the scale of the new Korça should be respectful and appropriate to the historic scale.
BOLLES+WILSON identified five zones for the revitalisation of the 197,000 sqm city centre. Each zone possessing its own unique character, together they add up to a network of urbane public spaces. At one end of the centre the Cathedral of ‘Christ’s Resurrection’ anchors, at the other end a Commercial Anchor is added. These are connected by the Boulevard Shën Gjergji – a ‘Cultural Promenade’. Reduction in expansive communist road widths allows an extension of the Cathedral Square. This square is planned three steps above the street and framed by café pergolas. A large stage left of the cathedral and a smaller stage to the right facilitate events. Curved paving stripes echo the Cathedral geometry and serve to discipline market stands.
New figure on the Korça skyline and counterpoint to the Cathedral, a ‘Vertical Mall’ occupies and marshals the parade-ground scaled Theatre Square. A new commercial strip extends from here to the Bazaar via new shopping/housing blocks and a new Bus Station Roof – a Farmers-market platform. This – the second of the five zones – creates a new commercial hub in downtown Korça. The third zone is rescripted as a ‘Cultural promenade’, a semi-pedestrian connection between Cathedral and downtown Mall. Here a number of significant buildings such as the ‘Education Museum’ are extended out into the tree-lined, shady and café-filled Promenade as a carpet-like patterned paving, a choreographed sequence of Urban Living Rooms. The fourth zone revitalises a dilapidated villa zone with carefully placed new development. In order not to overwhelm the delicate historic scale of Korça a ‘Patchwork Strategy’ is invented – new buildings are paired with restored existing villas to form ‘Development Islands’ (shared economic benefit) and thereby create a network of active block-internal passages.
The final zone of the Masterplan is the Central Park (‘green heart’). Here a new triangular-block frames the park edge and by the sale of public land for private development finances the upgrading of the park itself. An ‘Active Edge’ mediates between park and surrounding city – Prismic Pavilions on wooden decks attracting cafes and individual user groups such as Youth Club, Kindergarten, Kadare Literature Club etc. This extensive spectrum of solutions filled out in visual vignettes and disciplined by precise plan geometries was chosen by the jury as the template for Korcas future.