Construction has begun on MVRDV’s project for the Pyramid of Tirana in Albania, as of February 4th, 2021. Rehabilitating what was once a communist monument, the proposal transforms the brutalist structure into a new hub for Tirana's cultural life. Preserving the concrete shell, the intervention will open the atrium and the surroundings, while a small village of cafes, studios, workshops, and classrooms will permeate the site.
Located in the heart of the Albanian capital, Tirana’s 11,835m2 Pyramid was originally constructed as a museum dedicated to Enver Hoxha. Throughout its life, it has also served as a temporary base for NATO during the War in Kosovo, a nightclub, and an event space. In an attempt to reclaim the deteriorating structure, the youth of Tirana have used it as a hangout and a canvas for graffiti. Overseeing that this crucial heritage building gets renovated, MVRDV’s design will radically open up the building, removing additions from previous renovations to reveal the interior space.
The rehabilitation scheme proposes boxes that hold individual rooms inside, upon, and around the existing structure, in order to create a village of classrooms, studios, cafes, and restaurants. The Pyramid is thus expected to become a new hub for Tirana's cultural life and a carrier for the new generation. Used mainly by non-profit educational institution TUMO Tirana, the project will accommodate free afterschool education for teenagers in new techniques such as software, robotics, animation, music, and film.
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Working on a brutalist monument like the Pyramid is a dream. It is striking and interesting to see how the country struggled with the future of the building, which on one hand is a controversial chapter in the country’s history, and on the other hand has already been partly reclaimed by the residents of Tirana. 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. I am looking forward to seeing young people and for the first time older people climbing the steps to the rooftop! -- Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV.
Centered on Social sustainability, only the added boxes housing the educational program need to be climate-controlled, reducing energy consumption, while the rest of the project is open to the surroundings for most of the year. Meeting a number of the Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the United Nations, the project will not demolish the structure but will adapt the robust concrete shell along with circular economy principles. For example, the exterior steps will use the stone tiles that originally adorned the façade as aggregate in the new concrete.
The sloping concrete beams will take on steps for safety, preserving the appropriating that began with the citizens of Tirana. People can walk more securely right to the top of the pyramid. Moreover, these steps can also be used for sightseeing and temporary events, returning the Pyramid and the surrounding plaza to their function as an important central point for cultural life in Tirana.
The transformation of the Pyramid shows how a building can be made suitable for a new era, while at the same time preserving its complex history, and demonstrates that historic brutalist buildings are ideal for reuse. – MVRDV