MVRDV has begun construction on Skanderbeg Building, officially known as Tirana’s Rock, a mixed-use project that is sculpted into the shape of Albania’s national hero. The building is wrapped in curved balconies that form the shape of Skanderbeg's head, serving as an iconic landmark at the Skanderbeg Square in the center of Tirana. Once complete, the project will be one the world’s largest buildings that doubles as a figurative sculpture, celebrating the country’s cultural history while giving the Albanian capital a unique identity.
Rising 85 meters, the mixed-use tower is located on the square’s northeastern corner. At street level, the building's curved silhouette fills the edges of the site. Skanderbeg's "shoulders" align with the widest part of the site, while his head is turned to the right, facing the square that carries his name. The design is achieved by making use of balconies that wrap around the entire building on all levels, with curved protrusions forming the facial details such as the nose, ears, and beard. The final design is a subtle symbolic intervention which might not be too apparent for people at a first glance.
Fitting seamlessly into a city that has developed a tradition of mixing art and architecture as part of its post-communist renaissance, the building provides well-designed, functional homes in one of the most desirable locations in Tirana. The balconies allow the building’s interior spaces to adopt rational floorplans while providing a significant amount of valuable, shaded outdoor space for occupants. Inside, the building features one level of commercial space and four levels of offices. Above, 20 floors of residential apartments occupy the “head”, with special care paid to each individual floor plan to ensure that these homes are functional despite the irregular shape of the building.
Each balcony is separated by built-in planters with native plants, which allow the greenery in the surrounding area to extend up the building, making it adaptable to Tirana’s warm climate. Due to the broad overhanging balconies, the building is protected from excessive sunlight, and the floor layouts enable natural cross-ventilation. Rainwater capture and heat recovery systems minimize the building’s water and energy requirements.
These days, cities around the world increasingly look like each other – I always encourage them to resist this, to find their individual character and emphasize it. To me, the Skanderbeg Building is an opportunity to do just that. It brings new meaning to existing elements of Albanian architecture. As Albania begins its negotiations to join the EU, projects such as this one are part of the European Project – it stresses Albania’s history, character, and presence in a unified Europe of many states. -- Winy Maas, MVRDV Founding Partner
The balconies’ glass balustrades feature a gradient finish, fading from a milk-white to a clear finish to create a marble-like appearance. At night, lighting strips integrated into the underside of the balconies highlight the form of Skanderbeg’s head, making the building a beacon and landmark in the city.
Gjergj Kastrioti, commonly known as Skanderbeg, is an important figure in the history of Albania, as he played a crucial role in its conception as a nation-state, making him the country’s national hero. Honoring his legacy, the main public square in the center of Tirana is named Skanderbeg Square, accompanied with the Skanderbeg Monument.