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National Theatre of Albania

Tirana, Albania
1 of 17

The building of the National theater of Albania dates in 1939 following the Italian occupation of Albania. It was previously a movie theatre and was primarily built to serve Italian soldiers as a form of entertainment (dopolavoro). The original project was named "Skanderbeg Complex" or "italian-Albania District - Skanderbeg". Two main parallel buildings formed the complex, divided by a half-atio for relaxing, with a pool in the middle and a gym at the front end of the building.

The National Theatre was completed in 1940 by the construction company Pater Costruzioni Edilizia based on the design of the Italian Architect Giulio Berte. Conceived by Giulio Berte, this building is of historical interest for its original construction technique. The shell of the building, achieved during the economic period of Autarchy, is composed by prefabricated material "populit", an experimental cement mixed with fibers of poplar and algae.

The architecture of the complex was based on the principles of the "ventennio", as the twenty years of Mussolini's regime in Italy are called. Initially, the left building was used as the Savoia Cinema where films were shown, and theatre and concerts were performed. The technical infrastructure was entirely suitable for cultural and public events because the building materials offered perfect conditions for acoustics and light technology. It was therefore for a long time also used for meetings and conferences. The main front entrance doors lead to the main hall, paved in black and white marble and draped with a double layer of velvet curtains. The doors also lead to the left and right lodges, and to a gallery as well.

Demolition Threat

Since 2000 the municipality of Tirana and socialist governments tried at least twice to demolish it and replace it with new high rise profitable developments. Both times, tense public debate ensued among intellectuals, artists, citizens and politicians who became passionately involved. It is becoming a case on how the city is to be developed transparently and only in the public interest, maintaining its cultural heritage and safeguarding its identity.

The Albanian authorities have announced the demolition and the construction of a new complex in 2018. A new theatre shall be constructed on the grounds of the current theater. The global design firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) is planning to build three indoor performance spaces, a rooftop amphitheater and a covered public space beneath the building. But many culture figures remain skeptical of the plans and protest government plans to demolish the iconic building.

The government and the municipality of Tirana claim the buildings are degraded, are of poor quality and cannot be properly maintained. In February, the government asked actors to vacate the building, so the so called inspiring plan to build a new Albanian national theatre, according to Prime Minister Edi Rama, could take place. Facing these circumstances, Docomomo International would like to express encouragement to the on-going efforts to protect the National Theatre of Tirana from eminent demolition.

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bostjan, November 26th, 2023
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