A Void in the Chaos

architectural office 51N4E
project Skanderbeg Square Reconstruction, Tirana, Albania

The project for the restructuring of Skanderbeg Square is the result of an international architecture competition won by 51N4E in 2008. The competition’s proposal, conceived in collaboration with Albanian artist Anri Sala, reorganizes Tirana’s central square, a vast ex-communist space, in a simple yet radical way. In a complex and dense urban context, on this site that is both the core of the Albanian capital city and a symbol for the whole country, the project installs a generous pedestrian area. The square presents itself as a void in the chaos of the city, a flat pyramid lined by a densely planted periphery, formed by a collection of old and new public spaces and gardens. The resulting green belt acts as an antechamber negotiating the transition between the congested city and the square. The oppressive monumentality of Communist architecture is counteracted by the ample and low pyramid making up the square: when standing at its tip, the citizens find themselves at par with the authoritarian architecture of the past. They can contemplate the buildings defining Albania’s past, suddenly opened up to new ways of reading, and embrace it as a history on which to build on.