Tirana. 51N4E makes the void resurface at Skanderbeg Square

For a capital which is rebuilding its image, the Belgian office designs an anti-monumental square, shaped by the users choreographies.

51N4E, Skanderberg Square, Tirana, Albania, 2017

Planned by a king, enlarged by a fascist regime in the 1920s, readjusted by a communist dictatorship in the post-war period, for more than a century Skanderbeg Square has represented the space par excellence for the self-celebration of the Albanian mighty in office. Far too many delusions of grandeur of several political orientations turned it into a huge (40,000 sqm), disproportioned, amorphous, lifeless void.

In the frame of the profound urban renewal promoted by mayor Edi Rama in the years 2000, 51N4E – who also designed the nearby TID Tower, completed in 2016 – seeks to transform this accidental leftover of over-planning into the “common ground” for the public life of democratic Albania.

In order to do so, the project defines a large central space, a rectangular void which is made clearly measurable and visible; it designs the shape – a low pyramid rising up towards its center – and the materials – slabs of local stones of different shades – of its ground; it densifies its boundaries, where more than 12 gardens act as spaces of mediation with the private and public buildings lining the square.

51N4E, Skanderbeg Square, Tirana, Albania, 2017
51N4E, Skanderbeg Square, Tirana, Albania, 2017

According to a seemingly random layout, water surfaces from the underground in the form of thin veils: the boundaries of the walkable areas are made uncertain, as passers-by invent unexpected detours and stopovers. It is a valuable strategy to create an overtly anti-rhetorical and anti-monumental public space, revealing itself primarily through the choreographies played by its inhabitants.

51N4E, Skanderbeg Square, Tirana, Albania, 2017
51N4E, Skanderbeg Square, trees plan
Tirana, Albania
public space
Johan Anrys, Freek Persyn, Peter Swinnen, Ulrike Franzel, Valbona Koçi, Griet Kuppens, Tom Baelus, Marc-Achille Filhol, Philippe Nathan, Emmanuel Debroise
In collaboration with:
Anri Sala
Execution design :
Team 51N4E:
Johan Anrys, Freek Persyn, Sotiria Kornaropoulou, Alice Babini, Guillem Pons, Charlotte Schmidt, Martin Pujol, Jolein Bergers, Guillaume Boulanger
Team irI:
Gent Agolli, Guust Selhorst, Ajmona Hoxha, Ardian Rapo, Olsi Pere, Xhorxh Shkurti
Team Plant en Houtgoed:
Nicolas Vandenplas, Pieter Hollants, Jeroen Deseyn, Vincent Luscomb
Building Contractor:
Fusha, AL
Aquafontal, BE; Gatic, BE
Atelier Jeol, FR
Gentian Lipe, AL
Built Area:
90.509 sqm
23.993 sqm
Amount of tiles:
Construction cost:
13.000.000 euro

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