Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj announced yesterday that the Skënderbeg Square will be inaugurated on June 10. During a meeting with citizens at the Lake Park, where Prime Minister Rama was present as well, Veliaj stated:
The square has come out very beautifully. This week we will test the fountains and see how well they function. We have planted a lot of trees around the square, there will be plenty of shade. A part has been planted only with olive trees and a part with fruit trees. It’s a fantastic place if you have bicycles or skates. It’s steep and if you get to the top, then you can slide.
The Initial Project
Mayor Veliaj stated in December 2015 that work on the implementation of the project of former mayor Rama for the Skënderbeg Square would begin. The project had been designed in 2008 by the Belgian studio 51N4E and Anri Sala, one of the closest friends of Prime Minister Rama.
According to the project, Skënderbeg Square would return into a pedestrian area. It was foreseen to build a giant, but low pyramid, which slowly starts rising from the sides of the square to its center, where it will reach the height of 1.80 m. To soften the giant mass of concrete and stone, some decorative trees would be planted in various small parks.
The 41,000 sq.m. of surface of the square and sidewalks would be covered with natural stones with a thickness of 10–12 cm. These stones would be taken from all Albanian regions.
No architectural project and project components were made public for citizens except for some computer renderings. This may be due to the fact that the project had undergone several changes over time.
In August 2016 Prime Minister Rama suddenly “informed” through Facebook that a large underground parking would be built in the Skënderbeg Square. In an announcement of a few words, he accompanied them with some photo renderings of the parking, noticeably enhanced with some underground trees.
The 111 Meters High Tower
In September 2016, the Municipality of Tirana began encircling the Skanderbeg Square in order to start work on its reconstruction. The whole area was surrounded by printed renders showing how the square would change.
None of the photos showed another “change” that would happen in Skanderbeg Square: the construction of a 111-meter-high tower next to Tirana International Hotel.
The tower next to Tirana International Hotel reinforces the idea that Prime Minister Rama has decided to arbitrarily and unlawfully bring forward the ideas of the French masterplan for Tirana, drafted when he was mayor.
The French plan foresaw 10 high towers – over 81 meters each, approximately 20–25 floors – which would be located around the Skënderbeg Square and along the axis of the Dëshmorët e Kombit Boulevard.
The French plan was adopted in 2010, but its implementation was interrupted by Rama losing the municipal elections to Lulzim Basha. After coming to power in 2013, Rama has restarted the efforts to build the towers that he had long wished for.
The Construction Company
Skënderbeg Square’s entire reconstruction, including the underground parking, was carried out by Fusha shpk, and it has cost around €12.6 million.
This project has now become one of the most expensive architectural interventions in the city. This is because the same company was declared winner in all three tenders (two for reconstructing the square and one for the underground parking) by presenting almost the same offer as the maximum budget set by the state budget, without any competitors.
The inauguration of this project is just one of the few projects Rama has decided to implement along the Dëshmoret e Kombit Boulevard, from Skënderbeg Square to Mother Teresa Square, which will radically change Tirana’s center. Its former character and identity will be lost, replacing or complementing the vision and tastes of Prime Minister Rama for the center of Tirana.