In complete silence and without any documentation available on its website (which hasn’t been updated since July), the National Territorial Council (KKT), which is presided over by Prime Minister Edi Rama, approved last Friday a number of building projects of architecture firms tied closely to his government, as well as numerous scandals.
The first building is a 24-floor “multifunctional” tower (another shopping center with apartments on top) to be built along the Rruga e Kavajës, at the location of the former Natural Science Museum, near the 21 Dhjetori intersection. According to the description, the building “keeps the memory of nature” by incorporating a number of trees in the façade, and creates an image of “the Hanging Gardens of Babylon,” reminiscent of Stefano Boeri’s Vertical Forest building in Milan.
Unfortunately, the claims of “ecology” and “sustainability” of these types of buildings, which have turned into a veritable hype, have long been proven overblown:
Want to make a skyscraper look trendy and sustainable? Put a tree on it. Or better yet, dozens. Many high-concept skyscraper proposals are festooned with trees. On the rooftop, on terraces, in nooks and crannies, on absurdly large balconies. Basically anywhere horizontal and high off the ground. Now, I should be saying architects are drawing dozens, because I have yet to see one of these “green” skyscrapers in real life.
There are plenty of scientific reasons why skyscrapers don’t—and probably won’t—have trees, at least not to the heights which many architects propose. Life sucks up there. For you, for me, for trees, and just about everything else except peregrine falcons. It’s hot, cold, windy, the rain lashes at you, and the snow and sleet pelt you at high velocity. Life for city trees is hard enough on the ground. I can’t imagine what it’s like at 500 feet, where nearly every climate variable is more extreme than at street level.
Trees just weren’t made for such conditions. Now if someone want to gin up a tree that can survive on top of a skyscraper, go ahead, I guess. But I can think of far better things we should be putting our time and effort into, like preserving places that already have trees growing on them or planting more on streets that need them.
Also, a comparison between the render of Boeri’s building and the actual execution shows that the vertical forest looks rather like very big and heavy balconies with a few small trees.
It seems that Archea Associati is simply jumping on Boeri’s bandwagon, because in Erion Veliaj’s Tirana anything that looks green is “ecological” and “sustainable,” without thinking about the complete carbon cycle, which includes the carbon-dioxide produced by the production of these massive and unnecessary concrete constructions.
Apart from the design itself, Archea Associati of Italian criminal Marco Casamonti (he was convicted for corruption) is connected to two of the most abusive of most probably corrupt construction projects in Albania, the new Qemal Stafa stadium, which involved the destruction of protected cultural heritage and the dubious transfer of public land to a public–private partnership exempt from public scrutiny and procurement procedures.
The other project involving Casamonti is the Veliera Square in Durrës, which has led to the permanent destruction of the ancient archeological heritage of the city, including several Byzantine sites, in complete violation of the legal framework that is supposed to protect monuments.
The same architect is also responsible for one of the greatest eyesores in Tirana, the unfinished and bankrupt “4EverGreen Tower” across from the Orthodox Cathedral – so far the only “masterpiece” of Casamonti in the city.
The next building approved by the KKT is “West Residence” by Stefano Boeri of Boeri Architetti. Boeri had been involved in the drafting of the Tirana Masterplan. This masterplan, huddled through the Municipal Council without any debate or serious public hearing, was based on erroneous statistical data, confused projections about population growth, and the wholesale privatization of large parts of the city.
In spite of Boeri being in breach of his government contract, he went on campaign with his masterplan, and is now receiving the compensation he has been waiting for: two new building projects in Tirana.
“West Residence” is yet another “multifunctional” building to be built right behind the Presidential Palace along Rr. Ibrahim Rugova, at the spot where there is now a parking place. And of course, also this building will feature some perfunctory trees, decorating a façade of massive concrete:
The usage of wood to decorate several loges and terraces of the building, together with the dense greenery on them, will create a natural harmony with the green landscape of the zone and the city in general.
Yes, they are speaking about Tirana, where Boeri’s infamous “orbital forest” is nowhere to be seen, where the Lake Park is being destroyed, and other parks are falling prey to construction projects. Where am I supposed to walk my dog? On your balcony?
Another project designed by Stefano Boeri at the prime real estate location of Bllok is called simply “Bllok,” and is another “multifunctional” building (shopping center), developed by the same investment company as West Residence, Invest shpk, according to the National Business Center established only a year ago.
The building is supposed to be constructed on the corner of Rr. Pjetër Bogdani and Rr. Vaso Pasha, diagonally across from the American Business Center, and will feature – of course – a “green terrace.”
Despite some of the architectural choices, none of these projects is inherently “bad.” New buildings are constructed all the time across the world. What should be questioned, however, is the utterly opaque procedures through which these projects are drafted and approved, without the legally required transparency, public consultation, and legally mandated publication of documents on the website of the Territorial Development Agency. These building projects have a significant impact on the lives of the citizens of Tirana and they deserve to be heard.
Moreover, the fact that all three projects have been designed by Italian architects who have recently been involved in dubious tenders and possibly legal violations in government projects, further increases the doubt that these projects are not simply private investments, but rather “perks” of Edi Rama and the oligarchs of Albania given to their “useful idiots” – their architects.