Erion Veliaj has begun to contradict himself. In a tweet, a day after the much-trumpeted inauguration of the Kosova school, Veliaj congratulated the Tirana municipality architects for this project. He called the project a “small gem.” He continued by saying that “the other 17 schools will be better built than Kosova. They will all have foreign architects.”
So, enough with Albanians, now we will only work with foreigners. This mayor is dangerous, insolent, and isn’t at all afraid of being so!
The history of foreign architects in Tirana has been covered by numerous Exit articles. A significant part of them has been used by Prime Minister Edi Rama and Veliaj to justify suspect projects, like the project of demolishing the National Theater and its replacement with a building designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels.
Meanwhile, the other favorite of the Rama-Veliaj court, Winny Maas, speaks everywhere of building hotels where Albanian nature is at its most beautiful: over the canyon of Gjipe. In his lectures, the Dutch architect mocks Albanians and, at the same time, demonstrates what he did in response to what he was asked to do. By Rama or perhaps by Erion.
If Rama insulted and systematically persecuted local architects, he has done so to make way for the figure of the foreign architect, with whom he has done what he wanted. Rama’s “vetting” of Albanian architects used to take them out of the picture and make space only for foreigners was the first red flag indicating how Rama would eventually use vetting processes. Erion Veliaj cannot do the same openly, and even when it is necessary to praise Albanian – municipal – architects he will also, at the same time, subtly undermining them.
Why should all 17 of Veliaj’s schools be planned only by foreign architects? Where are the competitions where both Albanian and foreigners compete for these public projects as they would anywhere else in the world? How dare Veliaj close the door in the face of Albanians and open it only for foreigners?
Veliaj and his staff’s snobbery, engendered and nursed by Rama’s arrogance and brutality towards Albanian architects, using them as a mere facade, is a strong indication of the mindset of Veliaj’s clan when it comes to a professional class – which they wish to manipulate and destroy only so they can reach their goals.
Veliaj, like Rama, has transformed project procurement, permit approvals, and studies, into instruments of controlling public architectural opinion.
At his round tables, he invites architects, who are closely connected with construction clan interests; former urban planning directors in provinces surrounding Tirana who brag about millions of square meters in constructions, but cannot claim a single square meter of green space; as well as a handful of romantic curators that ponder things that do not exist.
He also invites some professors, promising them a lot, and delivering little. All of these architects are paid the same amount as a bricklayer.
Afterwards, Veliaj gives the big, hundreds of millions worth, projects to foreign architects, who are paid 10–20 times more than local architects. They are the ones who do the most damage in the country.
It wasn’t only Erion Veliaj who learned this insolent alliance between power and foreign architects. Vangjush Dako and Niko Peleshi, like Erion, have learned that if something smells of abuse with public spaces and funds, then a foreign architect is like a nice, albeit expensive, perfume.
Veliaj is presented with an opportunity to give Tirana an era of strengthening and supporting local architects. Or perhaps he was. His tweet “Long live Albanian municipal architects, down with Albanian architects,” now ominously spells a death to hope.