From: Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei
Bjarke Ingels Drops National Theater Project

Architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group of Danish architect Bjarke Ingels has dropped the construction project of the National Theater, well-informed sources tell Exit.

In March 2018, Prime Minister Edi Rama revealed Bjarke Ingels’s design for the new National Theater, the construction of which would be granted through a special law to Fusha shpk. This law was later criticized by the European Union as a violation of the Stabilization and Association Agreement. The government, in return, claimed it had no money for the project.

On its website, Bjarke Ingels still officially lists Fusha, which has been involved with numerous questionable infrastructure tenders, as its client. Ingels has refused to reveal the terms of its contract with Fusha or the Albanian government citing a “non-disclosure agreement.”

The impending destruction of the National Theater, one of the last remaining examples of Italian fascist architecture in Tirana, led to large protests by artists and citizens. The protests also highlighted the fact that the land grab by Fusha shpk, which promised to rebuild the theater in exchange for a large piece of public land to build a number of skyscrapers, severely tainted Bjarke Ingels’s self-proclaimed socially conscious and “anti-corrupt” design attitude.

However, it now appears that not social or ethical concerns, but concerns about the quality of materials has led to Bjarke Ingels’s abandonment of Prime Minister Rama’s vanity project. Whereas Ingels reportedly wanted to use high-quality materials, Fusha pushed for cheap and low quality materials to be used in the design. As a result, Ingels abandoned the project.

The way in which large public construction projects are tendered out by the Albanian government favors this sort of price cutting. As the price is fixed beforehand based on very loose criteria, the contractor has all the incentive to use low-quality materials and pocket the difference as profit. Quality of construction is therefore always sacrificed for profit. Another case in point as the National Stadium, which has lost many of its design elements as a result of “cost cutting” by the contractor.

The public relations office of Bjarke Ingels Group refused to answer to any questions posed by Exit regarding their withdrawal from the National Theater project. They also blocked me on Twitter.