Three years after Italian architect Stefano Boeri first pitched the Albanian government on his “new vision” of Tirana and fraudulently won a predetermined public tender, he is starting to reap the profits.
As hired consultant for the government, Boeri produced a “General Local Plan” full of factual inaccuracies and serious bloopers, violating his government contract with impunity, and developing a vision of Tirana in which massive parts of the city would be granted in concessions to private construction companies in the name of “development.” Few of the concrete ideas of this urban vision have been realized, and the famed “orbital forest” of 2 million trees continues to feed into Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj’s unbearable form of propaganda, in which underage children are a consistent visual theme.
However, the concepts behind Boeri’s vision of massive privatization have resonated well with the Rama government. For example, the idea for the “Special Law” to grant Fusha shpk the public land of the National Theater and surroundings fits precisely in Boeri’s discourse of transferring public lands into private ownership in order to “intensify” the urban structure. The same holds for Mayor Veliaj’s school concessions, which will cause enormous and long-term damage to the public finances, while turning public schools into after-hour real-estate to be rented for profit out by the construction company that built it.
Boeri himself has profited well from developing the Tirana Masterplan. Unsatisfied with the government’s paycheck, he went on tour with the Masterplan, touting it as the second Italian grand vision of Tirana (after the Fascists).
And of course, Boeri himself was happy enough to design three different buildings for the private companies that now have received lucrative concessions to build public schools. It is difficult not to interpret this as an “unofficial bonus” for his professional advice. The upside was also that because the client was not the municipality but a private company, Boeri didn’t need to compete in a public tender. The same trick has been used by the government for the Qemal Stafa Stadium (Archea Associati) and the National Theater (Bjarke Ingels Group).
The architecture website Dezeen featured Boeri’s school designs, but ironically listed the project together with projects of architecture firms Coop Himmelb(l)au, MVRDV, and BIG, all of which failed to materialize. We will see how far he gets.
Also other opportunities presented themselves spontaneously to the selfless savior of green space in Tirana. He for example was asked to design the Blloku Cube and West Residence, both in Bllok. In both cases, the projects were approved by the National Territorial Council (KKT), chaired by Prime Minister Edi Rama, without any of the legally mandated public consultation sessions, thus in complete violation of the Aarhus Convention.
Recently, Dezeen featured yet another “vertical forest” by Boeri, also to rise up somewhere in Tirana south of the Lana, which is touted to “improve local air quality,” despite the simple fact that trees do not make a skyscraper more environmentally friendly or more sustainable.
With three school concessions and at least three designs for private companies rapidly approved by the KKT, Boeri has taken up the mantle as court architect of the Rama regime, and has chosen to link his destiny with that of an architectural vision drenched in fraud and corruption. But perhaps this is where he feels most at home. In Italy, he has been under investigation for construction work without a building permit…
– Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei