Just when you think that Albanian journalism cannot go any lower, you read a breathtakingly pathetic interview with Italian architect Stefano Boeri in Shqiptarja.com. Shqiptarja.com is owned by Italian entrepreneur Carlo Bollino, a fervent supporter of the Rama regime and frequent apologist for its worst excesses.
His warm relationship with Rama is what Bollino shares with Boeri. The Italian architect “won” the tender to develop the general local plan for Tirana, also called the Tirana 2030 Masterplan. The final report Boeri delivered was not only seriously deficient and based on incorrect data, but also in breach of contract. Nevertheless, Boeri has been reaping the profits of his own masterplan, being involved in several clientelist construction projects across Tirana.
In 2018, Boeri came under investigation for building without permit in a natural zone in Norcia. The building site was seized in January 2019 by the Italian police, and first hearings in the court case were held in February. As happened with Italian architect Marco Casamonti, who was convicted for corruption in Florence, Boeri now tries his luck in a country where his political contacts will make sure no court case will ever be lost. And in return, he is more than happy to be the propaganda mouthpiece of a regime that has turned Tirana into a hell of empty concrete skyscrapers.
The opening of the “interview” sets the stage with unfiltered praise by the journalist Alba Malltezi, calling the Tirana 2030 Masterplan “a hymn for the regeneration of nature near urban centers.” Albanians are “lucky” that an “Italian architect of such size and with such vision,” and whom “future generation will admire” has arrived in Tirana.
Boeri’s entire role in this interview is to heap praise on the government projects which have attracted the most public criticism, using his status as “admired” and “famous” architect to belittle the protests and indignant calls of those living in Tirana. Let us hear what nonsense this architectural oracle has to say when given free rein:
About the air quality in Tirana (one of the most polluted cities in Europe): “Today Tirana is a city that has started to breathe, starting with Skënderbeg Square.” In other words: I don’t care about the actual pollution levels because there are trees.
About the New Boulevard (where dozens of citizens were violently evicted without compensation): “People cannot be forced to change their lives, but faced with the opportunity to improve their living conditions, without being shifted to the periphery or leaving the places where they have a personal memory, there are many choices to compensate for the sacrifice that is being made, since whichever the home, whichever the country, whichever the conditions, the home where you live is a part of personal history.” In other words: monetary compensation for unlawful eviction is just one of the “many choices,” these poor people should just leave and let Lali Eri do his work!
About the impending destruction of the National Theater (where Boeri’s colleague Bjarke Ingels whitewashed a government scheme to transfer public property to private firm close to Rama): “Today in Italy there is a great care, sometimes even exaggerated, for the protection and care of history and from this perspective Italy has lost several important opportunities because of an exaggeration of the conservation of history and the past.” In other words: I am happy to be in Albania where the government actively stimulates the destruction of cultural heritage, in Italy I can’t do what I want.
About his own construction projects, the Cube and the Vertical Forest (more skyscrapers, all of which received permits despite Veliaj’s electoral promise “no new skyscrapers”): “A city comprised of very similar, homogeneous parts isn’t an interesting city.” In other words: A city with an actual architectural vision, in which there is a well developed idea about its skyline, public space, and public transport is boring. I like that it’s a mess in Tirana because that means I can do what I want.
There is one final citation which I do not want to omit, which truly shows the intense shallowness of this man, masked as verbose vapidness:
We need the Mediterranean because in international politics Europe alone has little weight, and we need a perspective, even though it seems to difficult nowadays with Libya, with Syria, and with what happens in other parts of the Mediterranean, we need the Mediterranean, we need Turkey, Egypt, and all countries and according to me, Albania is cultural bridge, a bridge also because of its ability for cohabitation of three religions together, without any conflict, so Albania has elements of the future of Europe inside of it.
If you think this makes little sense, you are right. The distinction between the “Mediterranean” and “Europe” is set up as self-explanatory, even though part of this Mediterranean, including Italy, is part of Europe. Boeri needs a “perspective” that includes the other Mediterranean countries, but is completely unclear about what that perspective should be. Then he pivots to Rama’s cliche of the three religions, which somehow is the “future of Europe.”
There is nothing here, nothing that this man can contribute to Albania except an endless affirmation of this single fact: lick up to power and you can fill your pockets. And Boeri is licking so hard that his tongue can no longer form a single coherent sentence.