From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Rama Promises Sets Sights on Development of Palace of Culture

Prime Minister Edi Rama said Tirana will soon have a new Theatre for opera and ballet despite it being “much better” than the “hovel” National Theatre.

In comments made on Facebook on Saturday he spoke of an ongoing government initiative to reconstruct the Theatre of Opera and Ballet, which he says  “cannot even be compared to the ones of other European cities.”

He said that those who opposed such new developments had an “inseparable connection with ugliness and filth” and that the National Theatre would be a “masterpiece of contemporary architecture”.

He added that citizens who have “eyes to see and a mind to think” can see the difference like day and night between the governments “passion for the beautiful and dignified”.

Rama said that “every artist and art lover” will “radiate” after the new structures are complete, despite the fact that several hundred artists and art lovers have been protesting against his plans for the last 18 months.

Almost twenty years ago when Rama was the Mayor of Tirana, he designed a masterplan for transforming the entire centre of Tirana from the Lake up to Skanderbeg Square. 

The plan included Skanderbeg Square being surrounded by ten tall towers as well as multiple other towers flanking the main boulevard. His plans also include turning the National Museum into an ‘entertainment centre’ including shops, restaurants, and a cinema, ‘transforming’ the puppet theatre which he calls a “parable of shame”, and removing the National Library.

His plan also detailed his wish to rebuild the Palace of Culture, where the Opera and Ballet Theater is located, whilst making fundamental changes to its architecture. The opera and ballet part will be rebuilt but the central part of the building will be demolished leaving only columns and a large, open, courtyard that will serve as another entry point to the square.

In his plan, he referred to the Palace of Culture as “an oath of the communist-era”.

The government also wants to demolish the National Theatre and replace it with six towers and a new theatre. This will involve the illegal granting of public land to a private company in a move that has been deemed as unconstitutional. 

Artists, academics, and citizens have been peacefully protesting against its demolition for over 18 months. Unfortunately these protests turned violent recently after the government sent in special forces, police, and private security who were filmed assaulting protestors. The protestors have now occupied the building and are putting on shows each night for members of the public.

All of Rama’s plans for the centre of Tirana focus predominantly on eradicating most of the Communist-era architecture. His ruling Socialist Party, which is a direct descendant of the Communist party, is approving the development, demolition, and removal of most of the landmarks and historical sites in the centre of Tirana and replacing them with towers and structures with questionable public value.