Albanian National Theater Shortlisted for 7 Most Endangered Heritage Sites in Europe  

The National Theater of Albania was shortlisted among the 14 European heritage sites for the 7 most endangered list 2020 by Europa Nostra.

The Albanian government is the only one in the list of 14 countries that has been actively trying to demolish a cultural heritage site. Other buildings listed face dangers of different nature and posed by different agents.

The Shortlisted 14 endangered heritage sites are:

  1. National Theater of Albania, Tirana, ALBANIA
  2. Karas – Traditional Wine Vessels, ARMENIA
  3. Khoranashat Monastery, Tavush Region, ARMENIA
  4. Castle Jezeří, Horní Jiřetín, CZECH REPUBLIC
  5. Tapiola Swimming Hall, Espoo, FINLAND
  6. Castle of Sammezzano, Tuscany, ITALY
  7. Archaeological Park of Sybaris, ITALY
  8. Ivicke House, Wassenaar, THE NETHERLANDS
  9. Y-block, Government Quarter, Oslo, NORWAY
  10. Szombierki Power Plant, Bytom, POLAND
  11. Belgrade Fortress and its surrounding, SERBIA
  12. Plečnik Stadium, Ljubljana, SLOVENIA
  13. Cuatro Caminos Metro Depot, Madrid, SPAIN
  14. Egyptian Halls, Glasgow, UNITED KINGDOM

The Albanian Government has planned to demolish the theater, and award the public land to a pre-determined private company to build six high-rise towers, as well as a new theater. The demolition has been hindered by the longest active daily protest in the history of the country staged by the Alliance for the Protection of the National Theater. For more than 18 months, artists and members of civil society have been protesting daily in front of the theater against the demolition and what they consider a corrupt public-private partnership scheme. Since July they have occupied the theater after a government attempt to start the demolition. Plays, shows, concerts and other artistic activities are regularly organized in the theater.

The list of the 14 most endangered heritage sites was drawn by an advisory panel of 15 international experts, after nominations submitted by civil society or public bodies from all over Europe. Selections were made on the basis of their historic and cultural value and the urgency of the threat they are facing. It also takes into account the community engagement, the commitment of public and private stakeholders, the long-term sustainability and the socio-economic potential of the site.

The 7 Most Endangered program is a civil society campaign to save Europe’s endangered heritage. It aims at raising awareness, preparing independent assessments, proposing feasible action plans to mobilise public and private support. The program was launched in 2013, and it is organized by Europa Nostra, the Voice of Cultural Heritage in Europe, and the European Investment Bank Institute. It is supported by the Creative Europe program of the European Union.

In their announcement today, Europa Nostra had this to say about the Albanian National Theater, which PM Edi Rama calls “an edifice (ngrehine)”, “trash ground“, and Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj calls a “rubbish dump area“:

National Theatre of Albania, Tirana, ALBANIA

The National Theatre of Albania, one of the most prominent cultural centres in Albania and an important social and public space in its capital Tirana, now faces the imminent threat of demolition. The Theatre, built in 1938-39, is an outstanding example of modern Italian architecture from this period and is an integral urban component of the monumental central axis of the city. The construction technique was based on the use of prefabricated panels with cemented wood fibre as part of the Autarky movement in Italy and is considered innovative for its time.

Europa Nostra has already publicly expressed its sincere concerns regarding the decision to replace the Theatre with a new contemporary building. Plans to destroy it have been met with popular protests supported also by experts, who are urging the city to make full use of the Theatre’s existing potential for the cultural and social enrichment of Tirana. The nomination of the National Theatre by the Gjirokastra Foundation is part of this wide civil society campaign to save the building.