A community square in Tirana, Albania, is the latest recipient of the European Prize for Uban Public Space, a prestigious award that promotes the creation, restoration and improvement of public spaces.
Brussels-based architecture firm 51N4E has won first prize for its Skanderbeg Square project in Tirana, Albania. The European Prize for Urban Public Space is a biennale competition that promotes the creation, restoration and improvement of public spaces within European cities. This year’s winner was chosen for its impressive transformation of the city’s central square.
51N4E’s restructuring and renovation of Skanderbeg Square is a result of winning an international architecture competition back in 2008. The project was paused in 2010 for administrative changes but resumed in 2015, before being completed in 2018. The end result is a series of urban interventions “inviting public and semi-public neighbouring functions to spread into the exterior space”.
The project is a large 170m x 170m traffic-free zone built in a flat pyramid-shape. For the structure’s material, the architects used various stones obtained from different parts of Albania, keeping the essence of the city intact. To maintain the biodiversity of the city and control the urban ecology, a green belt of trees, shrubs, and flora were planted, creating 12 connected gardens around the public square. The gardens implemented into the space act as transitional areas between the city and newly-built pedestrian area.
“When standing at its [pyramid] tip, the citizens find themselves on par with the authoritarian architecture of the past. They can contemplate the buildings defining Albania’s past, suddenly opened up to new ways of reading, and embrace them as a history on which to build on,” claim the architects.