Architects Boeri and Cucinella unveil post-earthquake reconstruction plans in Tirana and Durres

The reconstruction plans in the aftermath of the earthquake that hit Albania on Nov 26 last year are heading towards finalization and the next two months are decisive in reference for opening the gigantic construction sites in all sites determined to host new residential neighbourhoods, models for a new modern urban development all over the country.

Two of the most ambitious post-earthquake plans in Tirana and Durres were publicly presented by leading Italian architects Stefano Boeri and Mario Cucinella during an online videoconference with the National Territorial Council.

Prime Minister Edi Rama noted that the two plans will open a new chapter of Albania of the next generation in terms of the historic projects on the country’s reconstruction.

“I would like to express my gratitude to the Italian architects, who are genuinely involved in this process and I would also like to thank both Stefano and Mario for the fact that that they showed their readiness to join our shared effort to heal the serious wounds opened on Nov 26 at the very first moments when the tragedy struck. We are today ready to open a new chapter in the true sense of the word, because we provide not merely housing to everyone waiting to move into their new homes, but we also set new examples to next generation Albania we want, next generation cities, as well as the community co-existence of the next generation,” PM Rama said.

The Minister of State for Reconstruction Arben Ahmetaj noted work is progressing satisfactorily in all reconstruction sites.

“Work is underway to clean the territory and a number of sites, which will be made available to host the reconstruction projects. The Albanian Development Fund completed the first procurement phase for construction of some 2400 homes. The same goes for the Municipality of Tirana, while the Albanian Development Fund has entered the final process, the second procurement phase on construction of a significant number of school buildings. As far as the education institutions are concerned, Tirana Municipality is about to complete projects and is ready to launch the procurement process, so the framework agreement. In the meantime, we have been closely working with the international donors. The European Commission has already advanced its pledge by allocating an initial amount of 15 million euros to support construction of 22 school buildings through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The same is happening with the Turkish government-backed project. The entire technical expropriation process is set to complete by early next week, whereas due agreement will be signed by the end of next week  and the whole area will be ready to host the project supported by the Turkish government. The same goes for Thumana, where private contributors have helped in cleaning the whole site which will be made available to a collective and rural development featuring individual homes, but under a new urban and rural development concept, including other public buildings and services. Intense cooperation is also underway with the United Arab Emirates. The area of Spitalle, which will be approved today, is on the focus of this serious donation to support building of 2000 apartment houses. In the meantime, we have advanced and we are about to finalize the agreement on involvement of the Swiss government in the project of grants to the quake-affected families,” Ahmetaj said, adding that “serious reconstruction sites to build new homes and schools in all quake-affected areas will open in June and July.”

“A crucial process has been taking place to design and develop useful community projects that also provide a new development vision in these two territories of national importance,” the Minister of Culture Elva Margariti said in her capacity as coordinator of the reconstruction program.

Presenting the Tirana mandatory plan, architect Stefano Boeri noted that the project reclaims a series of ideas under the Tirana masterplan, including the orbital forest project around the city. “The project is designed for an area where the new Tirana, polycentric metropolis was planned, located along the northwards end of the main Boulevard, close to the Tirana River and the border with the Municipality of Kamez. An experimental district will be built in terms of sustainability and capable of responding to the new needs of the post-pandemic phase and to all the sustainability needs required by the climate crisis,” Boeri said, adding that project is designed on eight main elements. “First element has to do with the idea about building a district that would feature the most advanced technologies and an accessible and self-sufficient district from the point of view of clean energy, water, food and all urban public services. The concept is to build a district that can be traversed in 15-minute walk, a car-free area, a vibrant neighborhood for the future, accessible for young and people from all walks of life and, above all, a protected and safe neighborhood,” the architect said.

The new district – according to Boeri – combines residential buildings with structures that house shops, service and production units, as well as public institutions. The main feature of the project is that it proposes creating of green areas and terraces.

Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj noted that the new project will address almost half of the problems facing urban areas, providing not only housing for the quake-affected citizens, but also other categories benefiting under this project.

“We will accommodate around 1000 families that represent almost half of the families currently housed in rented dwellings in urban areas. The project will automatically address almost half of the problems we face in the urban areas with the construction of a total of 2200 apartment homes. We have already commissioned some 442 apartments for quake-affected families, which will benefit housing under the Municipality’s soft housing loans, so the goal is to make sure the new district is not a kind of a ghetto for the quake-affected families only, but it also provide housing for a large number of families that have built illegally in the area, and an additional community of young families we support through subsidizing long-term loans. We are looking forward to kicking off work, while measures to clean the territory are also already in place, initially in Municipality-owned land. In the meantime we are involved in the social management of all families that could have usurped certain land plots over the years. What we offer them in turn is that they will benefit full housing venues,” Veliaj said.

On his part, architect Mario Cucinella, while outlining the reconstruction project for the coastal city of Durres, said that his project focuses on the low-density neighbourhoods with an expanded service network, turning it into a significant destination, not only for Durres residents, but a broader region.

“We have largely focused on a low-density district idea. However, considering the construction speed and the proportions of these residential blocs we need to somehow provide a quick response within this great development axis. It seems to me that the idea of designing a quickly feasible project is pretty important and meets your requests. The idea of ​​building on this basis also involves a series of services in Durrës, taking into account the city’s density and it is important Durres becomes a destination, not only for those who live there, but can also be a destination for residents from other cities. This combination helps us create a new vibrant district. The project will provide housing to 1530 families or about 5 thousand inhabitants,” he said.