Work underway to implement Tirana Pyramid revitalization project 

Work to execute Pyramid revitalization project kicked off today. A fantastic architectonic transformation concept by the Netherlands-based leading architecture and urban design studio MVRDV, designed to transform Tirana Pyramid into the largest centre for innovation, technology, art and culture in the region.

Prime Minister Edi Rama was familiarized with the details of the newly-launched project, with the Mayor of Tirana Erion Veliaj explaining that the project is designed to transform every corner and the surrounding space, which, though at the heart of Tirana, has been misused and often abandoned over decades. “The area will be completely transformed into a campus. The Pyramid will be just at the heart of this campus, which will house 18 halls or the so-called classrooms for the IT, robotics and design. We will also make use of the outdoor spaces as the design envisages 14 outdoor classrooms, a group of elegant rooms for training programs due to take place in the park as the Pyramid will open up to its surroundings as a structure,” Mayor Veliaj commented briefly on the project. “The project is designed to establish an interaction between the outdoor green space and the indoor space, which will also be divided into three parts, with one of them exclusively dedicated to TUMO, including the indoor classrooms, while the rest will feature an ecosystem of businesses and IT enterprises, where many start-ups will be able to host their training sessions, or test their products and designs here. Many technological companies have expressed their interest. In the meantime, 1/3 of the spaces will be rented to similar businesses to generate revenue through which we will support scholarships as well as the building’s maintenance operations.”

Addressing the ceremony marking the beginning of work on the project, an event also attended by the US Ambassador to Albania Mrs. Yuri Kim, Prime Minister Edi Rama said:

“I am very pleased as we are witnessing the start of the implementation phase of a project, which is perhaps one the projects that have taken more time to take their final shape than any other project I can recall. A series of projects have actually taken a lot of time, while this is the project, which, in my view, has been one of the most difficult ones to take the desired shape and animate the most difficult congruity between the past and the future through an intervention into the present. We all know the purpose behind construction of this structure, but, on the other hand, the building differed from other structures from an architectural point of view. It somehow represented an escapade of the then architects to dare move beyond the framework of that time, as if they endeavoured to say that what was banned to others and was not allowed to other structures, giving a structure being built in Albania a shape that was closely linked to the contemporary architecture trends was actually possible when this shape was designed to convey the eternal message of the glory of communism and the glory of Enver Hoxha.

This made the building a structure that hat definitely had to be preserved, not simply for its history, because that would be the least important thing, in case the building itself would be of no interest from an architectural point of view, but for its shape.

In the ensuing years, this building right at the heart of Tirana was abandoned causing the building to deteriorate and not a way was ever found how to make use of this structure, no longer for the purpose it was erected, but for different purposes and other functions. A series of things were tried, causing the Pyramid’s interior to turn into a sort of a kiosk.

The Pyramid came to turn into “an occupied land” symbol” because of collaboration between the state stakeholders themselves and various stakeholders of the private entrepreneurship. It became a place where the activities had nothing in common, while its central space remained always a deserted place. Then the irrational idea to turn this territory into the new parliament building and wipe the building off the map met with sudden angry reaction from the youngest generation, precisely from that very generation that had that had little or no connection of whatsoever to the former world and that had just begun to usher in the digital world, back then still very fragile and the newly created social networks began to be used at that time to call people to protest. I recall that the protesters who gathered here to oppose plans to demolish the Pyramid were the youngest people, who had nothing to do with Enver Hoxha, who had nothing to do with communism and who, of course, were not protesting to defend and preserve Enver Hoxha’s museum, but to preserve a sign of memory which was not their direct personal memory, but it was the collective remembrance of this community that is defended from generation to generation, precisely also through such very complicated interventions to transform another era building, constructed for completely different reasons, into a building of this new era. And in order for us to make sure that the building is not merely a temporary expression of a certain historic period, but instead it represents an ambition that embodies the future beyond ideologies and affiliations of whatsoever. Though I have to acknowledge that since I was serving as Tirana Mayor, I have had this building in my mind and the challenge to turn it into a significant asset, not only an architectural asset, but also into a cultural and social centre in Tirana, which is actually a very complex challenge. This is because the building is very typical and very special in its kind and its spaces are not easily usable for whatever the purpose. This project’s biggest challenge is not the architectural aspect, but it is the building’s program, what it is going to house, what for it will serve. An absurd, ridiculous, tragicomic attempt was actually made by the previous government to turn it into a national theatre. 

Indeed, millions of dollars were spent in a barbarism act, whose traces are still to be found there and a considerable part of the tiles and other materials were stolen to leave it in ruins. It was so to say the testimony to the fact that the building could not be seen as a space, and instead it could be consistently transformed into a sort of huge kiosk depending on the spontaneous ideas or goals. I believe this entire time that has been spent in search of a program for this building has been actually not a wasted time, but it has provided us the opportunity that the idea designed to make it an ambitious and convincing project for the future could take shape along with the fast changes associating the digital era.

Today, this building, which carries a very extreme history, is at the same time the nest ready to host the other opposite extreme; the extreme of free space by creating the conditions for young people to access endless constellations of the world of the digital universe.

I am very happy that today, the project meets all the requirements every project has to meet in order to withstand the test of time, to serve the people and help everyone not to forget where they come from. This building, once designed to mystify the figure of Enver Hoxha and the era of a brutal dictatorship, today is ready to serve the exact opposite extreme to what that system represented and to that Enver Hoxha wanted – giving young people the unlimited freedom to challenge themselves and seek the future in a world yet to be fully discovered, despite even as it is, seems to have gone beyond any limits of the imagination, the digital universe. 

Having all this said, I would go back to what, after all is the most meaningful reason for anyone who is listening what I said now is perhaps a little far from the need and purpose of daily life when it comes to the question, what will this building benefit for me? What it will provide for me as a parent, as a young man, or as member of a family that is going to stay in Albania, yet fails to realize why they should stay in Albania and earn a much lower salary than what they would earn in Germany thanks to their special skills.

To answer this question, I would like to cite a fact I came across most recently.

In Korça, there are at least – I am saying at least since this is not an official data, but an empirical figure – there are at least 100 young people, who earn between 1000 and 8000 euros a month. They are 100 young people completely immersed in their own world. They are not seeking to take up a government job, or a job position in the private sector, but they have simply found a job on the internet and offer all sorts of web-based services to third parties, through which they generate income here in Albania. As we speak, there are 2.4 million job vacancies that are seen as the potential of this moment for services of this sort to companies that could be located on other end of the world, but which are accessible and are just a click away.

What we are preparing for in order to enter a new phase of the digital revolution we have launched is expanding to every city, starting with the biggest cities, the network of program designed for the young people, who wish to put their skills to work in the digital world, to earn much more than what they would be earning earn in any other job here in Albania and much more than they would earn even if they were to migrate to Germany. 

Albania is a tiny country, yet it is a NATO member and a close strategic partner of the United States of America and one of the shared challenges, where the size of the nations is of no importance, but their alignment is what matters most, is the “digital clean paths” challenge, in which we have joined the US and we have signed our commitments so that Albania is a country with digital clean paths. Which protected paths and impenetrable by other parties, which are not friendly to Albania and which are in different positions vis-à-vis NATO and our strategic partnership with the United States.

All of these will require neither more nor less, but a number, which nobody can limit, girls and boys, young men and women, children of today who tomorrow will be able to access this new horizon of work, services and welfare creation. If we will be able to provide the today’s children and young people the tools to train and develop skills, and if we will be able to make the best of the experience and example of those young people who have done that and already earn very high incomes each month, then roughly by end of this decade we will have a whole army of people employed here, free from any kind of connection with the state and employers and they will be the owners of their own fate, fully capable of meeting all challenges and meeting all their needs and desires in economic terms.

We are working on one of the points of our Albania 2030 platform, we plan to unveil soon. Briefly, the initiative is as following; creating a new space with the state now being a direct stakeholder in terms of supporting these initiatives for the best possible training of today’s youth, today’s children, to be part of this big market tomorrow, a market that has the potential to grow only and not shrink. The newly-launched experience just few months ago at the national stadium with the initial youth training centre through the renowned TUMO project, is an experience increasingly showing what we actually knew and we have been discussing with our friends in the Albanian-American Development Fund, but which, however, what I know could happen and which is being proved in the daily reality is something else, a confirmation of the growing demand and ambition about this field in this country.

If we are to set a goal, to increase the number of computer programmers in Albania each year, and make thousands of young people in the next four, five years, and tens of thousands in this decade, become software developers and I am referring to just one aspect of the whole spectrum of skills that the digital world offers, we will have practically laid a completely different foundation for the Albania of the future. Transforming Enver Hoxha’s museum to serve precisely this purpose really represents very successful implementation of an ambition that embarks on the path towards its realization, it embarks on the path towards transforming this structure of the past, which has been throwing its shadow over the past 30 years, challenging everyone, “what are you going to do with me,” and forcing us not to tear it down for our own reasons, but, on the other hand, and laughing at us “you can’t use me”, into a great and beautiful symbol, into a very powerful symbol of the Albania we want to build for our children. And in a very strong reason to tell everyone that today geography is of very little importance today, not to say completely irrelevant, if the mind is sufficiently nourished and developed to cross borders and overcome all those steps that should have been taken by everyone who would have been living in this country 30 years ago, because the digital know-how, combined with all other know-how necessary for everyone who enters deep into this universe, would be sufficient to make anyone fly across all borders, touch all corners of the globe and be a worker of the globe, not just a worker at a company here, free, accountable to no one but those you serve under a certain contract.

There is a girl in Korça today, who had an unimaginable portfolio of work for those who have no knowledge of this particular world, from the Instagram service for a box fighter in the United States, to the website programming service for large London-based company, to the work for some online services for a range of other human resource companies and so on. A portfolio that at first glance looks like a conglomeration of things not related to each other, but all were related to that girl, who lives in Korça and who today earns thousands of euros a month, a girl who is known by others and that nobody knows that like her, at least in Korça alone, 100 others have been identified and others certainly are still. We are seeking to promote all these gifted and talented young people, all these ambitions and turn them into tangible examples for many other young people by collaborating with all other stakeholders, with the Foundation, the municipal authorities, with our American friends and others, so that we can turn this into a new path, we have already laid the foundations, over these years, of a country that functions in many aspects of itself when it comes to state relations with the citizen, digital services. Thank you very much everyone! 

I can recall all the events we have held with the Foundation, and this must be my first speech where I declined to explicitly praise the Foundation. I think, maybe the absence of Michael makes this process of not praising the Foundation easier for me, because when Michael attends such events we have no choice but express our praise, but I would like to really express gratitude to the Foundation for the strategic cooperation we have established, hoping that the Foundation will raise few more money to do some more work, because these things are pretty much, but not enough and yes, Martin, “the future is now”. Which means, “now you should put some more money!”