A new cultural space has been opened within the once-iconic Pyramid of Tirana that was originally built as a museum dedicated to the communist leader Enver Hoxha.
Following a dramatic redesign by Dutch architectural firm MVRDV, that kept the existing concrete structure, the Pyramid has been reborn as an open sculpture set within a park housing an array of colourful boxes that serve as homes for cafes, studios, workshops, startup offices, incubators and classrooms offering free technology education to young Albanians.
The Pyramid first opened as a museum in 1988, and has since seen various incarnations over the years – from a radio station and nightclub to a conference venue and Nato base during the 1999 Kosovo War. However, the frequent changes of use and incomplete renovation attempts left the interior in disarray, according to MVRDV.
Its future had long been uncertain but a 2015 study revealed that most Albanians opposed demolishing the structure. In 2017, the government, in collaboration with the Albanian-American Development Foundation (AADF) and the Municipality of Tirana, resolved to transform the pyramid into a space for young Albanians.
“For many Albanians the Pyramid is a symbol of victory over the regime, and MVRDV’s design was inspired by the way that they had reclaimed the building,” said a statement from MVRDV.
The firm noted that young people used to hang out at the Pyramid, climbing the sloping beams and sliding back down. Steps have now been built up the sides of the Pyramid, allowing people of all ages to climb to the top.
“The first time I saw the Pyramid being walked all over by the youth of Tirana, I was deeply touched by its symbolism and by its incredible optimism,” said MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas.
“Keeping in mind this was the most expensive building the communist state had ever realised in a time when the oppressed Albanian population was living in poverty, we removed all symbols glorifying the dictatorship in our transformation. We did keep some of the original details so visitors are also aware of the building’s dark past. The structure is completely open as a ruin in the park, and all these boxes are ‘squatting’ in and around the structure. Once sardonically called the ‘Enver Hoxha Mausoleum’, the transformed Pyramid has now become a monument for the people and their ability to overcome and outlive dictators.”