Cultural centre in Tirana
by BIG

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Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

Danish architects Bjarke Ingels Group have won a competition to design a mosque, Islamic centre and museum in Tirana, Albania.

The three buildings will cluster in a triangle at the corner of the site, with two sides aligned with Tirana's city grid and the third facing Mecca.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

Each will twist to curve over a public plaza in the centre, making this public space into an extension of the cultural centre.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

The mosque will accommodate 1000 worshippers for daily prayers, with the ability to expand through courtyards and the public plaza to accommodate up to 10,000 people for holy days.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

BIG won the competition in collaboration with Martha Schwartz Landscape, Buro Happold , Speirs & Major, Lutzenberger & Lutzenberger, and Global Cultural Asset Management.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

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Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

The information below is from the architects:


BIG WINS THE COMPETITION TO DESIGN A MAJOR CULTURAL CENTER IN ALBANIA

BIG, Martha Schwartz Landscape, Buro Happold , Speirs & Major, Lutzenberger & Lutzenberger, and Global Cultural Asset Management are today announced as the winning team of the international design competition for a new 27.000 m2 cultural complex in Albania, consisting of a Mosque, an Islamic Centre, and a Museum of Religious Harmony.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

The capital Tirana is undergoing an urban transformation which includes the restoration and refurbishment of existing buildings, the construction of a series of new public and private urban structures, and the complete reconceptualization of Scanderbeg Square.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

This important square is the site of the new cultural complex that will consist of a Mosque, an Islamic Centre, and a Museum of Religious Harmony.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

Albania is the crossroads of three major religions: Orthodox Christianity; Catholicism; and Islam. With the recent completion of two new churches, all three religions will now have new places of worship in the heart of Tirana. The complex will not only serve the Muslim community of the city and surrounding areas, but will educate the public about Islamic values and serve as a beacon for religious tolerance.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

BIG’s winning entry was selected out of five finalists, including Spanish Architect Andreas Perea Ortega, Architecture Studio from France, Dutch SeARCH and London-based Zaha Hadid.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

”The winning proposal was chosen for its ability to create an inviting public space flexible enough to accommodate daily users and large religious events, while harmonically connecting with the Scanderbeg square, the city of Tirana and its citizens across different religions. Additionally the project shines through its beautiful garden surrounding the new Mosque and Center of Islamic Culture which symbolically features the rich vegetation described in Islamic literature. Finally the team’s awareness of the economic aspects of this important development will contribute to a successful realization of this project.” Mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

The buildings’ forms emerge from two intersecting axes and formal requirements: the city grid of Tirana which calls for the proper framing of the square and a coherent urban identity, and orientation of the Mosque’s main wall towards Mecca. BIG’s proposal incorporates Tirana’s grid by maintaining the street wall and eaves line, yet rotates the ground floor so both the Mosque and the plaza face the holy city of Islam.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

This transformation also opens up a series of plazas—two minor ones on the sides of the Mosque and a major plaza with a minaret in front—which are semi-covered and serve as an urban extension of the place of worship. By turning the mosque inside out and bringing the program and qualities of the Mosque to a public arena, the religion becomes inclusive and inviting, and the cool shaded urban space can be shared by all.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

“This project is very significant for us for two reasons: Firstly it is a privilege to contribute to the ambitious rejuvenation of Tirana City – especially since it is happening not by the random accumulation of singular monuments – but rather in accordance with a careful and considerate holistic master plan. Secondly and perhaps most importantly –religious tolerance is one of our greatest challenges today– politically, culturally and even urbanistically. With the construction of the New Mosque of Tirana, The Islamic Center and The Museum of Religious Harmony – Tirana will reestablish the equilibrium by adding a mosque to the newly completed Orthodox and Catholic Cathedrals – making Tirana an example for the rest of the world as a global capital of religious harmony”, Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner of BIG.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

The mosque can accommodate up to 1,000 people performing their daily prayers. Through the unique layout of courtyards and public space, the mosque can also expand to accommodate larger groups of 5,000 on Fridays and up to 10,000 on special holy days. The facade with the multitude of rational, rectangular windows finds its inspiration in Islamic mashrabiya screens, which provide shading and privacy while still allowing views out. The light qualities of the mosque will change dramatically throughout the day as the light washes across the curved facades.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

“The alignment towards Mecca solves the dilemma inherent in the master plan – in its triangular layout the mosque was somehow tugged in the corner – now it sits at the end of the plaza – framed by its two neighbors. The resultant architecture evokes the curved domes and arches of traditional Islamic architecture – for both the mosque itself and the semi-domed spaces around it”, Thomas Christoffersen, Partner-in-Charge, BIG.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

The design also includes The Quran Gardens containing all of the plants mentioned in the Quran in the same amount as the number of times they appear in the holy scripture.

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG

PROJECT “A Mosque for All” New Mosque, Islamic Cultural Center, and Museum of Religious Harmony
TYPE Invited Competition
CLIENT Municipality of Tirana, Albanian Muslim Community
COLLABORATORS Martha Schwartz Landscape, Buro Happold , Speirs & Major, Lutzenberger & Lutzenberger, and Global Cultural Asset Management
SIZE 27000 m2
LOCATION Tirana, Albania
STATUS 1st Prize
DATE May 2nd 2011
Partner-in-Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Thomas Christoffersen
Project Leader: Leon Rost
Project Team: Marcella Martinez, Se Yoon Park, Alessandro Ronfini, Daniel Kidd, Julian Nin Liang, Erick Kristanto, Ho Kyung Lee

Cultural centre in Tirana by BIG


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  • edward44

    Building don't look like buildings anymore. Just huge lumps or blobs.

    • David

      Looks like a building to me.

    • sean

      what is a building suppose to look like?

  • Urban Commentry

    I really like BIG's work : No pretention, no over-the-top theories; just plain, simple, logical architecture. It holds through even in this project, like it does a lot of other works of BIG. What really clicked for me was the simple diagram about the relationship between plaza and mosque, and how this projects inverts that. That one simple diagram cleared up the entire design. Love the work. GO ON BIG !!!

  • Urban Violence

    Yes Bjarke always knew how to communicate to the lowest common denominator and lay people. It really sad that banal clicks for you Urban Commentry. I hope the vulgarization of architecture stays with Bjarke in the N.Y. office. It seems BIGs last true talent is in the Copenhagen office nowadays.

  • kgt

    Logical architecture!

    I guess you mean oversimplistic postcapitalist junkspace

    • Katsudon

      After all some people think "independence day" is a great movie…

  • yuc

    Albanian-Ottoman mosque culture is one about a very luminous prayer hall of which the floor is covered with carpets. In this project everything else is luminous but the mosque. the section shows that it is simply a ditch designed to isolate the act of worshipping from the social life, which is modern. I believe that the "out-of-the time" appearence of the mosques in European cities was present here in the mind of the designers and even perhaps, the clients, who preferrred to conceal it behind a flamboyant robe.

  • Urban Violence

    Tirana, you can still change your mind and hire these guys. Functional, aestetic architecture with an actual idea.
    http://www.dezeen.com/2010/07/19/the-vanishing-mo

  • Nickolas

    don't…….loose… arghh.. quality..control..! Im a big fan Bjarke, but this makes me sad. Wheres the clever one-liner ?

  • sean

    i wish i would get commissioned to twist a couple of solids and make it look pretty.

  • tince

    I think that it is not so simple to twist.