Dezeen Magazine

MVRDV to convert communist monument in Albania into technology centre

Dutch studio MVRDV has unveiled plans for a new technology education centre in the Albanian capital of Tirana, which will be housed within a pyramidal monument to communism.

Tirana pyramid by MVRDV

Set within the city centre, The Tirana Pyramid was first erected in 1988 but has since undergone a variety of uses. First opening as museum dedicated to Albania's long-serving communist leader, Enver Hoxha, it has also acted as a temporary base for NATO throughout the Balkan Wars, a nightclub and an event space.

Despite plans to turn it into a national theatre, the 11,800-square-metre space has now sat empty for more than 10 years.

Rotterdam-based firm MVRDV will now transform the pyramid into a technology education centre for young people, in an attempt to "give the building back to the public".

Tirana pyramid by MVRDV

"It is a symbol for many Albanians. For the older generation, it is a memory to the cultural events during communist times, for the recent generation it became the place to celebrate the new era," said MVRDV co-founder Winy Maas in a statement.

The renovation will see the structure's series of concrete beams made into sets of stairs that ascend to a terrace on the roof. This became a key element of the design after they noticed that the city's kids climbed up to the roof and used it as hangout spot even while the building had been derelict.

Inside, the beams will be hollow and be able to serve as viewing platforms or temporary display spaces.

Tirana pyramid by MVRDV

"Essential to MVRDV's vision is the respect of the current informal use of the building mostly by young citizens of Tirana, and to strengthen this use by inviting all citizens to share this function," explained the practice.

Slices of glass will be inserted between the stairways on the building's facade to help fill its central atrium with natural light. Several doorways will also be added at ground level to help the centre seem more "porous" and accessible.

Tirana pyramid by MVRDV
Photograph is by Gent Onuzi

Tall trees will be dotted throughout the interiors to help counteract the building's lofty ceiling.

The project, which is due for completion in 2019, will join a group of major projects currently underway in Tirana – Danish practice BIG is constructing a bow tie-shaped theatre for the city, while Italian studio Stefano Boeri Architetti is creating three 24-hour schools that will double as community hubs.

Images are by MVRDV unless stated otherwise.

Project credits:

Design: MVRDV – Winy Maas, Jacob Van Rijs and Nathalie De Vries
Design team: Winy Maas, Stefan de Koning with Ronald Hoogeveen, Boris Tikvarski, Stavros Gargaretas, Leo Stuckardt and Guido Boeters
Youth centre management: TUMO