In the bustling heart of Albania’s capital, Tirana stands a structure that has not only stood the test of time but has evolved to meet the changing needs of a society in transition. The Pyramid of Tirana, initially designed as a tribute to the communist dictator Enver Hoxha, has undergone a monumental transformation. Thanks to the innovative touch of MVRDV, the Pyramid is now an open sculpture in a vibrant new park, buzzing with the creativity and aspirations of Albania’s youth.
Pyramid of Tirana Technical Information
- Architects1-16: MVRDV
- Location: Tirana, Albania
- Topics: Public Spaces
- Client: Albanian-American Development Foundation (AADF)
- Area: 11,835 m2
- Max Height: 24.5m
- Project Year: 2018 – 2023
- Photographs: © Ossip van Duivenbode
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.
– Winy Maas, MVRDV founding partner
Pyramid of Tirana Photographs
A Tale of Transformation: From Dictator’s Showpiece to Cultural Hub
Built in 1988, the Pyramid has had a checkered history. Once serving as a symbol of a dictatorial regime, the structure has also been a radio station, a nightclub, a NATO base during the Kosovo War, and much more. Each phase added layers of complexity to the structure, leaving behind a disorganized clutter that rendered the interior dark and unwelcoming.
In what can only be described as an astonishing feat, MVRDV transformed this controversial relic into a symbol of freedom, victory, and possibilities for the Albanian people. Inspired by the youth who reclaimed this decaying structure as a hangout spot, MVRDV’s design incorporates steps on the sloping façades of the building, allowing people to literally walk over a remnant of their oppressed past.
Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV, eloquently summed up the emotion behind the project, saying,
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.
The project does more than just erase symbols of tyranny; it deliberately retains elements of the original design, reminding visitors of the building’s complex past.
Perhaps the most eye-catching element of the new design is the ensemble of colorful boxes scattered within and around the original building. These boxes serve various functions — cafés, studios, start-up offices, classrooms, and event spaces. The boxes are visually striking and inject a sense of life and dynamism into the environment, making it look like a continuously unfolding festival or a creatively “squatted” area.
A significant portion of the space is dedicated to TUMO Tirana, a non-profit educational institution providing free afterschool education to teenagers. From software and robotics to animation and music, TUMO is a beacon against the “brain drain” that has often plagued countries like Albania. With the rest of the space open for entrepreneurial endeavors, the Pyramid promises to be a hub of innovation and education.
The project is not just a symbol of cultural or educational evolution; it is also an epitome of sustainable development. Instead of demolishing the robust concrete structure, the design adapts it along circular economy principles. Only the added boxes require climate control, minimizing the building’s overall energy consumption.
The Pyramid of Tirana, through its transformation, serves as a remarkable case study in architectural reimagining. It honors its controversial past while embracing a future full of promise. It is more than just a building; it is a symbol of a nation’s resilience, aspirations, and undying spirit. And in doing so, it paves the way for future projects that aim to reinvent, revitalize, and reclaim spaces with complex histories, turning them into nurturing environments for generations to come.
Pyramid of Tirana Plans
Pyramid of Tirana Image Gallery
MVRDV is a Rotterdam-based architecture and urban design firm founded in 1993 by Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs, and Nathalie de Vries. Known for its innovative, sustainable, and often provocative designs, the firm has a diverse portfolio that spans across residential, commercial, and public projects. Employing a research-based design methodology, MVRDV aims to address complex urban issues through intelligent planning, creative use of space, and attention to social and environmental sustainability. Over the years, the firm has garnered international acclaim for iconic projects like the Markthal in Rotterdam, the Tianjin Binhai Library in China, and most recently, the transformation of the Pyramid of Tirana in Albania.
Notes & Additional Credits
- Founding Partner in charge: Winy Maas \Partner: Stefan de Koning
- Design Team: Ronald Hoogeveen, Stavros Gargaretas, Guido Boeters, Angel Sanchez Navarro, Boris Tikvarski, Jasper van der Ven, Mirco Facchinelli, Manuel Magnaguagno, Leo Stuckardt
- Visualisations: Antonio Luca Coco, Luca Piattelli, Jaroslaw Jeda, Luana La Martina, Gianlorenzo Petrini
- Strategy and Development: Willeke Vester, Daan van Gool
- Copyright: MVRDV Winy Maas, Jacob van Rijs, Nathalie de Vries
- Partners: Albanian-American Development Foundation (AADF), Municipality of Tirana; Albania Ministry of Culture
- Education partner: TUMO Tirana
- Co-architect: iRI Architecture
- Contractor: Fusha shpk
- Project coordination: Albanian-American Development Foundation (AADF)
- Landscape architect: iRI; JESHILE; MVRDV
- Structural engineer: ARUP; Gentian Lipe; Luan Murtaj
- MEP: ARUP; iRI; Nikolin Risilia; Artur Dado; Isuf Kore
- Monuments Expert: Daniel Gjoni
- Cost calculation: iRI Architecture
- Environmental advisor: Arben Liçi