Communist pyramid transformed into scalable tech hub with superb views
Though coming a bit later than its original planned completion date of June 2019, MVRDV's renovation of Albania's Tirana Pyramid is now officially open to the public. The building has been transformed from a communist-era brutalist landmark into a technology center focused on young people that visitors can literally walk all over to enjoy the view.
Taking its name from Albania's capital city, the Tirana Pyramid originally opened in 1988 as a museum honoring the country's communist leader Enver Hoxha. In following years it then served multiple functions, including as a temporary NATO base, a nightclub, and more. After an attempt to turn it into a theater fell through it was left to decay for over a decade and it became a favored hangout for local teenagers, who would climb up the building's smooth slopes and precariously slide down.
MVRDV's renovation riffed on the teenage fun by installing steps that rise up the sloping sides, allowing visitors to walk up on top of the building and enjoy the view (an elevator is installed for those who can't manage the stairs) from 24.5 m (80 ft) above the city streets in safety. The firm also maintained one sloped section where people can slide down.
The interior has been cleared out and re-arranged, with glazing, including a large skylight, ensuring ample daylight inside. Bushes, plants and trees have been added to soften all the exposed concrete along with colorful furnishings.
The major focus of the renovation is centered around a number of vibrant rectangular box-like structures. Around half of these spaces will host non-profit educational institution TUMO Tirana, which provides free after-school education in new techniques such as software, robotics, animation, music, and film. The remaining spaces are being used for cafés, restaurants, and start-up offices .
“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,” explained MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas. “Keeping in mind this was the most expensive building the communist state had ever realized 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.”
Tirana is undergoing a massive architectural boom at the moment and MVRDV is also currently finishing off the nearby Downtown One Tirana, while BIG is at work on the National Theatre of Albania – plus there's Mount Tirana and OODA's Klan TV Headquarters too.