PreservingWesternBalkans - About
The idea for the project, website PreservingWesterBalkan.city, started with the project preservingtirana.city and the actual urban situation in the build-environment of Tirana. The website was nominated for the World Summit Award 2019, representing Albania as the best digital solution in Smart Settlements & Urbanization. The existence of this, I will dare saying typology of architectural assets with historical and cultural value for the city's development and their state of neglect, decay, and endangerment. Finding a tool that would provide at a certain degree their preservation, through re-activating the knowledge and collective memory about them, as being 'common' assets but at the same time engaging the whole community in making it possible, was more than necessary. Creating an open-source platform was the proper way to do it, because all the information would be open for access to anyone with the will to use this information or contribute to its further enrichment.
Countries in western Balkan apart from the things that make them to differentiate one from the other, making each one of them unique, at the same time they have so many similarities, caused to some degree also from similar problems. Therefore we found in different other cities of the region, this sense of urban neglect and we started thinking of the website preservingtirana.city as a pilot project that could be implemented for other cities and their local context too. In this specific case, we took the two cities Tirana and Pristina under revision as the initial phase of the platform. The similarities previously mentioned, in the city urban development, can be noticed first of all in the way the city was created around an ottoman old Bazaar and developed further on, by the spread of the typology of traditional houses with adobe bricks, houses with enormous gardens in Tirana, also known as 'mahala'(mehalle) in Pristina. After the 30s and after WWII their architecture and city urban development took different orientations and developments because of the unique different historical events they went through. Even though the period of the socialist realism in Albania and the occupation period of Kosovo under the Federation of Yugoslavia, brought apart from a new type of architecture respectively Albanian rationalist socialism architecture and the modernist, brutalist architecture in Kosovo, at the same time they implemented an attitude of 'denial' for the existing cultural monuments of the Ottoman period, through massive demolitions and erasure of this certain urban city identity. In retrospect, there has been a certain crucial flourishing development moment in terms of Architecture and Urban planning, in both cities. Roughly this 'glorious period' in Tirana happened around the 30s during the Italian occupation, where its main urban structure of a city with a main North-South ax, today Boulevard 'Deshmoret e Kombit', together with some of the most important fascist, administrative buildings that the capital still preserves today. Meanwhile, this 'golden', 'glorious' period in Pristina is represented by the 70s, when some of the most important modernist, brutalist architecture landmarks-of today, were realized creating the modernist image of the capital, mostly through the architecture of public buildings like 'Rilindja' Printing House, Grand Hotel Pristina, or 'Boro Ramiz', The National Library etc. Apart from this two glorious architecture and urban development periods, each city has certain other layers of historical discourses reflected in its tangible heritage, architecture, that are fundamental to be preserved. This is why we think project PreservingWB is needed and important.
How the project will be implemented? We thought to implement it through a series of 3 days event activities, organized in both cities Tirana and Pristina, with a youth exchange with participants from both cities. This three days events will include presentations of the idea behind it and motivation, workshops and training of participants regarding some of the main Open source platform tools used for the websites, sharing of information and knowledge about these cities architecture, through theoretical presentations and at the same time on site architecture tours. Participants will have the chance to gain knowledge and at the same time use it to contribute to the preservation platform we are creating, all together through collaborative work. To provide the sustainability of the project and its future development in time, a 'guide' of how to contribute will be added to the website, very precisely stating how anybody can be part of the project despite the level of knowledge he/she has. All the data added from the participants will be added as part of the main website preservingWB, therefore we would implement our motto : 'Common assets documented in a common platform, communally'. This project has been implemented by Open Labs Hackerspace, partnering with IPKO foundation in Pristina and supported by RYCO - Regional youth Cooperation and United Nations Peace Building.
To have a visual tour of some of the representatives of this architecture, you can watch the videos about Tirana and Pristina, realized by some of our team: