What is the difference between an optimist and a pessimist?
A pessimist thinks things can’t get worse; an optimist knows they can.
No Man’s Land – Danis Tanović
Synopsis: Albania has always been a peripheral territory, a transitional space, a border to pass or a geopolitical “front”. Here are disclosed and layered, in terms of period and style, different architectures representative of political powers that have marked the territory throughout history. Through these marks one can read the different and sometimes contradictory visions of the world. Perhaps, this reading is possible thanks to them. In any case this is our conviction.
As an interdisciplinary group we have chosen our “front” between architecture and political power. This “front” in Albania has a unique and perpetual paradigm, which is closely related to the history and creation of the capital city (1920) and, thus, the Albanian State. It is the monumental axis of the main boulevard, planned in 1925.
The boulevard was originally used by Fascism as an indirect mark on the territory through architectural modernism of the Ministries’ lot. After the invasion (1939), the monumental axis was further developed with a stylistic evolution (Italian Rationalism: Dajti Hotel, Prime Minister building, etc.) with which the fascist government, this time directly, marked the territory.
Despite political antagonism, the dictatorial socialist regime, after WWII, continued the development of the boulevard axis, using the same refrain of direct marking of the territory (the same monumentalization, this time, of socialist realism) and the symbolic representation of authoritarian power (the same height and verticalization of the buildings; the same hermetical closures and severe forms; the same conservation of the boulevard axis).
Today, in the Albanian transitional society, we can read the same – far from being transitional – architectural concepts with which the political and economic power is represented; the same verticalization (Hotel Rogner) and, even more exaggerated, heights that have interrupted the profile of the landscape (the “twin towers” near the Parliament building); the same hermetic closures expressed by severe monumental forms; the conservation of the monumental axis of the boulevard.
But there is an anomaly: the “Pyramid”.
Built in 1988 by the architects Vladimir Bregu, Pranvera Hoxha, Klement Kolaneci dhe PirroVaso (the latter being the Honor Leader of our project for the Biennale of Architecture in Venice 2016), the “Pyramid” remains Tirana’s main landmark. Commissioned by the regime as a museum dedicated to the now deceased dictator Enver Hoxha, therefore deeply symbolic of architecture representative of political power, the “Pyramid” represents a most controversial and enigmatic building where the “front” of architecture and political power appear as an inseparable and highly complex synthesis.
And this presents our challenge, as a group. Here starts our inspiration to deconstruct the passive synthesis between the art of architecture and political power, to extract the essence of the artistic resistance and the difference in this architectonic object, which, thanks to the artistic findings, cannot be totally and exclusively part of the political power narrative, cannot be part of the reduction of We in just Me, as Aravena states in his Statement of the Biennale.
To extract the “Pyramid” from the shadows of the representation and the symbolic image of an authoritarian power, we began, with our project leader, arc. Pirro Vaso, revisiting once again, through direct interviews, the history of the design of the “Pyramid”, its social, political, theoretical and practical architectural context and the working process as well.
This search resulted in strictly architectural findings which, although a product of architectonic experimentation and not the will for political dissent, lean towards a conceptualization of architecture as desire, aspiration and public necessity. In other words, they stand in stark contrast to the promotion of the authoritarian powers.
We did not focus on representation, on the symbolic aspect of the “Pyramid”, where the political power usually clings to. We focused our interest on the imaginary and the real, on the essence of aesthetics and the real architectonic function of the building. There we found that its alternative exit or the breaking of the monumental axis of the boulevard, its diagonal slope or gradual, ladder-like verticalization and its longitudinal opening of the facade with the combination of marble and glass, all together, stand in opposition to the symbolic image of authoritarian power.
Thus, the axiom of our narrative and statement for the Biennale is:
- moving away from the axis or from the authoritarian synthesis,
- breaking of the verticality or the hierarchy of power expressed in the architecture,
- openness of the architectonic object or the transparency of public and institutional buildings.
This is the history of a success that we want to report from our “front”: a history of the disclosure of the art in architecture as a differential in narrative of the political power propaganda, a history of re-appropriation and revaluation of our architectural heritage, which is continuously threatened by destructive vengefulness throughout political changes. And the “Pyramid” as a real “front” has been the emblem of this phenomenon.
Methodology: Our research work as a group is inspired by Albanian iso-polyphony, and its cluster-tone will be materialized in the exhibition space. A model in miniature of a part of the sliding facade of the “Pyramid” will be installed (gypsum and marble as the original). It will rise from the floor in the center of the space (made of matte resin, the color of brick like the mud of Tirana) in the same angle as the original, finally concluding in a corner of the Albanian pavillion. Dritan Hyska, an Albanian artist whose work focuses on our architecture – with two video instalations (which will include audio and will be produced specifically for this exhibition) projected on the wall, oil paintings and photographs – will complete the corpus of the art works. To these will also be added the documented material and a video-interview (in three monitors equipped with headphones) with the architect Pirro Vaso, regarding the Pyramid’s artistic, theortical, and historical re-contextualization. The walls are painted similar to the floor (sinking in the “front”) but with slight touches of shading. The lighting is entirely artifical (spotlights) so that half of the space remains obscured at all times.
The boulevard was actually constructed thanks to the Italian investment funds.
 Deleuze, Difference and Repetition.
 Deleuze, What is the Creative Act.
 Derrida, Différance. Margins of Philosophy.
 Maybe the experimentation was possible because of the daughter and son in law, whom were part of the group of architects.
 It is the basic tone of the iso-polyphony (see in Vaso Tole – Enciklopedia e muzikës popullore shqiptare).