architecture

Pyramid of Communism – Piramida, Tirana

Tombs of the pharaohs, or pathways to the gods for sacrificial rituals. Pyramids are the most symbolic icon of several of the world’s ancient cultures. They are fantasied by storytellers, authors, and movie creators. In stark contrast is one infamous pyramid, the most recognised national symbol of the former-communist era of Albania. The Enver Hoxha Pyramid (a.k.a. the Pyramid of Tirana, or locally as Piramida) stands as a reminder of a culture once held by Albania’s people and politics.

The Dictator

Enver Hoxha, Albania’s first president ruled Albania with an iron fist. Hoxha modernised of Albania, getting rid of the pre-war class system of peasants and Kings, women gained equal rights, and massive education reform. Amongst these achievements, he was a stereotypical dictator. Private land, banks and businesses all become property of the Government. He banned religion and killed political opponents. After the fall of ally, the USSR, Albania became more and more isolated from Europe. Consequently, the cultural differences between Albania and its neighbours amplified, and this is still obvious today. Hoxha died of diabetes in 1985 and left behind an extremely poor and desperate country.

The Design

The four-person committee was led by Envir’s son-in-law, Klement Kolaneci and included local architect Pranvera Hoxha (Envir’s daughter). One rainy day, the clouds parted to let in a ray of sunshine. Kolaneci saw this bright sunny ray surrounded by gloomy grey clouds. The beam, small at the top, growing wider closer to earth inspired the pyramid shape. The final design was based on Dajti, a nearby mountain. This is clear with a birds-eye-view. The glass panels running up and down let in natural sunlight, much like the beam that inspired the design.

With an extremely firm 3-year deadline, and complete global isolation, the project was complete. The end result was a small concrete mountain in the middle of Tirana. From the ground, it dosen’t look like Dajti, it misses the mark on this and it resembles more of a post-Soviet brutal-futurist design.

Piramida e Tiranës

Intended to be a museum honouring Envir Hoxha; it has housed a convention centre, a television studio, nightclubs and once was a temporary base for NATO during the Kosovo conflict. Piramida now stands in a state of neglect, coated in photo posters and graffiti. Almost all the graffiti is amateur tagging of names and racial slurs, more vandalism than street art. You can sometimes see people climbing the pyramid and using it as a slide, be careful if you join them, it can be very dangerous as many glass panels have broken.

Tirana itself is worth visiting purely to look at the architecture, attempts to make the communist-era buildings look nice is like has resulted in colour palettes like nowhere else on earth. As it is a bleak reminder, many politicians want to demolish Piramida, but most Tirana residents are against the idea. For some, Pirimida as a symbol of Hoxha. Increasingly,  young people see it as a symbol of Tirana. It is as a key symbol of their heritage, a grim symbol, but an important one worth keeping.

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