Shiroka is a fishing village located on the shores of Shkodra Lake, near the border with Montenegro. Its inhabitants lived for centuries from the lake, men fishing with small rowboats and women tending orchards and weaving carpets by hand. The reaction to the end of a communist regime that had deprived citizens of living from traditional “private” activities was widespread mistrust in the public sphere, which led to a period characterized by uncontrolled occupation and privatization of public space. As result, the public space of the waterfront of Shkodra lake was occupied with illegal constructions such as private houses, restaurants, private parking areas, and kiosks. “Albanian Carpet” returns the waterfront to the citizens demolishing the illegal constructions, opening the views over the lake, and creating an alive public space with a domestic character.
The “Albanian Carpet” project not only aims to physically and functionally restore Shiroka waterfront but also to rebuild the feeling of belonging and attachment to the public space, which is conceived as a large house made of different open rooms inspired by the traditional Albanian room (ODA), characterized by a long, low U-shaped bench where family members seat, lay and even sleep. These rooms open the views over the lake and stimulate citizen's interaction with different uses such as playground room, picnic room, lounge room, amphitheater, and the fisherman's room.
The interior side of the U-shaped rooms is introverted and made of wood while the exterior is made of stone and forms steps for seating that transform the central square into an improvised theater. Pavement, seats, and steps are covered with black and white granite stones following the traditional pattern of the Albanian carpets, which provides a unique and domestic identity to the public space.
The large existing trees are preserved and integrated into the design of the square. New small trees are planted in the open rooms to bring shadows to the seating and playing areas. The center of the square has been kept free of trees and urban elements to allow public events.
The waterfront of Shiroka is transformed into a pedestrian-oriented square, minimizing the circulation and presence of cars. The whole central axis of the entire village is transformed into a share-pavement area. A new parking for visitors at the entrance of the village encourages the visit of the village by foot.
Project name: ALBANIAN CARPET
Company name: CASANOVA + HERNANDEZ ARCHITECTS
Contact e-mail: [email protected]
Project location: SHIROKA, SHKODRA, ALBANIA
Completion Year: 2020
Building area (m²): 30.000 m2
Other participants: Engineering: Sphaera
Photo credits: casanova+hernandez / E. Zhabjaku / Orestia Kapidani
Jesus Hernandez Mayor / team leader
Helena Casanova / Senior Architect and Urban Planner
Casanova + Hernandez team in Rotterdam and in Tirana