What’s your favorite thing about the word pyramid? Is it that visiting one offers you insight into the world of traffic violations? Or that ordering one for dessert will simultaneously make everyone else at the table hungry no more? Perhaps it’s the third option, where architects take creative license with the term pyramid and build something completely different? On today’s adventure into the world of misanthropic architecture, I introduce to you the Piramida of Tirana, Albania.
From the mid-1940s until 1990 when its citizens were once again permitted to leave the country, Albania was isolated from Europe and the rest of the world under a veil of Communism led by Enver Hoxha, who died in 1985, and Ramiz Alia. To honor her father, Hoxha’s daughter had designed the Piramida to serve as a museum in the center of the capital Tirana.
Piramida dubiously reminds me of New York’s Castle Clinton and its equally strange bedfellows.
It was completed in 1988, but echoing the zeitgeist of pro-Western sentiment in much of Eastern Europe, in 1991 Piramida was converted into an exhibition and conference center, named after Pjeter Arbnori, a local activist dubbed the Mandela of the Balkans. He is not to be confused with the Mandela of Albania, or even Super Mandela.
In 1999, Piramida was repurposed as a NATO base during various Kosovo conflicts, and then in 2001, a television station joined in the fun. However, anti-government protesters in 2011 had their way with much of the building, but after seeing so many different tenants, it had already fallen into various states neglect. In fact, Albanian politicians merely a year earlier voted to bulldoze the relic and create a new parliament, but as my visit in 2013 should prove, protecting sordid memories of the past might be the best way to prevent encore presentations.
Based on my attempts to walk into the Tirana landmark, it still houses a tv station, but also a few armchairs, graffiti and shards of glass. Thus, it’s a step up from LaGuardia Airport.
Have you ever been to Albania? What do you think of the Piramida?