Tirana.Building(s) Change

 

Workshop proposal, Tirana Design Week 2019

 

Sonja Dragović

 

 

1. General overview of the workshop

The workshop aims to investigate the relationship between the building and the community it influences, encompasses, and even defines. Architecture is both the backdrop and the stage for the practices of our everyday lives, but also for the vast social, political and economic changes unraveling over the longer periods of time. As the buildings and the communities formed around them age, change and transform, how does their connection evolve? How is this evolving, deeply personal connection interwoven into the systemic, comprehensive changes that a post-socialist city has been going through over the last several decades?

With these questions in mind, the workshop will focus on several important buildings in Tirana, created before 1990, and the ways in which these buildings presented opportunities, obstacles or simply backgrounds for important personal and social developments in the period since they were erected. (One example of a building that would make for an interesting case study for this workshop is the Pyramid of Tirana.)

The workshop consists of a lecture, a session devoted to the preparation for field work, 2-3 field work sessions, a session for processing the collected material, preparation of the exhibition and, finally, the exhibition. The workshop welcomes 20 participants with the background in architecture, urban design, sociology, art, photography – the idea is to form several multidisciplinary groups whose members will work as a team and complement each other’s expertise.

The main objective is to present the untold, intimate stories of places and people while reflecting on systemic changes and extrapolating the connection between these intertwining processes. The final exhibition will showcase the results in the form of posters, collages and photographs.

 

2. The outcomes of the course

Uncertainty underscores every relation of our time, to the point where both personal and social ties get radically redefined in comparison with what only several decades ago were firmly established norms (the rise of the precarious job market being one of the obvious examples). Likewise, as the outline of the Tirana Design Week suggests, uncertainty is the constant challenge in the process of imagining our urban future; it compels us to continuously factor in still oblique, undefined challenges, while eroding the built remains of the previous eras.

By focusing on specific localities, individuals and communities in the midst of these uncertain circumstances, the workshop examines the overlapping, but precise effects of systemic global changes and local challenges.

The results should offer answers to interesting questions, such as: how did the relationship between the work people do and the space where they do it evolve over the last four decades? What about meeting neighbors, having fun, enjoying art? What are the detailed, personal specificities of these changes – and how do they relate to the specific piece of architecture? How are these changes reflected in the evolution of that specific building?

What does this teach us about the adjustments we must make when designing for the constantly shifting, uncertain future? Tackling such questions are the objectives of the workshop, and its contribution towards developing the overreaching topics of the Tirana

Design Week 2019.

 

 

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3. The content of the course

Social aspects of architecture (everyday practices, meeting spaces, urban memory), human

geography (community, interactions with the space, placemaking), systemic change (postsocialist

transformation, global capitalism, center-periphery dynamics), modernist

architecture (heritage, reconstruction, repurposing), qualitative research.

 

4. Assignments/Projects and other requirements

The main assignment for each team will be to produce a piece for the final exhibition, based on the research results, in one of the specified formats (poster, collage, photograph).

Necessary materials include stationary (paper, post-it notes, pens…), while the participants are expected to use personal computers and smartphones (needed for their camera and

voice-recording functions). A room equipped with wi-fi is also necessary for the lecture, preparatory session, and processing of the collected materials, while the final exhibition can be organized in public space.

 

5. The methodology and didactic aspect

Qualitative research methods include:

- reviewing literature (including available daily press archives) to collect necessary

information about the studied building and the surrounding area;

- finding interviewees and conducting interviews (semi-structured);

- creating mental maps (interviewee’s perception of the studied area);

- observing, describing and presenting the ways in which the studied area is used (in the

form of a map, a photo, a text or some combination of these).

The groups will be expected to deliver a product of team work, and participants will be encouraged to rely on each other’s skills in order to successfully complete the project.

 

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