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Municipality of Tirana, partner in a transnational project on totalitarian architecture

Ana Xhilaga

An efficiently developed tourism sector is able to significantly contribute to the development of a country's economy and impact on its international perception.

Tirana city is in the first steps of tourism destination management. This is due to the relatively new tourism development stage in Albania after ending the communist era in 1990. Tourism destination management is related with the public sector and private sector understanding and experience in tourism management and their cooperation in harmonizing the tourism management of the area. Until now, Tirana has relatively new experience especially from the public sector and missing concrete experiences in cooperation on management and along the product chain. Until now, mainly the initiative of the private sector and improvement of general conditions of the infrastructure, accessibility, and country marketing were the main drivers of tourism development in the country and in Tirana.

One of these yet not totally explored opportunities in Tirana, namely the use of the architecture of totalitarian regimes of XX° century for tourism purpose, has been now addressed by ATRIUM (Architecture of Totalitarian Regimes of the XX° Century in Urban Management).

The Albanian architecture of the war and postwar period, and especially the architecture of Tirana as the capital of the country, was marked by two totalitarian regimes: by the fascist regime of Mussolini during the WWT and the communist regime. Both have left their mark on the city with their typically architecture.

In addition to the objects of the architecture of the totalitarian regimes of XX° century selected for the ATRIUM case studies, Tirana offers a couple of other such objects of both periods. The Palace of Brigades (former Palace of the Albania’s King Zogu), the ministries buildings, the government building and the municipality hall are designed by Florestano de Fausto and Armando Brasini, both well-known architects of the Mussolini period in Italy. The Dëshmoret e Kombit (National Martyrs) Boulevard was built in 1930 and given the name Zogu I Boulevard. In the communist period, the part from Skënderbej Square up to the train station was named Stalin Boulevard. The Royal Palace or differently known as "The Palace of Brigades" previously served as the official residence of King Zog I. It has been used by different Albanian governments for various purposes. Because of the outbreak of World War Two, and the 1939 Italian Invasion of Albania, King Zog I fled Albania and never had a chance to see the Palace fully constructed. The Italians finished it and used it as the Army Headquarters. The Palace took its nickname "The Palace of Brigades" because it was taken from the Italians by a people army brigade.

The Palace of Culture, where the Theatre of Operas and Ballet and the National Library are still located, was completed in 1963 on the site of the former Trade of Tirana, with the first brick being placed by Soviet president Nikita Khrushchev in 1959. A 12 -meter high monument called Mother Albania is located in the cemetery of the martyrs of the nation and was established during the communist regime. The Gallery of Figurative Arts was created in 1974, and includes around 3200 works by Albanian and foreign artists.

Both, central and local government has made tourism to the top priorities of their development programs. The tourism sector is one of the fast growing industries in the country and it has strongly benefited from the EU integration, making Albania, so far one of the main destinations to be discovered. The integration of Albania into the EU is one of the top priorities of the government. It fits very well to the aims of the South East Europe Program developing transnational partnerships on matters of strategic importance, in order to improve the territorial, economic and social integration process and to contribute to cohesion, stability and competitiveness of the region.

The opening of new jobs in Tirana is one of the priorities of the city administration. The new culture route that will be one of the results of ATRIUM will satisfy this priority of the government of Tirana by creating new services and new jobs.

Department for Tourism and City Promotion of the Municipality Tirana is actively participating in the project contributing to the project, exchanging the experience among partners, cooperating and bringing this experience to the local tourism businesses via the existing partnership with the tourism stakeholders and by implementing concrete measures in the frame of the project.

Tirana is fully involved in implementing the ATRIUM project by setting up a team of qualified people to deal with the project. The team is feeding the project continually with the information and doing the work as foreseen in the work packages of the project. Albanian experts have already selected and elaborated 6 case studies on Tirana, which make up the core of the project. Our team has been in daily communication with our partners and with the project leader via e-mail keeping the partners posted about its work and receiving information about their work. Tirana’s team participates on the discussion on line about the different steps and assignments of the project, we have translated into Albanian the text for the project’s brochure and web site of the project. Tirana has contributed to the manual of wise management, preservation, reuse and economic valorization of architecture of the totalitarian regimes of the XXth century.

Looking through marketing glasses the idea behind the ATRIUM project may lead to commercial success. Albania appears to be ideally situated to meet the shifting demands of an increasingly nature and culture oriented tourism market. There is no doubt about changes of subjects interesting the existing markets – favoring items that stress recent past, social past etc.

Advertising the ATRIUM idea requires a mix of instruments addressing both operators and final customers such as project-minded website, local- and project-minded brochures, and orchestrated/joint presentations at tourism fairs. Some of these instruments have been offered by ATRIUM. However, kernel of promotion should be a push-and-pull-strategy to generate final customers’ demand “forcing” tour operators to join. This would obviate operators’ objections to have to stem all field advertising on their own.


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