MVRDV Unveils Albania’s Mixed-Use Building Shaped After The Country’s National Hero
MVRDV has begun construction of the Skanderbeg Building, officially known as Tirana’s Rock, a mixed-use project sculpted in the shape of Albania’s national hero. The building is shrouded in curved balconies that form the shape of Skanderbeg’s head and serve as an iconic landmark on Skanderbeg Square in central Tirana. Once completed, the project will be one of the world’s largest buildings that doubles as a figurative sculpture, celebrating the cultural history of the country and giving the Albanian capital a unique identity.
The mixed-use tower, 85 meters high, is located on the northeast corner of the square. At street level, the curved silhouette of the building fills the edges of the site. Skanderbeg’s “shoulders” are aligned with the widest part of the site, with his head turned to the right, facing the square that bears his name. The design is achieved by using balconies that wrap around the entire building on all levels, with curved protrusions forming the facial details such as the nose, ears and beard. The final design is a subtle symbolic intervention that may not be so obvious to people at first glance.
Fitting seamlessly into a city that has developed a tradition of blending art and architecture as part of the Post-Communist Renaissance, the building offers well-designed, functional homes in one of the most desirable locations in Tirana. The balconies allow the building’s interior spaces to adopt rational floor plans, while providing residents with a significant amount of valuable, shaded outdoor space. Inside, the building features one level of commercial space and four levels of offices. Above that, 20 floors of residential apartments occupy the ‘head’, paying special attention to each individual floor plan to ensure these homes are functional despite the building’s irregular shape.
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Each balcony is separated by built-in planters with native plants, allowing the surrounding greenery to extend the building, adapting it to the warm climate of Tirana. The wide overhanging balconies protect the building from excessive sunlight and the floor layouts allow for natural cross ventilation. Rainwater harvesting and heat recovery systems minimize the building’s water and energy needs.
Today, cities around the world are becoming more and more alike – I always encourage them to resist this, find and emphasize their individual character. For me, the Skanderbeg building is an opportunity to do that. It gives new meaning to existing elements of Albanian architecture. As Albania begins its negotiations to join the EU, projects like this one are part of the European project – highlighting Albania’s history, character and presence in a united Europe of many states. — Winy Maas, MVRDV Founding Partner
The glass railings of the balconies have a gradient finish, fading from a milky white to a clear finish to create a marble-like appearance. At night, lighting strips integrated into the underside of the balconies accentuate the shape of Skanderbeg’s head, turning the building into a beacon and landmark in the city.
Gjergj Kastrioti, commonly known as Skanderbeg, is an important figure in Albania’s history as he played a pivotal role in its conception as a nation-state, making him the country’s national hero. In honor of his legacy, the main public square in the center of Tirana is called Skanderbeg Square, accompanied by the Skanderbeg Monument.