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Tirana Vertical Forest:
Conquering the Landscape

by Daria Verde

Compasses Magazine

Buried in concrete and in eternal transformation, the capital of Albania – that after the administrative reform of 2015 has become one of the largest cities in Europe – is a combination of poverty and luxury, desolation and beauty.

Set in the center of the country – in a valley surrounded by high mountains, several lakes and a national nature reserve, the parku i madh – Tirana represents the modern center of the political, cultural and religious life of the country. The beauty of Albanian modernity, in which people believe and on which they pin their hopes, seemed unlikely when, in 1912, Albania began to exist as a nation, and people wondered if it was possible to build the capital of the new country among the small houses surrounded by large gardens, the muddle of Turkish buildings made of wood and stone, the oriental caravanserai, the poor cafes and the lavish mosques. Yet, today Western journalists write that the vibrant Albanian capital, suddenly entered in the 21st century, has become a city full of life, spacious and cheerful, even though, according to the Mercer survey on the quality of living, it is still today at the tail end of Europe.

Place of contradictions and city of a thousand faces, the present Tirana maintains only to a minimal extent the original medieval image of the Byzantine period. You get the impression of being in a western city, with echoes of a long-lasting Ottoman domination, where the pastel colors of the buildings around Skanderbeg Square, the beating heart of the city, are surrounded by the blossoming of modern towers.

Among them, a prominent position will be occupied by the new skyscraper that Stefano Boeri was asked to design, modeled after the Vertical Forest in Milan. In fact, the Italian architect – whose works range from the creation of urban visions to the design of architecture and green areas, with constant attention to their geopolitical and environmental implications – realized, in 2014, the first prototype of a sustainable residential building with green façades covered in trees and plants, a model for his idea of “urban forestation” that conceives vegetation as an essential element of architecture. Awarded with international recognitions – including the International Highrise Award in 2014 and the Best Tall Building Worldwide in 2015 – the Milanese skyscraper placed Boeri among the main actors in the climate change debate in the field of international architecture.

After the towers built in Milan, Utrecht and Nanjing, Stefano Boeri has therefore designed a vertical forest also for Tirana, with the aim of increasing the green areas of the city and improving local air quality, bringing to Albania his idea of «of a progressive Urban Forestation of the cities and metropolitan areas of the world that, multiplying the presence of trees and forests, effectively fights climate change».

The strategy promoted by the Milanese architect – presented, together with FAO, in the first World Forum on Urban Forestation held in Mantua on November 2018 – is therefore a plan to reconquer the landscape, to be pursued using verticality, in search of a new balance between city and nature.

This is also the vision that led to Regulatory Plan for Tirana 2030, designed three years ago by the Milanese firm. Strongly wanted by the government of Edi Rama (former mayor of the city) and by the administration of the current first citizen Erion Veliaj, the 2030 Plan for Tirana establishes wide-ranging objectives, which aim at inaugurating a new phase in the development of the capital and all the major Albanian cities.

The skyscraper is therefore placed within a broader framework that has as its objective, on the one hand, a significant containment of the exploitation of the land in the metropolitan area and, on the other, a substantial increase in green surfaces, involving public administrations and citizens in the planting of thousands of trees in parks, urban areas and, as in this case, on the buildings themselves.

Designed as a residential 21-floor tower, with 4 additional underground levels above a mainly commercial ground floor, Tirana Vertical Forest will rise in the city center, near Piazza Madre Teresa, one of the ends of the historic Boulevard Dëshmorët and Kombit, next to the parku i madh.

As highlighted by architect Francesca Cesa Bianchi, Project Director of the Milanese firm, the idea of the new building, which will host 105 apartments, has its origin on the theme of the façade, «overturning the convention according to which the main façade of each building is the longest, and opening wide the short side of this new Vertical Forest towards the city». Facing the blind wall of an existing building, the skyscraper, in fact, opens “like a flower” with its three green sides, thus completing the new skyline of the city.

The façade – completely made of glass and composed of floor-to-ceiling windows to allow a wide view of the city and its monuments – will host over 3,200 shrubs and bushes, as well as 145 trees. In line with Stefano Boeri’s strategy, this will create 550 m2 of green surface for the Albanian capital, increasing the biodiversity of the living species and contributing to the generation of a new urban ecosystem. The numerous plants will in fact mitigate atmospheric pollution, absorbing CO2 and fine dust on one side, producing oxygen and helping to create a healthier microclimate on the other.

The ecosystem that characterizes the façades of the building, composed of a Mediterranean selection of plants and bright and fragrant flowers, reflects its Albanian context: «Tirana is a Mediterranean capital, which is why for the first Albanian Vertical Forest we have chosen different essences typical of this particular ecosystem; shrubs characterized by a very vivid green color and brightly colored yellow and violet flowers, as well as scented plants, like myrtle and rosemary», said the landscape architect Laura Gatti.

Moreover, Stefano Boeri is also realizing several other buildings in Tirana, including three schools and a block of offices that will resemble a multifaceted golden cube. There is no doubt that one of the many faces of Tirana is now the one molded by the Italian architect, who, little by little, is reshaping the city from head to toe, this time making it high and flourishing.

Credits

Credits
Stefano Boeri Architetti

Work
Tirana Vertical Forest

Client
Gener 2 Sh.p.k.

Location
Tirana, Albania

Project Year
2019

Architecture and Design
Partner: Stefano Boeri
Project Director: Francesca Cesa Bianchi
Project Leader: Paolo Russo

Project Team
Daniele Barillari, Jacopo Colatarci, Elisa Versari, Andrea Zucchi, Shilong Tan

Engineering
Engineering consultant: SCE Project
Structural engineer: LEAL-CSE sh.p.k.

Landscape
Botanic consultant: Studio Laura Gatti

Additional Functions
MEP Consultant: ESA engineering
Executive design: SCE Project
Hydraulic system design: Ing. Artan Dersha
Mechanical system design: “GENER2” Sh.p.k., Ing. Diana Brahaj
Electrical system design: Zavalani Consulting Sh.p.k.
Fire protection system design: Ing. Artan Dersha
Local architect: Gener 2 Sh.p.k.

Image credits

Stefano Boeri Architetti

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