The bow tie-shaped National Theatre of Albania designed by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group and Theatre Projects is a 3-in-1 cultural venue tailored to Tirana’s thriving theatre and performance art scene. Located in the cultural and administrative heart of downtown Tirana, the cultural space will replace the existing theatre and add three new indoor performance spaces, a rooftop amphitheater as well as a covered public space underneath the building.
BIG’s design for the National Theatre of Albania seeks to reclaim and reinforce the city’s goal for more urban gathering places in Tirana. The prism shaped volume is compressed and lifted in the center, creating connections and public plazas on both sides of the theatre at street level. Visitors and theatre enthusiasts can enter the building from either side or simply stay under the arch of the building to enjoy impromptu performances and other cultural events.
The theater is conceived as two buildings connected by the main auditorium: one for the audience and one for the performers. Underneath, the theatre arches up from the ground creating an entrance canopy for the audience as well as for the performers, while opening a gateway to the new urban arcade beyond. Above, the roof mirrors the archway, forming an open-air amphitheater with a backdrop to the city’s skyline,“ Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner, BIG.
Once inside the building, visitors will have access to immediate ticketing which is flanked by two grand stairs that lead up to the theatre foyer. From there, guests may continue up to the main auditorium or into the smaller black box performance spaces.
The program organization of the venues informs the bow tie-shaped volume on the outside: the main auditorium is located in the middle, sandwiched by the front-of-house activities facing south, and all of the back-of-house activities and services to the north.
The facades on each side of the building reveal the interior program to passersby outside, creating a storybook for the public and allowing the theatre operation to act as a stage in its own right. A rooftop venue and cafe are accessible to the public as well. The sloping of the roof creates an amphitheater-like space that is framed by a dramatic backdrop of the city itself. With open venues, one sheltered and one with a rooftop view,—and traditionally hidden theatre spaces being revealed out towards the city—the New National Theatre of Albania will be both stage and actor in the city of Tirana.
BIG’s cultural center experience includes the recently completed 12,000 m2 LEGO House, bringing Billund a step closer to becoming the Capital for Children, the 2,800 m2 TIRPITZ ‘invisible museum’ that transforms a historic war bunker into a cultural complex in Blåvand, and coming soon this year is 12,300 m2 MÉCA, three cultural institutions united under one roof in Bordeaux, France. Source by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group.
- Location: Tirana, Albania
- Architect: BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group
- Partners-in-Charge: Bjarke Ingels, David Zahle
- Project Leaders: Cat Huang, Lucas Carriere
- Project Team: Anton Ling, Carlos Surrinach, Izabella Banas, Jakub Klimes, Jinho Lee, Edda Steingrimsdottir, Dimitrie Grigorescu, Juhye Kim, Kei Atsumi, Kekoa Charlot, Kristoffer Negendahl, Liliana Cruz-Grimm, Matteo Dragone, Matteo Pavanello, Milyausha Garaeva, Nataly Timotheou, Ovidiu Munteanu, Sunwoong Choi, Tore Banke, Wei Yang, Yehezkiel Wiliardy, Yunzi Wang
- Collaborators: Theatre Projects, SON Engineering & Construction
- Client: FUSHA LLC
- Size: 9,300 m2
- Year: 2018
- Images: Courtesy of BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group
Article by Marco Rinaldi