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BIG reveal 'bow-tie' design for National Theatre of Albania

The design will continue the city’s efforts for making Tirana’s public spaces more inviting and its public institutions more transparent
– Bjarke Ingels

Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) have revealed their competition-winning design for the National Theatre of Albania, a 3-in-1 cultural venue shaped like a bow tie.

Designed in collaboration with British consultancy Theatre Projects, the 9,300sq m (100,000sq ft) venue has been commissioned to host local and touring theatre companies in the Albanian capital, Tirana.

Situated adjacent to the historic Skanderbeg Square, the National Opera and the National Art Gallery, the project will replace the existing theatre and add three new indoor performance spaces, including a large auditorium, a rooftop amphitheatre and a covered public space underneath the building.

The main volume, shaped like a prism, will be compressed and lifted in the centre, creating connections and public plazas on both sides of the theatre at street level. Visitors will enter the building from either side or stay under the arch to enjoy impromptu outdoor performances.

“The theatre is conceived as two buildings connected by the main auditorium: one for the audience and one for the performers,” said BIG founder Bjarke Ingels. “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 sloping roof mirrors the archway, forming an open-air amphitheatre with a backdrop to the city’s skyline.

“The design will continue the city’s efforts for making Tirana’s public spaces more inviting and its public institutions more transparent. With open venues, one sheltered and one with a rooftop view and traditionally hidden theatre spaces being revealed out towards the city, the theatre will be both stage and actor in the city of Tirana.”

The facades on each side of the building are designed to 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.”

“One side reveals a foyer, lounge, bar and restaurant as well as two experimental stages to passersby, like rooms in a dollhouse,” said Ingels. “The other side reveals the entire section of the backstage, side stages, under stage and fly tower, exposing the entire theatre machine to curious observers.

“Where a theatre typically wouldn’t be open to the public until the early evening, the new Albanian National Stage will become a spectacle of production as well as performance throughout the day.”

The mayor of Tirana, Erion Veliaj, claimed the project will be a “bow tie that ties together artists, dreamers and all talented people with the aspirations of a city changing to fifth gear in its yearning for constant change and place-making.”

“Tirana is going through an era of unprecedented transformation and innovation,” he added. “The city is becoming greener with a major tree plantation drive of two million trees. Tourism has grown 2.5-fold in recent years as we have become a leading city-break destination. BIG’s new theatre will become a crown jewel of this transformation in the heart of the capital.”

BIG’s cultural centre experience includes the recently-completed LEGO House and the ‘invisible’ TIRPITZ museum, both in Denmark. It is currently working on MECA – three cultural institutions united under one roof in Bordeaux, France – and an expansive sport and leisure destination in Austin, US.

National Theatre of Albania  Albania  Tirana  BIG  Bjarke Ingels  Theatre Projects 
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Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) have revealed their competition-winning design for the National Theatre of Albania, a 3-in-1 cultural venue shaped like a bow tie. Designed in collaboration with British consultancy Theatre Projects, the 9,300sq m (100,000sq ft) venue has been commissioned to host local and touring theatre companies in the Albanian capital, Tirana. Situated adjacent to the historic Skanderbeg Square, the National Opera and the National Art Gallery, the project
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Traditionally hidden theatre spaces will be revealed out towards the city, forming a cultural dollhouse for Tirana / BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group
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