A reflection over Petraq Kolevica’s book ” Architecture and Dictatorship” written by Ornela Gjoni.
In the footsteps of Kolevica
“You who will come to the surface
From the flood that’s overwhelmed us and drowned us all
Must think, when you speak of our weakness in times of darkness
That you’ve not had to face “
With these verses of poet B. Breht, Petraq Kolevica greeds “today’s architects and more those of tomorrow” inviting the reader to become part of a storytelling of lives inmersed in content of a regime’s totalitarian concept, which makes sure to fiercly crush everyone that brings the spirit of controversy. Known as “the initiator of a new stream in architecture”, Kolevica worked on many projects , among which the most important to mention are the apartment building behind the Bank of Albaniam in Tirana, the library in Korça city, the National Museum or the Tirana Post building.
Rejecting the standardisation that dominated in that time, resulting in a fatal monotony and creativity shrinking, he managed to present new elements in the building he designed, that were often criticised and even labeled as “qafeleshe”architecture meaning an architecture against the ideology of the regime
However, because of the techincal, architectural and constructive culture that Kolevica possesed, important building were appointed to him, as we mentioned above.
At the end of the year 1976, the work for the National Historical Museum was about to begin. As the project team was already selected, where obviously Kolevica would be part of, ridiculous directions came from “above”, from the “Great”, where it was requested that “the building had to be in three parts: the pre-war period, that of National Liberation War and that of the Socialism construction; then it was ordered that “the museum be a whole, without division because the revolution of the Albanian people is a whole.”
It was even given the idea that the facade would be treated in a way that it would resemble a necklace of cartridges. As Kolevica says, that line of decor that you see today is just the remnant of this idea. All this parenthesis
helps to create an idea of the nebula in which the group had to work. Petraqi was active in the creative process, solving the functional request, the program and the aesthetic requirements, influencing the overall concept (cubic volume, solid, compact, open at the centre with exposure at yard). However, he shared with his colleagues on many issues regarding the object, which led Kolevica to submit his own proposals to the Technical Council, which were rejected.
Of great interest is also the building behind the Bank of Albania, both from the contstruction technique and also architectural view. At the composition level, a section of four apartments in a staircase was used, illuminated from the top, and the sanitray nodes were provided with internal lighting and ventilation. On the facade, granite plastering was used, colored with 3 red stripes, and every apartment was provided with big windows, lodges and balonies. The building fitted well with the street curvature and was in total harmony with the building of the Bank. However, the drawing for this project was called “scandalous” and it was ordered to reduce the windows dimensions among other request. Despite the forced changes, the essence of this projects remained unchanged.
It is so painful that many praiseworthy projects of Kolevica were accompanied by ridiculous pseudonyms. The 5 and 6 storey flats near the Bllok, which was painted white and blue, was considered the “Greek flag in the middle of Tirana”, was repainted with yellow, and all the expensees were paing by architect. The diplomatic building on Skënderbeg Street was oriented into the west. In order for the apartments to see from the south, Kolevica created consecutive fractures, so the balconies would turn toward the sun and the facade gained plasticity. What was your reward? The building was labeled as “a saw imported from Honolulu”!
All of the above explained is only a fraction of the challenges that the architect’s profession had at that time. While there were architects and other professionals who adhered to the regime, Kolevica, besides the innovations that he wanted to bring in architecture, remained loyal to his ideals and principles. As he says: “Speaking for myself then and today I often repeat that I will not blush even in front of others, nor before my conscience, saying that to work of design I had devoted all my skills, knowledge, all my time , all my youth, even dare to say my health. It may have cost someone more. I did not have nothing more than my heart to give it to! “