MVRDV Is Breathing New Life Into a Former Communist Pyramid

The Dutch firm has started transforming the Pyramid of Tirana—a former Albanian communist monument—into a dynamic cultural center.

The Pyramid of Tirana has weathered a whirlwind of change since first opening in 1988 as a museum dedicated to Albania’s former communist dictator Enver Hoxha. Located in the capital city’s central hub, the Brutalist monument once served as a temporary base for NATO during the War in Kosovo, and more recently as a nightclub and events space. Albanian youth reclaimed the concrete structure and have been using it as a hangout spot and canvas for graffiti, often scaling it after dark to slide down its slopes. Over the years, plans to renovate the structure only partially materialized, and it’s currently sitting hermetically sealed and inaccessible to the public.

Unlike other deteriorating relics of Brutalism, the Pyramid of Tirana will soon receive a new lease on life. MVRDV plans to radically rethink the building by transforming it into a vibrant cultural hub. “Working on a Brutalist monument like the Pyramid is a dream,” MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas said in a statement. “I immediately saw its potential, and that it should be possible to make it even more of a people’s monument instead of demolishing it.”

Additions from previous renovations will be totally stripped away to reveal a voluminous interior replete with greenery and boxy interventions that will house cafes, studios, classrooms, and technology workshops from the local nonprofit TUMO Tirana. “It’s striking and interesting to see how the country struggled with the future of the building, which on one hand is a controversial chapter in the country’s history, and on the other hand has already been partly reclaimed by the residents of Tirana,” Maas continues. MVRDV will also add steps to the exterior’s sloping concrete beams to make it safer for locals to traverse the structure; one of the beams will even be preserved as a slope that visitors can slide down (at their own risk).

Not only does the transformation preserve the monument’s complex history as a symbol of victory over Hoxha’s regime, but it demonstrates that Brutalist architecture is ideal for reuse and worth preserving. It begs the question: Can we stay the wrecking ball on these buildings once and for all? 

All Stories