The Gjirokastra Experience_ Nicola Tasselli
Author: Nicola Tasselli
Affiliation: Ferrara University
The city of Gjirokastra is experiencing severe depopulation (Rembeci 2016). This phenomenon is a result of both economic and social factors, and it reflects a widespread trend in all rural areas of Albania, but it assumes relevant dimensions in Gjirokastra. Medium and long-term strategies that trigger "value chains" are needed to counteract this phenomenon by intervening on critical issues on both the economic and social level, in order to slow down or reverse the demographic drop. Art and local culture can become drivers for social and productive revitalization, providing development opportunities in a territory whose economy can rely again on the manufacturing industry. The old town of Gjirokastra has been included in the UNESCO (Unesco 2020) list of protected sites since 2005. Its territory hosts significant historical and archaeological evidence from the Byzantine to the Ottoman Empire. Important architectural testimonies are preserved from the latter in the oldest part of the city. The buildings realized between the 1920s and the 1940s by famous Italian architects for the city's most affluent merchant families are of particular historical interest. Private mansions, hotels, banks and utility buildings were built by bringing into this area the construction technologies and the architecture style in use in Italy at the time (Bilushi 2008). The urban fabric is characterized by an extraordinary variety
of composition, due to both the historical stratification and the organic distribution resulting from the topography. The urban development has led to the emergence of three distinct loci or souls over the centuries. The old town, located close to the ridge, is characterized by a dense and organic fabric. The new city, located at the foot of the ridge, has a modern fabric, and the industrial area developed along the primary road network and the river. These represent three distinct phases, which contribute to the identity of the place and people. The maintenance and preservation of this identity must be the primary driver to develop an intervention strategy. Each part brings a specific social and cultural background that can enrich the city as a whole. The aim of this research is to reconnect the three loci of the city by intervening on the existing urban tissue.
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