Scanderbeg Square, a huge space is back to citizens.

Its history has involved debates not only with political parties but also with civil society. The big question was: Should we change this square, modernize it, use it for citizens’ benefit, or keep it untouched as in old times? It is a known fact that the main square of Tirana has changed several times since it first became a square.

The history

The history of the square started in 1917, about 100 years ago, when the first parliament was built in Tirana, which now is the Puppet Theater. Then, during the time of King Zog, the first Ministries of Italian architecture were built in this place in perfect harmony.

The Scanderbeg Monument was placed there in 1968 during the dictatorship. It was a work of sculptor Odhise Paskali, while the square was restored with a fountain in the center. It was when the regime also built the National Opera, the National Museum, and the Tirana International Hotel, which made the square skyline. It was that shape of a square that lasted longer and was remembered by most people who were born in Tirana. Some of them have grown up with a lot of memories here and are conservative and do not want to see it changed. But the dictator Enver Hoxha also put his monument in this place, which was toppled by massive student protests on the eve of democratic changes in Albania on 20 February 1991.

The first debate sparked in 2008. Prime Minister Edi Rama, mayor of Tirana at that time, had the idea of doing this new square that we have today. He wanted to do it during his mandate, but the project wasn’t approved due to the conflict with DP, who had the central government.

The square remained in total dysfunction until Lulzim Basha from DP took the office of Mayor at Tirana Municipality. Mr Basha arranged the square and mostly turned it into a functional area, like a giant roundabout for cars, all covered in grass. It was not a pedestrian place, and the chaotic traffic wouldn’t’ let people or tourists enjoy it. People couldn’t stay for long in this square. It was not even a square. All the last decade’s concerts or big political gatherings were shifted to Mother Teresa Square at the other end of Martyrs Boulevard. So, no use practically, just traffic deviation.

 The New Square

What do we have now? A giant pedestrian area and, according to Mayor Veliaj, the biggest in the Balkans.  This is the most positive thing and value of this new square. Tourists and Albanian citizens can walk around the center; visit the Museum, The Mosque, and the Scanderbeg Monument, National Bank undisturbed by crazy cars. They can take photos, stay for a while, and rest under the trees around the square. The elements of the new square are almost 28,000 square meters paved with tiles from all the places where Albanians live. This stoned pavement is a shallow pyramid, with the highest point in the middle at about 1.80 m. You can walk easily to the top of it. The meaning of it is that everyone can stay in this place and feel that he is somehow important. In other words, the citizen is the center of attention for this square. All the stones from Albania and the diaspora symbolize the unification of all Albanians. The square has over 100 fountains with fresh water to keep the place cool during the hot summer. The Scanderbeg Square, The National Opera, National Museum and National Bank surround the stone pavement, while behind these buildings, there are planted trees from all over Albanian territory. Mini-parks, benches, flowers, platforms for taking photos, or an altar for getting married are part of the square. There are 32 square meters planted with different aromatic trees and 90 000 square meters of walking area, while the underground parking can allow up to 300.

Tirana Winter, Duli Kasmi

There are still debates between the political parties about the new square. But the square is now back to citizens, who started to enjoy it. At the same time, it also helps solve a huge problem: parking in Tirana. Some elements are not finished yet, but the square was full of Albanian citizens and tourists for the first two days. It is going to be probably the most popular destination for all tourists. It can also be used for big concerts; Tirana didn’t have a designated place for open-air concerts. In the first two nights, it was used for this purpose. What we hope is to see it clean and well-kept every day. We have to use it creatively and give it life, and then travelers will get interested and visit it.  It is a fact that Tirana has become one of the most interesting destinations in Albania in the last few years. There is no other European Capital where you can find such a mixed history and architecture, where you can enjoy traditional hospitality and streets full of young, modern, good-looking people. This is our city, Tirana, the Albanian Capital, with a modern square named proudly after its National Hero, Skanderbeg.

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