The history of Shallvare- the soviet architecture complex in Tirana

‘Shallvare’ looks like a strange name—it is not even in the Albanian language. We are speaking for the area in front of Rinia Park, populated with bars, cafés, restaurants, and shops. It starts from the first building in front of the National Bank and continues up to the bridge of the Lana River.

The name is related to a complex of apartment buildings with a typical Soviet architectural style. They are five-story buildings with small rooms and balconies.  The engineer Orhan Sakiqi spoke these days for Albanian Media and explained that there are two theories of the origin of Shallvare: the first one is related to a wealthy man called Miltiadh Shallvari, who was the owner of a part of the land here, and the second one is the version that the name comes from Turkey, which means “big pants” and used by the Turkish soldiers who played football in a giant field around this place in old times.

Near this field, there were only some old two-story houses where some well-known Tirana families were living, such as soprano Tefta Tashko, historian Osman Myderizi, etc. Part of this complex was also the medical clinic of Dr. Basho, which now is the museum ‘House of Leaves”, while one of the buildings was the first Publishing House of Tirana called ‘Gutenberg.’ The building of apartments started in 1951-1953. At the same time, Rinia Park in front of this complex was planted with trees by the students of Agriculture Institute in one day of work. The architect of all these buildings was Gani Strazimiri, who specialized in the Soviet Union. The style was adapted from Moscow, as many architects at that time used to study in Russia and tended to bring that model to Albania.

The work continued with Agimi Apartments on the other side of the Lana River. They were called Agimi, which means “Aurora,” the sunrise or the start of a day. All these apartments have the same style, and their construction was completed in record time between 1953 and 1955. Almost 500-600 political prisoners were used to do the work.

The architects completed the block with the same projects, continuing with the same buildings in Zhan D’Arc Boulevard, creating the U sign, and finishing it with buildings in Myslym Shyri. The apartments in this famous street were completed in 1964. Also, in the same decade, “4 Shkurti” Street buildings were constructed, now known as Ibrahim Rugova Street or the most popular Blloku Area. The buildings continued with the same model until 21 Dhjetori and Kavaja Streets.

All these buildings are typical of the communist style and are considered by most very ugly. Lately, the buildings have been painted with bright colors and shapes to make these neighborhoods more attractive in the heart of Tirana.

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