The Teatri Kombëtar in Tirana, Albania is otherwise known as the art deco Albanian National Theatre. It is a historically important building, an exceptional example of modern Italian architecture and one of the most important cultural centres in Albania. In 2020 the theatre attracted attention as artists and activists alike protested over its impending demolition.
The Teatri Kombëtar was built in 1939. At this time Albania was under Italian rule. The Italian protectorate of Albania lasted from 1939 until 1943. From 1939 until the end of the Second World War, the National Theatre operated as a cinema until a stage was installed.
The theatre served as a stage for artistic, academic and political events in Albania after WWII. It has a rich past, intertwined with the cultural and national identity of Albania.
Anti-Government Protests & Demolition
The Albanian government, ruled by Edi Rama, made the decision to demolish and replace the theatre in 2018. The new theatre was to be designed by Bjarke Ingels Group.
The new theatre plans attracted wide criticism from artists and citizens and protests soon ensued. Europa Nostra selected the theatre as one of the 7 Most Endangered Heritage Sites in Europe. People protested and campaigned because they wanted to save an architecturally and historically important building, but also because they feared the return of autocracy.
Irrespective of the two years of protests and political oppression, the demolition of the theatre went ahead on the early hours of the 17th May 2020 under the cover of darkness. Whilst most were sleeping the area was occupied by state police as they removed every protester and detained many artists and members of the opposition.
Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, who has been in power since 2013 promises the new theatre will be ‘another cultural destination of European proportions’.