A look at the proposal of Coop Himmelb(l)au for a new parliament

As Vincent already pointed out in this earlier post, there have been plans to erect a new parliament in the middle of Tirana. Those plans come from the probably most renowned architecture firm of Vienna, Coop Himmelb(l)au.

It is interesting to see how the protest surrounding the buildup of this massive project is being viewed at by the architects themselves, within the Austrian media. The first interview that comes to my mind is one being shown in der standard. Here, “front-man” Wolf D. Prix gives an interview where he talks about the lack of student revolts in Vienna, which according to him are not fierce enough and show symptoms of a generation that has become lethargic and lazy.

As to upcoming educational cuts from the Austrian government he comments:

“A Catastrophe. But in the end it’s the student’s own fault . They put up with everything, they don’t open their mouths, they don’t break down the barricades anymore.”

Only at the end of the interview the dialogue shifts towards his current career as an architect of Coop Himmelblau – to which he directly responds that the upcoming project in Tirana is the one he looks forward to the most.

“Doch am meisten freut mich, dass wir das Parlament in Tirana, Albanien, bauen werden. Ein Gebäude für die Demokratie zu entwerfen ist eine der vornehmsten Aufgaben.”

But the thing that delights me the most, is that we’re gonna build the parliament of Tirana, Albania. To design a building for democracy, is one of the most prestigious tasks” (freely translated)

The irony within this comment is that his favorite new project would soon become a target for what he desired an increase of in his own country – protest. During the summer of 2011, several protests started in Tirana that would take a stance against the building of the new parliament. It is interesting how Wolf D. Prix favors this project as an expression of democracy. It is debatable if architects are always fully responsible for the moral impact of their own work, however if Prix is in such great favor of democracy and protesting against problematic governments, I’d suggest that he’d take a look at the “democracy” that he is building this new parliament for. I am merely a spectator and visitor to Albania, but for me it is clearer than the glass of the new open parliament that the word democracy  within this country can only be spoken out with a certain level of irony. This view is not one that I have made up from consuming media – it is the only summary I can give of all the views I received from different talks with local Albanians.

Votes that are bought of from the poorer parts of the population, an atmosphere being more anti-governmental than I have ever experienced in all my visits to a dozen  different countries, and people who literally don’t give a fuck about governmental glory to the slightest degree.

It is also funny to imagine an open parliament within Tirana in the light of some of the radical protests that happened here. It wouldn’t surprise me if people would start knocking against the glass couple and trying to force their way in, seeing how parliamentary decisions are taken that are obviously no good for anybody else than the mafia.

The protests that came up against the building of the new parliament in Albania, have their origins, among other reasons, in the requirement of the destruction of the Enver Hoxha Pyramid, which is the building that you can see on the header of this blog. As the news of those protest started arriving in Austrian terrains, Prix was asked to comment on his views about their new parliament as causing the destruction of an old monument – which he explains in a plain architect-jargon holding close to zero meaning and emphasizes on being clueless.

“Ich kann verstehen, dass Demokratie ein Symbol für Diskussionskultur braucht … aber ich finde, dass die Pyramide, die eine statische Form ist, dafür nicht so geeignet ist wie die von uns weiterentwickelte Form eines dynamischen Kegels.”

I can understand that democracy needs a symbol for discussion … however, I think that the Pyramid as a static form isn’t as suited for that matter as our further developed form of a dynamic cone.

This greatly “further-developed” project would not only destroy a historic monument of interest, it would also cost billions that nobody has an idea of where they should come from – besides that, there is a parliament building that works for the needed causes (well, at least from an architect’s view). But then putting yourself in a position of a revolutionary architect, who’s going to plant the new symbol of democracy with a huge-sized glass cone while asking for people to show more balls when it comes to protests, can only be taken as a farce. I would like to see someone who has as much local power on the face of a city as Prix in this position, to at least come for once in contact with the local population that will mainly have to live with his building for the future. That would not only let him learn more about his Job and give a good example of an engaged architect – it would enable him to realize which barricades should be broken down where. If Coop Himmelblau had an office in Tirana, probably it would be their door being knocked at one day, from people who don’t “put up with everything” anymore.

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