Important Landmark to be Restored under EU4Culture programme

September 19, 2022

In November 2019, Albania was hit by the most deadly earthquake in the last 50 years. Estimated at Richter magnitude scale 6.3, it caused extensive damages in 11 municipalities. The National Puppet Theater was one of the sites significantly damaged by the earthquake. An important cultural and historical landmark, the building has great historical value as its architecture echoes evolving cultural and social developments of Albanian society. Built in 1924 to first house the Officers Club and later the first Albanian Parliament, it was regularly used for plenary sessions, government meetings, diplomatic receptions and concerts. It was one of the first administrative buildings in Tirana built in European style. Since the 1960s the building has housed the National Puppet Theater – a children’s cultural hub deeply ingrained in the memories of several generations of Albanians.

“We are grateful to the Government of Albania and the European Union for entrusting us with restoring such an important symbol of Albanian cultural heritage. Our experts will make sure to preserve all the authentic elements of both the exterior and the interior with a particular focus on preserving the key stages of architectural changes the building has undergone. This will be done through a rigorous conservation of remaining elements and restoration in cases where material and historical evidence is indisputable”-noted Pamela Lama, Country Manager of UNOPS in Albania.

The building of the National Puppet Theater was already in poor condition prior to the earthquake. The disaster caused severe damage to the roof with one of the chimneys collapsing while others were left in an unstable condition. The interiors and the walls suffered a number of structural cracks, while a portion of the stage tower was severely damaged. Ground levels around the building have also changed in recent years, and the building suffered chronic damage due to dampness. The theater mechanisms, installed in the 70’s and 80’s, were of a low quality and are now obsolete. They will be replaced with more modern technology.

Indrit Borici, a EU4Culture site engineer, still remembers visiting the theater as a child. He is now eager to manage the restoration works in line with the highest international standards and bring his two children closer to the culture:

“The restored National Puppet Theater will be fully upgraded in line with the contemporary standards and will accommodate up to 160 people. We will also upgrade the stage mechanisms and install enhanced audio-visual performance systems so that thousands of Albanian children feel comfortable and enjoy world-class shows” – he noted.

The restoration works will include:

Full restoration of the facade, while retaining all authentic elements;

Full restoration of the interior with a particular focus on historical elements of the first Albanian Parliament;

Reconstruction of the stage tower on the back facade due to heavy damage by the earthquake and its inability to sustain the weight of the new stage mechanisms;

Restoration of the theater auditorium;

Full infrastructural upgrade of the Puppet Theater, including electrical, mechanical, health and safety aspects, heating, ventilation and emergency management;

Full upgrade of the stage mechanism, including installation of movable stage, audio, digital and theater performance systems.

The EU4Culture project is funded by the European Union and is implemented by the UNOPS, the United Nations Office for Project Services, in close partnership with the Ministry of Culture of Albania. The EU4Culture represents one of the largest cultural heritage programmes funded by the European Union with a total budget of € 40 million.