Transitional Tirana: Commoning as material engagement.

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference


In this presentation I discuss the role that commoning practices have played in the city of Tirana during the transitional period from a totalitarian communist regime to a recently consolidating neoliberal regime. I employ the concept of the common-place, to explore the relation agencies between processes of commoning as social practices and their placeness. Here practices of commoning are seen as always situated in a spatial and material environment, as forms of encounters, as contact zones of human, non-human and material worlds that often generate new approaches of architectural practices. Here the spatial and the material of a place are seen as active agents in the process. In that sense, the common-place is produced by commoning as a process, and vise-versa, the common-place feeds the process of commoning itself. Therefore, common-place is simultaneously produced and productive. The double connotation of common-place also indicates the idea of dealing with the mundane, the ordinary, the everyday life, which is related to the ambition of establishing new generative ontologies of thinking about the society and the built environment. The aim of this discourse is to contribute to an interdisciplinary situated knowledge, which is strongly embedded in the chosen situations avoiding generalization.
During 45 years of dictatorship in Albania that lasted until 1991, the centralized communalism has been the main ideological tool that the state apparatus has used to over-control up to every single practice of everyday life. This is the time when Albanian society has recognized the darkest side of communalism which has damaged the belief in its potential. With the fall of the regime a tendency towards the complete opposite direction has been an understandable counter-reaction. The orientation towards individualism right after the fall of the regime has created a general idea of a total lack of commoning practices happening in the city. In this presentation I argue the opposite while delineating the difference between the state communism experimented during the previous regime and the beyond-state commoning practices that manifested with the fall of the former regime and that currently occur as a resistance towards a new neoliberal regime that is being established. During this transitional period, from 1991 to present days, different forms of commoning can be recognized to play a role in city formation. These forms are different from the forced and centrally controlled ones during the dictatorship times. Rather they unfold in spontaneous, anarchic and self-organizing practices.
In this presentation I discuss three commoning situations in the city of Tirana encountered as places of resilience, survival and resistance. I start with the transformation of the communist erected neighborhoods in the inner city as a resilience practice, to continue with survival practices in the area of Ish Kombinati Tekstil, and to conclude with a resistance practice in the movement against the demolition of the heritage building of the National Theater. Even though, as a counter-reaction to forced communism during times of state totalitarianism, in the first years after the collapse of the regime there was an orientation towards individualism, nevertheless I argue that commoning practices were always present, from the very beginning as anarchic anti-state manifestations up to consolidated self-organized practices today. These practices occur and unfold in multiple forms, even though the new neoliberal city does not give much space to them to be part of city creation, and attempts to control these spontaneous practices consolidate with time. In conclusion, I reflect on the role played by the practice of doing architecture, along with the spatiality and materiality of space as agents entangled within these commoning practices.
Period2 Sept 20194 Sept 2019
Held atPavia University, Italy
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • transitional
  • tirana
  • commoning
  • material engagement
  • Kombinat
  • National Theater
  • communist neighborhoods