How do you make a concrete jungle less foreboding? Well you cover it up of course.

Tirana is in some ways an artificial capital. Not long after Albanian independence from the Ottoman empire, the capital was moved in the 1920s from Elbasan to Tirana (presumably because it was more central, despite having been little more than a provincial town before). No doubt there were great plans and dreams for this new city – and there were one or two grand attempts in an Italianate style for national buildings. But the political chaos pre-war and the Communist takeover post war led to architectural travesties. The Communists were not known for building geographically sympathetic and aesthetically pleasing buildings (although it has to be said that they did a MUCH better job than Western Europe at preserving their architectural heritage – eg Prague & Budapest).

The result is that Tirana is an architectural nightmare. Everywhere you look, there is concrete and a high-rise. The city is surrounded on all sides by beautiful mountains, offering a tantalizing dream of life beyond the smoke. Butinside there are few pleasures to be had.

So – in the last few years there have been one or two municipal competitions to come up with the best designs to paint on these buildings. I had an hour or two to wander around – and so took some random pics of a number – now beautifully assembled into a rather beautiful collage. Beautiful. Can you spot the buildings that have included the block numbers into their design?

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