How to make infrastructure future-proof?

How to make infrastructure future-proof?

Communism collapsed in Albania around 1991. Before then, the country lived in severe isolation even from other socialist countries, a situation comparable to the disconnection of North Korea today. The violence during the regime found an equally violent counterpart in the way the country opened up to a so-called ‘free market regime’, which was in reality a destructive mix of pyramid schemes, widespread corruption and anarchy. Also, the urban environment suffered as a result, falling victim to cancerous illegal settlements. People were building everywhere: on rooftops, in courtyards, parks and riverbeds.

The TID tower is part of a series of operations to bring the idea of the city as a collective space back into the hearts and minds of the people. The first wave was an emergency operation: in the year 2000 an ‘urban guerrilla’ started, combining the destruction of buildings with the painting of façades in strong, larger-than-life colours. The second wave in 2003 was more organized and planning-oriented: it crystallized in a master plan for a pedestrianized centre, marked at the edges with two parallel (and monumental) rows of towers. The TID tower is one of them, and until today the only one to have been built.

The site for the tower qualifies as a prime location: it can be seen from the main boulevard entering the city. In consequence, the tower complements Tirana’s most important monuments: the Skanderbeg statue, the oldest mosque, the clock tower and, at the foot of the tower, a memorial tomb for the city’s founder, Suleiman Pasha. Being aware of this precarious historical line-up, the tower is designed as a monolith, avoiding the image of the modern glass tower. Starting from an ellipse and ending as a rectangle, the building has a simple shape which fully captures the Mediterranean light of Tirana and generates a wide range of unexpected shadows. It does not symbolize anything, but simply highlights an environmental and, as such, cultural condition.

The building and base are designed to be programme-neutral: the generic layout of the floors and the rough skin of the tower (50 per cent open, 50 per cent closed) make it possible to accommodate any programme. The whole structure is straightforward and well-made: the Sisyphean construction process consisted in getting rid of badly copied international building solutions and replacing them with new solutions with the proper amount of precision. It meant that, together with the client, we had to find and create local capabilities, resulting in an unexpected range of high-quality but low-tech solutions. During this process, the tower became increasingly basic, leaving diversity and a hint of luxury for the ground floor. Here, the building is designed as a constellation of three singular buildings: the 85 m tower coming straight down to the ground, a five-storey glass building with a cantilevering roof that creates an open air galleria, and finally a small concrete building with a hollowed-out quarter dome, embracing the tomb of Suleiman Pasha. Together these buildings generate a multiple and diverse environment, enhancing the most durable quality of any Mediterranean city: its public space.


  • Location

    Tirana, Albania

  • Client

    Tirana International Development (TID)

  • Completion

    2016

  • 51N4E project team

    Johan Anrys, Freek Persyn, Peter Swinnen, Ulrike Franzel, Bob De Wispelaere, Jeroen Beerten, Joost Körver, Aglaia De Mulder, Chris Blackbee, Astrit Vranovci, Joram Van Den Brande, Tom Baelus, Konstantinos Pantazis, Aline Neirynck, Karol Wawrsyniak, Andreas Anton Amodio, Jan Das, Valbona Koçi, Marian Beschoner, Sotiria Kornaropoulou, Marta Petrov, Olivier Cavens, Galaad Van Daele, Guillaume Boulanger

  • 51N4E involvement

    Full Process

  • Consultants

    Ney & Partners (structure), Cenergie (climate control)

  • Structural engineer

    Helidon Kokona

  • Façade

    Van Santen & associates

  • Construction

    Tirana International Development

  • Construction costs (excl. VAT)

    50.000.000 €

  • Programme

    Offices, retail, restaurant, car park, hotel

  • Site surface

    4.240 m²

  • Built surface

    46.000 m²

  • Photography

    Filip Dujardin / Stefano Graziani


TID Tower, Tirana, Albania

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Creating a link between two separate buildings. (link: http://192.241.145.246/projects/tid-tower text: World Trade Centre, Brussels)

A metropolitan hybrid evolves from the conceptual programming group as an architectural intervention that occurs from the metropolitan condition of density and diversity beyond real estate market demands and commercialization. The metropolitan hybrid allows the evolution of the city as real estate speculation, changes in industry, changes in political power, and urban renewal have created abandoned or unfinished structures across cities worldwide. Polycentrality would also require conceptualization of metropolitan hybrids as urban systems. changes in political power, and urban renewal have created abandoned or unfinished structures.

Freek Peryson, 51N4E Extract from Double or Nothing, 2012

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla hendrerit turpis vel imperdiet auctor. Aliquam varius consectetur urna, volutpat ullamcorper tortor sollicitudin in. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus, hendrerit faucibus ex posuere. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Nullam venenatis condimentum cursus. In ut justo non tortor. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus.

(link: http://192.241.145.246/projects/tid-tower text: World Trade Centre, Brussels) (link: http://192.241.145.246/projects/tid-tower text: World Trade Centre, Brussels)

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla hendrerit turpis vel imperdiet auctor. Aliquam varius consectetur urna, volutpat ullamcorper tortor sollicitudin in. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus, hendrerit faucibus ex posuere. In hac habitasse platea dictumst.

Creating a link between two separate buildings. (link: http://192.241.145.246/projects/trees text: World Trade Centre, Brussels)

Re-use existing networks

Re-use existing networks

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla hendrerit turpis vel imperdiet auctor. Aliquam varius consectetur urna, volutpat ullamcorper tortor sollicitudin in. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus, hendrerit faucibus ex posuere. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Nullam venenatis condimentum cursus. In ut justo non tortor. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus.

Creating a link between two separate buildings. (link: http://192.241.145.246/projects/trees text: World Trade Centre, Brussels)

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla hendrerit turpis vel imperdiet auctor. Aliquam varius consectetur urna, volutpat ullamcorper tortor sollicitudin in. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus, hendrerit faucibus ex posuere. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Nullam venenatis condimentum cursus. In ut justo non tortor. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus.

Creating a link between two separate buildings. (link: http://192.241.145.246/projects/tid-tower text: World Trade Centre, Brussels)

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla hendrerit turpis vel imperdiet auctor. Aliquam varius consectetur urna, volutpat ullamcorper tortor sollicitudin in. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus, hendrerit faucibus ex posuere. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Nullam venenatis condimentum cursus. In ut justo non tortor. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus.

Creating a link between two separate buildings. (link: http://192.241.145.246/reflections/double-or-nothing text: World Trade Centre, Brussels)

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Freek Peryson, 51N4E Extract from Double or Nothing, 2012

What is social infrastructure?

What is social infrastructure?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla hendrerit turpis vel imperdiet auctor. Aliquam varius consectetur urna, volutpat ullamcorper tortor sollicitudin in. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus, hendrerit faucibus ex posuere. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Nullam venenatis condimentum cursus. In ut justo non tortor. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus.

Creating a link between two separate buildings. (link: http://192.241.145.246/projects/tid-tower text: World Trade Centre, Brussels)

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla hendrerit turpis vel imperdiet auctor. Aliquam varius consectetur urna, volutpat ullamcorper tortor sollicitudin in. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus, hendrerit faucibus ex posuere. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Nullam venenatis condimentum cursus. In ut justo non tortor. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus.

Creating a link between two separate buildings. (link: http://192.241.145.246/projects/tid-tower text: World Trade Centre, Brussels)

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nulla hendrerit turpis vel imperdiet auctor. Aliquam varius consectetur urna, volutpat ullamcorper tortor sollicitudin in. Maecenas imperdiet semper gravida. Morbi vulputate nunc nec orci pretium, ac suscipit enim tempor. Sed viverra dolor vitae turpis faucibus, hendrerit faucibus ex posuere. In hac habitasse platea dictumst.

Creating a link between two separate buildings. (link: http://192.241.145.246/projects/tid-tower text: World Trade Centre, Brussels)

The Northern Quarter of Brussels is a monofunctional office district that represents a trauma in the development of the city, having caused the eviction of more than 11,000 people in the 1960s. The district, characterized by office towers and large boulevards, had fallen victim to increased vacancy and disinvestment. In response to this, in 2016, 51N4E engaged in an open network called Lab North and moved its offices to the district.

Starting with an academic workshop on the topic of adaptive reuse, we set the first step in the district. During this workshop, connections were made between owners in the district and the civic and academic organizations that would later temporarily use the emblematic World Trade Centre tower. From September 2017 to December 2018, WTC1 gradually opened up to more than 50 small organizations, an architecture school’s studio, and various colloquial events. 51N4E was engaged in multiple ways: as teacher, temporary occupant, activist, architect, exhibition designer, and urban gardener. During this time, WTC1 turned into a 1:1 model for the hybrid and multi-tenant use of vertical tower buildings.

At present, Lab North is based in the CCN building next to the Brussels North train station. Together with other practices that are part of this network, 51N4E continues to contribute to the thinking and doing process of dealing with the traumatic modernist district.


  • Location

    Brussels, Belgium

  • Description

    Open network of organisations involved in the Brussels North District

  • In collaboration with

    Up4North, AWB, VraimentVraiment, and many others

  • 51N4E involvement

    Temporal use, scenography, writing, urban design

  • Photography

    Filip Dujardin, Alexis Gicart, Tim Vandevelde

  • Image credits

    51N4E/AWB


Lab North, Brussels, Belgium
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