The Metabolism of Albania, 2015


Publisher: iabr / UP, in collaboration with TUDelft, PBL, .FABRIC, Ministry of Urban Development of Albania, National Territorial Planning Agency of Albania (AKTPT), Atelier Albania
ISBN: 9789080957282
200 X 265 mm, 231 pages, English and Albanian

Work in Progress
Could the friction between planning and acting in Albania be resolved by an approach that creates action from what is known and what could be done, while simultaneously working on getting to know more, and thus fine tuning the direction of the next step? If the current spatial condition of the country is a result of the cumulative dynamic of fragmented actions, could equally fragmented, but better orchestrated actions create a healthier counter dynamic? This work is a cross reading of the best, the worst, and the possibilities of the Albanian territory. The exercise is self-conscious of the fact that it is impossible to be all-inclusive, but at the same time it is equally impossible to produce integrative results unless the complexity of the context in its entirety is brought into play. Accepting the incompleteness and adopting iterative prototyping as a working method was employed here. With the flows of water, food, and energy never leaving the background, a set of 'case studies for the sustainable development of the Albanian coast' was developed, a preparatory work that describes what the future 'real' case studies should look for. The following chapters attempt to give a quick total image of the Albanian dynamics: the current Challenges and Opportunities in the local context, a set of relevant practices elsewhere as References for debate, and a set of Test Cases as starting points for building up an alternative planning approach. They are meant as one whole that can evolve, and they attempt to complement the parallel trajectories that are part of this volume by approaching the common subject from a specific stance; one of short-circuiting the systemic aspects discussed in the group sessions to the (sometimes literally) dirty reality on the ground. The result is a collection of tangible fragments, loosely connected at first glance, but with the potential to generate a larger dynamic.

(Proto)types of Projects
The test cases developed as the last step of this research by design trajectory are not meant as absolute answers to problems, but sketch the kind of projects that could make a difference in this context. All of the examples share a series of principles. They all aim to create new destinations, or look for the conditions to rediscover existing ones. They all try to link preservation and development, and to build upon what is already there. In this sense, new is not necessarily to be found in imported models, but preferably in the redefinition of the existing; tweaking things, sometimes from within, to make them smarter, better linked, and to give them a broader relevance. The test cases therefore basically describe types of infrastructure, interventions that can create the conditions for other things to happen. They search for simple and focused projects that could have an impact that goes beyond the actual perimeter of physical intervention. They are conceived as possible investments, in a range that is as inclusive as possible; from subsidized public operations, to possible investments for big (foreign) companies, to business opportunities for individual entrepreneurs, or blends of the above. As such, they seek a short- or long-term financial return on investment. There are two types of cases: a few site-specific investments are described, singular projects for zones in which a plurality of issues are concentrated; an urgency, an opportunity, or preferably both. These could be considered as reactive cases for locations that are under a certain pressure. The rest of the cases investigate possible prototypical investments, or operations that could be set up proactively and regardless of an existing demand. These emerge from the overall systemic reading of Albania as a metabolism, as a set of dynamic flows. They aim at challenges identified where flows meet and that thus concern more than one sector. These proposals could be applied with slight variations to several similar locations. Altogether, these tests try to describe investments that generate the broadest possible value. A modest technical solution with a high social value is preferable to a brilliant one with solely technical advantages, shortterm needs should be placed in long-term perspectives, and economic urgencies should intertwine with environmental ones. The 'return' of investments is higher when multiple benefits can be reaped, and resilience is as much economic in nature as social or environmental. Actively working on improving awareness and on coordinating strategically could become a tipping point for Albania. The young, dynamic, roll-up-your-sleeves population will probably do the rest.