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Competition: 'Gentle Invasions' Albanian Riviera

An open international ideas contest has been launched for new sustainable coastal tourism facilities in Albania (Deadline: 22 July)

Open to students and professionals in architecture, engineering and design, the competition seeks experimental concepts for tourist structures along a popular stretch of sandy coastline in the Borsh valley known as the Albanian Riviera.

The ‘Gentle Invasions’ call for ideas, organised by AWR Competitions as part of the Tirana Architecture Week, aims to identify new architectural and infrastructure solutions which can respond can respond to an anticipated 0.6m increase in local sea levels by the end of the century.

The Borsh valley coastline in Albania

The Borsh valley coastline in Albania

The Borsh valley coastline in Albania

According to the brief: ‘The main objective of the design completion is the design of a facility for coastal tourism that also responds to the hypothesised future water sea level rise. The main purpose is to set new strategies for coastal development, in terms of landscape valorization and sustainable tourism promotion.

‘The participants are asked to organise a strategy for the proposed coastal area to guarantee the accessibility and use of the site also in case of sea level rise. The projects must serve both as touristic facilities and, in case of future sea level rise, remain active as self-sufficient structures, and offer an opportunity to reconnect and create a network with the now isolated inland settlements.’

Overlooking the Ionian Sea, the Borsh valley is an agricultural region featuring a large plane with irrigation systems and several olive tree plantations. The valley’s coastline is popular with bathers during the summer but has limited vehicle access and few visitor facilities.

The competition seeks radical new proposals low-impact interventions set back from the waterfront which could provide new tourist facilities while also surviving an expected 0.6m increase in sea levels over the coming decades.

The Borsh valley coastline in Albania

The Borsh valley coastline in Albania

The Borsh valley coastline in Albania

Participants are also encouraged to consider the development of new in-land tourist destinations which explore sustainable agriculture and economic development in the surrounding villages. Concepts should include both present day and future sea-level scenarios.

The competition language is English and judges include Maria Goula from Cornell University, Renier de Graaf of OMA, and Herida Duro from Albania’s Ministry of Culture. Submissions must include two A1-sized display boards.

The overall winner, to be announced during Tirana Architecture Week in September at a ceremony inside Sou Fujimoto’s Cloud installation, will receive a €1,500 top prize. A second-place prize of €1,000, third-place prize of €500 and five honourable mentions will also be awarded.

How to apply


The registration deadline is 22 July and submissions must be completed by 23:59 GMT+1 on 25 July.


Early registration from 21 May to 21 June: €75
Late registration from 22 June to 22 July: €100

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Loris Rossi, Laura Pedata and Enrico Porfido

The curators of Tirana Architecture Week discuss their ambitions for the competition

Tirana Architecture Week curators Loris Rossi, Laura Pedata and Enrico Porfido

Tirana Architecture Week curators Loris Rossi, Laura Pedata and Enrico Porfido

Tirana Architecture Week curators Loris Rossi, Laura Pedata and Enrico Porfido

Why are your holding an open international competition for new resilient tourism facilities in coastal Albania?

The idea of the competition came from the observation that for the past three years the site in question was the subject of interest and studies at a national level, due to its outstanding landscape and its potential in terms of touristic development. However, we feel this new interest also constitutes a potential danger for the natural and ecological preservation of the project area as well as the entire Albanian coast. Hence the decision to address the topic through the words of Fernand Braudel, who brilliantly compared tourism to an ‘invasion’, but a ‘peaceful’ one.

Given the importance of the topic, in 2016 the Department of Applied Research at POLIS University in Tirana established the Observatory of the Mediterranean Basin, a unit committed to the observation and investigation of all phenomena related to water and land issues in the Mediterranean. Among them, the Albanian coast has been the object of several applied research projects and scientific publications, and the topic of Tirana Architecture Week 2018 offered yet another opportunity to address the issue of coastal touristic development. Moreover, we decided to commission AWR Competitions, based in Rome, because of their extended experience in architecture competitions and their international outreach. By opening the competition to national and international participants, we hope to multiply the points of view, and observe a wider range of strategies towards sustainable building practices in natural landscape settings.

What is your vision for the new tourist facilities?

Reinterpreting Braudel’s definition, our vision for the new tourist facilities promotes a ‘gentle invasion’, meaning that we are interested in exploring ways of developing touristic facilitates while preserving the site’s natural assets. In fact, our objective is to push this concept one step further, and demonstrate how, through hybrid and adaptive structures, an architectural project can not only be integrated harmoniously in the landscape, but also contribute to the landscape’s overall resilience. We believe it is the right moment to deal with the topic of coastal landscape mutation in Albania, addressing the need to respond, among other imminent emergencies, to rising sea levels and unpredictable future events.

The Borsh valley coastline in Albania

The Borsh valley coastline in Albania

The Borsh valley coastline in Albania

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We hope the competition topic will attract both established and smaller or emerging practices, students, and researchers in the field of architecture and landscape. The participants will have the opportunity to expose their projects and their ideas to both national and international audiences through social and printed media, contributing to the current discussions about coastal development in Albania. The results will be published online by AWR Competitions and on national and international magazines and books.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Currently, Albania is investing predominantly in the main urban settlements, through public realm improvements and new buildings, and in the settlements along the coast, through waterfront developments and the implementation of touristic facilities. The government and the municipalities are commissioning architectural projects all around the country, and this competition constitutes an opportunity for the participants to be noticed and acknowledged by the local authorities. Representatives from the Albanian Ministry of Culture and foreign embassies will attend the award ceremony of the competition.

The Borsh valley coastline in Albania

The Borsh valley coastline in Albania

The Borsh valley coastline in Albania

Are there any other similar resilient coastal tourism projects you have been impressed by?

We have been impressed by several current applied research projects and writings, mostly promoted by higher education architecture institutions and architecture and landscape journals, concerned with the topic of coastal landscape resilience, hybrid architecture and the role of design within the rapidly transforming geographies of the coastal territories around the globe (eg ‘Resilient Edges’, The Plan Journal (2017); ‘The Petropolis of Tomorrow’ Rice University and Harvard University (2013); ‘Islands & Atolls’, Pamphlet Architecture, Princeton Architectural Press (2013)). But most of all, we are interested in the design thinking and the repeatable process behind the projects, not solely in the formal results.