An open international ideas contest has been launched for a landmark new pier and visitor destination at Lake Farka in Tirana, Albania (Deadline: 8 September)
Open to students, architects, engineers, planners and designers – the competition seeks innovative proposals for a steel and wood structure for the 75-hectare artificial lake and nature reserve which is thought to be under threat from rapid development around the city’s suburban fringes.
Proposals must provide an all year-round educational facility where visitors can explore the lake’s natural habitat without damaging its unique characteristics. Concepts must be self-sustaining and harness ecological materials. The call for concepts is part of the Tirana Design Week organised by POLIS University.
Lake Farka, Tirana
According to the brief: ‘Architecture, design, and art should act as “guardians of the lake” through empowering its feature of urban and ecological catalyst in the contemporary fragile equilibrium of the capital of Albania.
‘The structure must relate to the history of the park, the existing physical features and views, and offer the visitors a new and unexpected way to explore the basin. The projects must remain active and be self-sufficient during the whole year, and offer an opportunity to reconnect and create a network with the consolidated urban fabric and the outside area of Farka.’
Located around 10km from the centre of Tirana, Lake Farka is one of four artificial lakes which were created on the fringes of the city during the twentieth century. Today the lake is a popular fishing and swimming destination but there are concerns its natural setting could be ruined by ‘chaotic’ residential development.
The Albanian government is currently planning to invest in new ecological and recreational programmes for the area as part of a larger city-wide green initiative. The call for concepts aims to generate additional ideas to protect the lake and limit the expansion of urban development on its perimeter.
Lake Farka, Tirana
Submissions must include two A1-sized boards and a completed application form. The jury will include James Stevens from Lawrence Technological University in Detroit; Alessandra Battisti from the University of Rome, and Ledian Bregasi of the Albanian Union of Architects and Urban Planners.
The overall winner, to be announced during the Tirana Design Week in late September, will receive €1,000, while a second place of €500, third place of €250 and five honourable mentions will also be awarded.
How to apply
The deadline for submissions is 23:59 (GMT+1) on 8 September
Q&A with Skënder Luarasi and Valerio Perna
The organisers at POLIS University discuss their ambitions for the competition
Skënder Luarasi and Valerio Perna
Why are your holding an international ideas contest for a new pier at Farka Lake?
Farka Lake (known locally as Liqeni i Farkës) is an artificial lake in the southeast part of Tirana, 9.6km away from the city center. With an area of 75 hectares (more significant than the artificial lake of Tirana), Liqeni I Farkës is one of the leading environmental systems of the capital of Albania. Despite its importance, either from an ecological, social, or spatial point view, today the future of this basin is still uncertain. Uncontrolled urban sprawl and increased land values are some of the factors that are menacing its equilibrium. For these reasons, we invite speculative ideas that could regenerate the area and contribute to the survival of a part of the Albanian ecosystem.
What is your vision for the new environmentally-friendly pier?
We decided to keep the brief open in order not to bias people toward a particular solution. We want people to propose their vision and to design a contemporary pier. Paradoxically this typology has always been a theme of the last century, connected to fairs and amusement parks.
The site for the pier is not limited. Participants can deal with a small intervention or decide to work on a bigger scale. The important thing that they should not forget is how to engage the local community. Innovative technologies, ICT and smart tools are welcome as a way to activate citizens and empower them. Of course, we are also very keen on sustainability to lower the impact of the new pier in a very delicate environmental system.
Lake Farka, Tirana
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
The competition is open to everyone. The evaluation of submissions will be based only on the value of the proposal. International teams can participate by themselves, without connecting with a local firm. Their names will have high-visibility in every event and promotion connected to the competition
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
Tirana Design Week is part of a biennale event organized by POLIS University since 2012. The biennale also includes another international event known as Tirana Architecture Week. For this reason, every year, we launch at least one international competition to gather ideas from creatives from all over the world. The competition topic changes every year, yet it is always about speculative scenarios, environmental tactics, the reactivation of public spaces in the urban fabric, etc. Joining one of our competitions means being part of a valuable network of opportunities for creatives from all over the world.
Lake Farka, Tirana
Are there any other recent innovative pier projects you have been impressed by?
In the last years, especially in Northern Europe, there has been a high interest in reinventing the typology of the pier in highly depresses harbor areas. Some of the last examples were made by the Danish firm BIG (Bjarke Ingels). Its Copenaghen Harbor Bath (2003) is an interesting reactivation of the waterfront of the Danish capital through a new pier that could also engage people through ludic dynamics and mechanics. If we think on a bigger scale, we can consider many of the latest waterfront projects that, covering a worldwide scale, are reactivating many ‘dross-capes’ in contemporary cities.