BIG: cultural center in albania
BIG: cultural center in albania BIG: cultural center in albania
may 04, 2011

BIG: cultural center in albania

copenhagen-based practice BIG has won 1st prize in the international design competition for a new 27,000 m2 cultural complex in tirana, albania. developed in collaboration with martha schwartz landscape, buro happold, speirs & major, lutzenberger & lutzenberger, and global cultural asset management, the project consists of a mosque, an islamic center, and a museum of religious harmony. the winning entry was selected out of five finalists, including zaha hadid, spanish architect andrés perea ortega, architecture studio from france and dutch seARCH.

all images courtesy of BIG



located at the heart of the capital, which is currently undergoing a major urban renewal, the project is part of a complete reconceptualization of scanderbeg square, an important cultural site in the city’s fabric. in addition, the design takes into account  albania’s role as a crossroads of three major religions – orthodox christianity, catholicism, and islam – and seeks to serve not just the muslim community of the area but educate the public about islamic values.

street view



this project is very significant for us for two reasons: firstly, it is a privilege to contribute to the ambitious rejuvenation of tirana city – especially since it is happening not by the random accumulation of singular monuments – but rather in accordance with a careful and considerate holistic master plan. secondly, and perhaps most importantly – religious tolerance is one of our greatest challenges today – politically, culturally and even urbanistically. with the construction of the new mosque of tirana, the islamic center and the museum of religious harmony,  tirana will reestablish the equilibrium by adding a mosque to the newly completed orthodox and catholic cathedrals, making tirana an example for the rest of the world as a global capital of religious harmony’, says bjarke ingels, founding partner of BIG.

view of public square



utilizing the two intersecting axes – the city’s grid crossed with the orientation of mecca – the form of the buidlings are sculpted on the square while incorporating tirana’s stret wall and eaves line. the ground floor is rotated so that both the mosque and public plaza is facing the holy city of islam. this arrangement opens up a series of plazas – two minor ones on the sides of the mosque and a major plaza with a minaret in front – which spatially extends the place of worship into the city. by turning the mosque inside out and bringing the program and qualities of is to a public arena, the religion becomes inclusive and inviting – a part of tirana’s urban energy.

outdoor prayer area



the layout of the courtyards and public space can accommodate up to10,000 people performing their prayers. the facade of the buildings feature a multitude of rectangular windows which reference islamic mashrabiya screens, and provide shading and privacy while maintaining a level of transparency. the light qualities ofthe mosque will change throughout the day as the light washes over the curved surfaces.

interior view of mosque



night view

schematic diagram

(upper left) site

(upper right) tirana grid

(bottom left) mecca grid

(bottom right) mosque






project info:


client: municipality of tirana, albanian muslim community
collaborators: martha schwartz landscape, buro happold, speirs & major,
lutzenberger & lutzenberger, and global cultural asset management
size: 27,000 m2

partner-in-charge: bjarke ingels, thomas chrstoffersen
project leader: leon rost
project team: marcella martinez, se yoon park, alessandro ronfini,
daniel kidd, julian nin liang, erick kristanto, ho kyung lee

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