This is how the Pyramid of Tirana the last monument

This is how the Pyramid of Tirana, the last monument of communist Albania, “rises” again

Like the Egyptian ones but with less history. Like that of Mexico, but with fewer secrets. Like the one in the Louvre, but uglier. Seen from above, the Pyramid of Tirana is in the shape of the large double-headed eagle celebrating the Albanian flag. Seen from below, it has the shape of a small ziggurat that disappears in the middle of the river bank, the Lana.

Seen today, it is a ponderous reminder of a dictator and his delusions: “The last European monument of the communist era,” explains Leon Cika, once the regime’s grand commissioner, “built just a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall.” Today its official name would be “Pjeter Arbnori Congress Center”, but no one has ever called it that, also because no one knows who the constitutionalist Arbnori was anymore, while everyone remembers very well what kind of eco-monster made entirely of marble adorning the boulevard represents Dëshmorët and Kombit, the Avenue of the Martyrs of the Nation: The “Pyramid” is the last remaining piece of Albanian Stalinism-Maoism.

A glass dome, 12,000 square meters of stacked containers, concrete slides. The Hoxha era tomb. After so much controversy and discussion: “It must be demolished, it is a symbol of communism!”, “It must be saved, it is an icon of the 20th century!” — it was finally decided to leave it where it is it was. And to transform the former mausoleum of collectivization into a shrine to the coming globalization.

“It is an architectural work that is second to none,” says Mayor Erion Veliaj, and the recovery with American capital is entrusted to a Dutch star architect, Winy Maals: trees, escalators, fountains, lots of glass to provide light. “We will turn it into a training center for young people. To teach robotics, animation and software. Because Tirana must become the city of big data, of children who speak Java, of IT start-ups. We want to be the Tel Aviv of the Balkans.”

The pyramid has been around since 1988. Since then, Eastern Europe’s most paranoid and insane dictator has left it as a legacy to the most isolated and mistreated people behind the curtain. Shortly before his death, Enver Hoxha commissioned his daughter and son-in-law, architects, to carry out the work.

It took three years to inaugurate it, emptying the very meager state coffers and creating a museum celebrating the Little Helmsman, explosions and historical phrases, a stone’s throw from the presidential and government buildings. In this Albania cut off from the world, no one was too surprised by this megalomania. And in any case, no one said a word: it was a regime that had, in forty years, silenced six thousand dissidents by hanging them. And as for the madness, he erected statues in Hoxha and had already built 750,000 bunkers almost everywhere to defend against very unlikely Soviet, Chinese and Italian invasions…

It was a Tirana without cars, where mostly donkey carts drove along the Avenue of the Martyrs, the mosques were closed because atheism was the rule of the state, and the wonderful čaršija, the old Ottoman market, had been razed to the ground because the Market a western market was plague.

With the fall of communism, it would have been a miracle if the Hoxha pyramid had not been conquered with the pickaxe: looted and emptied, Gianni Amelio used it in the 1990s for “Lamerica” and for journalists, turning it into a simple metaphor to make financial pyramids for those who had collapsed, which shook the country. Over the decades, the pyramid was left to various fates.

The kids started using the downhill walls for skateboarding. Then the pimps came to use the dark halls for a nightclub with the inevitable name “The Mummy”. Then, with the Kosovo war, it was the turn of the NATO forces, which set up a command to monitor refugees. Eventually a television, a radio studio, and gradually a large number of stray cats and dogs arrived.

The first to want to tear it down was Sali Berisha, the eternal former president. The first to defend it was Edi Rama, the current Prime Minister. And when real estate speculation began to build a new parliament, a national theater or an altar of the fatherland, when the Saudis stepped forward to take it over with a check worth 100 million euros, the Schipetara Eagle proudly opened its new building wing , who want to defend their past, no matter how tragic it may be: Facebook groups, petitions, protests. Now the final idea: Why not make Hoxha’s sarcophagus an opportunity for rebirth in this summer of rediscovered Albania, a destination for budget tourists and vacationing prime ministers?

To paraphrase Napoleon: Albanians, from the top of this pyramid you look at forty years of history. Make sure you do things right.