On Thursday 16 July the mayor and international jury pronounced BOLLES+WILSON winner
of the competition for the new Korça City Centre Masterplan. The international two-stage
competition was decided in favour of the Münster based office for its concept of ‘Scenograpic
Urbanism’, a choreographing of new buildings and public spaces which pays close attention
to the existing grains and potentials of this small but spatially complex city.
Surrounded by dramatic mountains and a wide arcadian valley Korça focuses a region of
360,000 inhabitants. Its urbane morphology reflects the wealth and ambitions of returning
emigrants as well as historically strong trade relations with central Europe. Many Novecento
and Art Nouveau villas are now restored, many are still crumbling. The aim of the
competition was to find a clear concept, which integrates a traffic and pedestrian rational with
the qualitative and development needs of the city – a commercial strategy, administrative
facilities and residential development. The competition brief also emphasised that the scale
of the new Korça should be respectful and appropriate to the historic scale.
BOLLES+WILSON identified five zones for the revitalisation of the 197,000 sqm city centre.
Each zone possessing its own unique character, together they add up to a network of urbane
public spaces. At one end of the centre the Cathedral of ‘Christ’s Reincarnation’ anchors, at
the other end a Commercial Anchor is added. These are connected by the Boulevard Shën
Gjergji – now transformed into a ‘Cultural Promenade’. Reduction in expansive communist
road widths allows an extension of the Cathedral Square. This square is planned three steps
above the street and framed by café pergolas, an optical filter between traffic and event
space. A large stage left of the cathedral and a smaller stage to the right facilitate a wide
variety of events. Curved paving stripes echo the Cathedral geometry and serve to discipline
New figure on the Korça skyline and counterpoint to the Cathedral, a ‘Vertical Mall’ occupies
and marshals the parade-ground scaled Theatre Square. A new commercial strip extends
from here to the Bazaar via new shopping/housing blocks and a new Bus Station Roof – a
Farmers-market platform. This – the second of the five zones – creates a new commercial
hub in downtown Korça.
The third zone is rescripted as a ‘Cultural promenade’, a semi-pedestrian connection
between Cathedral and downtown Mall. Here a number of significant buildings such as the
‘Education Museum’ are extended out into the tree-lined, shady and café-filled Promenade as a carpet-like patterned paving, a choreographed sequence of ‘Patterned Squares – Urban
The fourth zone revitalises a villa zone with carefully placed new development. In order not
to overwhelm the delicate historic scale of Korça a ‘Patchwork Strategy’ is invented - new
buildings are paired with restored existing villas to form ‘Development Islands’ (shared
economic benefit) and thereby create a network of active block-internal passages.
The final zone of the Masterplan is the ‘Enlarged Park’ (‘green heart’). Here a new triangular-
block frames the park edge and by the sale of public land for private development finances
the upgrading of the park itself. An ‘Active Edge’ mediates between park and surrounding
city – Prismic Pavilions on wooden decks attracting cafes and individual user groups such as
Youth Club, Kindergarten, Kadare Literature Club etc.
This extensive spectrum of solutions filled out in visual vignettes and disciplined by precise
plan geometries was chosen by the jury as the template for Korcas future.
By December 2009 it will be developed, validated and legalised, a procedure familiar to
BOLLES+WILSON from their Masterplans for Monteluce-Perugia, Emmcentrum-Amersfoort