Open Air Theatre of Tirana (Amphitheatre)
City/Region : Tirana , Albania

The Open air Theatre is located within the lungs of the city, in the Grand Lake of Tirana. 400 Artists performed during its opening event in 2018, in turn transforming this public space into one of the most important socio-cultural engines of the city.

Build in 1973, concepted from the first Albanian woman architect Valentina Pistoli in 1957, it was left to deteriorate after the 90s. The old amphitheatre was restored, and so were the memories of citizens. “We don't just make infrastructure, bricks, concrete, lighting, we actually build a stage for memories in this city,” says Mayor Erion Veliaj.

Agendas addressed
Public spaceSocial inclusion and integrationLocal economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Nurture a sharing economy
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Implement sustainable procurement principles
  • Wisely select and apply smart technologies
The Open Air Theatre (Amphitheatre) 2
  • When people think about cities, they recall buildings, streets, the hectic city life, but what really makes a city thrive and come alive... its citizens. 
  • Because of fast urbanisation (a population increase from 280,000 in 1989, to 1 million at present), with migration from other cities / rural areas that settled illegally,  urban / natural systems have degraded considerably, resulting also in a lack of recreational public spaces (even with 250 days of sun).
  • Quality of Life through sustainable development has been central in Tirana 2030 General Local Plan and a top priority; requalification of public pedestrian spaces such as Skanderbeg SquareNew Bazaar or Toptani Castle
  • The most striking re-qualified public spaces has been the Amphitheatre - turning an abandoned ruin into a sustainable recreational space that generated more jobs, and now contributes regularly to the local economy with an accumulated audience of 110,000 spectators.
In Action
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  • First in 2017 the General Local Plan Tirana 2030, was approved. It consists of a plan for landscape recovery aiming at transforming the city. The Plan envisages a long-term sustainable city in equilibrium with nature and has provided us with the long term vision and for the first time ever the city has a blueprint for development that recognizes the importance of sustainability and environmentally friendly policies.   But a plan is never enough, unless it is attended systematically.
  • The Green City Action Plan (GCAP) in collaboration with EBRD,  provides our vision and a concrete set of actions to address the pressing environmental challenges affecting Tirana over the coming years,   The GCAP aims to enable people to enjoy a healthy and high-quality life in a green, resilient and inclusive Tirana that makes smart use of resources. One of the 5 key objectives in this plan is the Green Spaces and Biodiversity, which highlights the importance of creating green public spaces that will have major benefits for the citizens, and impact the quality of life and instill a sense of community.
  • Hence the Grand Lake of Tirana has been revived with more trees, paths, itineraries and outdoor activities, specifically in the area of the amphitheatre. 
  • In 2017, the Municipality of Tirana started a fundamental rehabilitation of the amphitheatre and on the 30th of May 2018 its reconstruction came to an end. It comprised a covered stage with adequate ligthning, state of the art audio features and a rich calendar of cultural activites throughout the year.
  • The results have been amazing, as about 1000 people per event can see the different shows in the amphitheatre, a location that is also a destination in the Grand Lake, increasing physical activity and improving the cultural life of citizens. 
  • With an accumulated audience of 110,000 spectators last year, in more than 105 events, the amphitheatre is nowadays a crucial part of Tirana’s artistic and cultural life and more is yet to come. The Grand Lake itself has around 2 million visitors a year, including tourists,  who can enjoy the musical events during the evening run or walk. 
  • More than 100 events are booked in the activities plan up to October 2019 and an expected turnout of more than 200,000 spectators.
  • One of most social aspects of the stage is the symbolic price to rent the stage, giving a chance to everyone to perform.
The Open Air Theatre (Amphitheatre)
  • The re-qualification of the green public space has : 

Direct results:

  • Increased the number of events, artists that perform and has simultaneously brought internationally known artists in the capital city.

  • Many renowned artists have performed in the stage of the amphitheatre such as “Ayo” and “Dalaras”. Its calendar of activities have included concerts for young artists such ;various Albanian artists ; folklore music concerts; festivals with artists from all over the world such as the “Mexican Ansamble Show”; but also staged comedies. Children have had their share as well with different activites being displayed in the amphitheatre.

  • Enhanced the quality of place perceived by our citizens, thus increasing the value that they place upon green spaces.

  • The amfitheatre has also given a free stage for many performers that can have diffuculties in finding the right mediums.



Long Term results:

  • Recreation and outdoor leisure activities have improved the citizens lifestyle.

  • Increased cohesion and empowerment of the community through community ownership, management and use of green spaces, as well as improved image of place through the attractiveness of outdoor spaces.

  • Increased attractiveness of the region to visitors and opportunities to increase tourism levels in the future.

  • Opportunities for additional value of land and property which high quality green spaces can bring as there is evidence of increased property and land values surrounding good quality parks.

  • Increased new investments in the areas around the Grand Lake, which creates new employment opportunities and inward investment due to a more attractive townscape.

Challenges and lessons learned
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When signed a memorandum of understanding with EBRD and committed to work together towards a sustainable Green City Action Plan. We had just come to office and faced many difficult problems so the idea that a City with modest means, would dedicate time and energy and a budget to issues such as the environment and sustainability seemed at the very least unrealistic to many people.  

We faced many challenges about the interventions in creating these public pedestrian spaces, but in the end citizens have fully accepted and recognised the value in their daily life, especially the impact on kids. 



ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability
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