The reasons, why the Albanian territory was massively built, and without a defined plan, since the beginning of 1990s onwards, are many.
Urban sociologists, psychologists and historians will have, the informality phenomenon, as focus of their studies for many years to come, until the majority of the incentives that produced our present day landscape, are ascertained. There are many local and foreign researchers who have paid attention to the academic phenomenon of informal construction, many startled and curious visitors and journalists are seeking to understand the reasons behind it, and many amateur and professional photographers are documenting pieces from the distinct Albanian landscape, where informality has left deep imprints.
The product of the informal construction in Albania hardly resembles any other form of informal construction around the world. Here, the informal constructions are erected with solid and costly materials; they are uncompleted, high or with a clear prospect to rise even higher; with mixed functions, and in overbold locations with regards to their relationship with the urban and natural landscape, both in terms of potential natural hazards or those resulting from industrial activities.
The improper location of the ungoverned constructions has often caused damages among their residents or users. But there is also another truth: these constructions have been cause for fatal events. In many cases, the flooding of agricultural lands has been the result of informal construction, coastal erosion has been driven and accelerated by these construction carried out by individual initiatives, road accidents have occurred due to lack of space on the road as a result of illegal constructions. These are only some of the most obvious, measurable, consequences of informal construction. It has caused quite a deleterious effect on the economy, both in terms of the individual and the national economy as a whole, as it has severely damaged the urban and rural landscape, and has also brought significant and often negative changes on the family lifestyle.
The outpouring of informal construction almost in all the urban peripheries, Western Lowland and the coast, as well as the rapid pace of the construction of informal structures, resulted in the circumvention of traditional construction modes according to the location and climatic conditions, the use of local materials or the connection to the vernacular architectural typologies, as indicators of continuity and tradition of lifestyle. These traits have for centuries been a guaranty for a good dwelling and in transmitting knowledge and culture from one generation to another. It seems that informality in construction, not only has brought physical and economic consequences, but it has also negatively influenced the popular cultural heritage.
The exhibition Evoked - Architectural Diptychs and this publication do not commit to an in depth and in detail reflection of the whole range of causes and effects that has led to informal construction in our country, it rather brings a small fragment of this phenomenon on a platform, which can echo to bring a DIFFERENT attention to this phenomenon.
Informal settlements in the territory are a fact. During these recent years, several initiatives have been taken to permanently halt the informal construction phenomenon, which is considered a crime against nature and society; to stimulate legal construction and to facilitate building permit procedures; to plan the territory so that construction is only made only where it can be serviced with infrastructure, and does not cause any damage to nature and man; as well as to demolish constructions that damage natural and cultural heritage. The prospects are for these measures to end informal construction, but they do not eliminate the informal structures erected across the country. The legalization of informal buildings that meet specified criteria, makes them part of the real estate registry and places them in the real estate market, consequently contributing to the economy. Yet, it does not change the physical impact that informal settlements have on the landscape, as it does not change the monstrous way of life that these informal constructions have shaped. The fact is that illegal buildings in our territory are many, and most of them were built for housing purposes. Therefore, we should approach them DIFFERENTLY.
The need arises, that besides planning in order to precede territory development, as planners, architects, sociologists, psychologists, researchers, etc., we should examine how these unplanned and spontaneously built structures, can relate to the territories where they are located, in terms of basic infrastructure and social services, as well as in the aesthetic and functional aspect, which directly affect the quality of life.
The exhibition Evoked - Architectural Diptychs is also an invitation for a fruitful discussion between colleagues and intellectuals on how to think about turning the capital of informal settlements in economic, social and aesthetic value, as well as attempting to make a turn of the social way in which we treat the consequences of informality, which until now have only been identified as negative, but left ignored nonetheless.
The photos of 16 informal settlements, chosen along the Albanian coastline and photographed by Albes Fusha, and the proposals of 32 Albanian and Italian architects to dialogue with these realities, are the content of the exhibition Evoked - Architectural Diptychs and this publication. The curators and the authors of the exhibited products, undertake to establish a platform for discussion. The displayed works attempt to provoke a way of thinking DIFFERENTLY and with a disparate approach towards informal settlements, and are not intended to bear the features of implementable design projects.
We hope that the exhibition, and the publication, will encourage the continuation of the discourse and the rapidly changing realities of today's informal structures.