Tirana has experienced tremendous growth and transformation over the past 30 years. With the transition to a democratic, free-market economy, the city has slowly but surely gained traction as a robust, diversified economy due to its unique characteristics, such as its proximity to several regional hubs and its vital role in several value chains. Notably, the city has made tremendous strides in future-proofing its development by investing heavily in creating and consolidating key partnerships in established markets and across various new, up-and-coming industries, including IoT, Artificial Intelligence, Industrial Fabrication, etc. These industries and their respective fields of activity are represented by a diverse slew of inter- and multinational organizations and corporations, which often seek to expand their activities into new and emerging territories, bringing with them more significant employment opportunities, new ideas, increased local capacities through knowledge transfer, and ultimately an improvement of the local economy through foreign direct investment (FDI). The MICE Industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) is responsible for conducting the business and leisure events that these organizations use to bring together large groups of interested actors, to promote and further their activities. Valued at over USD 650M/annum, MICE comprises an important and growing sector of tourism, which global cities are increasingly seeking to partake in. The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) reported that in 2018, approximately 32,000 exhibitions took place, bringing in over 300 million visitors, nearly 5 million exhibitors across 180 countries. The global economic impact of this sector generated more than $325B in economic output and $198B in GDP contributions.
Given the commercial scale and potential of this sector, it is therefore of paramount importance that Tirana be properly positioned and adequately equipped to be able to participate and succeed in this lucrative market, both for the intrinsic opportunities it presents and to consolidate the status of the city as a leading destination for foreign investments.
Moreover, Tirana’s vision of well-rounded and integrated development also places a great premium on the city’s art and music scene. New musical acts, painters, sculptors, and performance artists regularly move to Tirana, seeking livelihood, community, and inspiration in a city of like-minded peers and art-forward citizens. Presently, promotion and further consolidation of these sectors are contingent on using several designated spaces and facilities (such as the Palace of Congresses and the Tirana Expo) or other flexible spaces (various public and private culture centers) in an ad-hoc manner. However, these facilities face several challenges.
Many are highly amortized, require frequent maintenance, and do not provide the breadth of capacities and amenities prestigious multinationals need to properly market their goods and services. Additional facilities are primarily designed with other functions in mind and can only accommodate these services to a limited extent. These limitations greatly restrict the scale and diversity of events that can be hosted. Moreover, the location of these facilities within the inner city creates traffic, accessibility, and parking issues, compounding the difficulty of adequately hosting such events for large groups of people or facilitating more complex organizations.
With the growth of Tirana and by proxy, the increasing regional importance of Albania moving towards integration, the country must be adequately positioned to capitalize on future opportunities. EU integration and a more robust and competitive economy produce virtuous cycles that make Albania, particularly Tirana, an increasingly attractive and competitive destination for foreign investors. However, these investments require a range of infrastructures that must be implemented to make these prospects a reality, the chief among which is creating new spaces and venues for foreign investors and enterprises to market their offerings properly. A versatile, state-of-the-art exhibition center, capable of facilitating gatherings of people partaking in all functions, can play a critical role in providing a much-needed platform for new economic activities and a wide range of other cultural, social, and artistic events. This unique flexible-use center can significantly enhance the visibility of Tirana as a destination for organizing fairs, trade shows, expos, large-scale meetings, and other events, further consolidating the capital’s reputation as a leading commercial, social, and cultural hub in the region and internationally. Furthermore the spaces and possibilities afforded by this new center can create new opportunities for Tirana’s participation in international value chains, networks and commercial partnerships.
It is, therefore, crucial to provide a solution to these issues by conceiving a designated venue to properly and fully host such a diverse program. The envisioned venue will be well-equipped with all the necessary amenities to develop this diversity of functions while remaining flexible enough to anticipate additional functions when not used for its primary program. This venue will comprise several exhibition halls, conference and meeting rooms, auditoriums, and all the requisite technical, storage, and support spaces.
This competition seeks to generate proposals to realize this vision through innovative and forward-thinking designs that can harmonize a wealth of programmatic requirements while remaining flexible enough to accommodate emerging usages.