On Thursday 16 July 2009 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 Muenster based office for its concept of ‘Scenographic 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 Korca 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 Korca 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 ‘Christus Resurrection’ anchors, at the other end a Commercial Anchor is added. These are connected by the Boulevard Shen 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 market stands.
New figure on the Korca 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 Korca.
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 Living Rooms’.
The fourth zone revitalises a villa zone with carefully placed new development. In order not to overwhelm the delicate historic scale of Korca 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.
RED BAR IN THE SKY
Theatre Square, Korça, 2014