TIRANA – A pharaonic landmark in central Tirana built as a posthumous museum for Albania's communist-era strongman, Enver Hoxha, is being transformed into a youth training and art center.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama attended Thursday's symbolic start of work to radically transform the largely abandoned, 17,000-square-meter (180,000-square-foot) structure.
Under a blueprint by Rotterdam-based design firm MVRDV, it will acquire 18 halls for teaching and promoting IT, robotics and design in an after-school program for teenagers. A third of the building will be offered for lease to secure the revenue for its maintenance.
Known to Albanians as the Pyramid, the concrete-and-glass marble-sheathed building looks more like a squashed cone.
Located next to Tirana's main government complex, it was built in 1988 as a museum to Hoxha, who headed the paranoid, isolationist communist regime that ruled Albania with an iron fist after the end of World War II until his death in 1985.
It was designed by Hoxha's daughter and her husband, both architects.
After Albanian communism collapsed in December 1990, the building served as a cultural center, and hosted a private television station, offices, shops, night clubs as well as venues for fashion shows or other events. During the 1999 war in Kosovo, part of it was used as a NATO base.
Just before the reconstruction started, it still contained a private radio station and offices.