ALBANIA — Project on the Future of the Countryside (2050)
“Never waste a good crisis”, the words by Winston Churchill, resonate in the times of global pandemic and the challenges we are facing in our everyday lives. In the altered teaching and learning framework we have implemented, we have modified this semester’s studio agenda, captured by the revised title: Albania – Project on the Future of the Countryside (2050). By adding the words future, and the time horizon, 2050, we emphasise the urgency to critically re-evaluate the future of the territories we inhabit in Europe.
In the process of rewriting the studio brief for this “online semester”, marked by our physical immobility but an abundance of digital interactions, we reviewed the studio goals with our students and Albanian counterparts. Together, we opted for a brief which demands visionary, future oriented thinking. Our study site is reframed to capture a smaller and more focused territorial frame around Gjirokastër, and we have adapted our methods to the online research and digital nature of information that we can currently access. Despite these restrictions, our goal is to depict an encompassing picture of the future of the Albanian countryside.
Through the case study of Albania, the aim of the project is to portray and debate the social and ecological challenges of the European countryside, and to explore different alternatives and future scenarios. To be able to learn from different places, we will also deploy comparative research methods by examining the case of Albania in dialogue with Switzerland and other locations in Europe.
Focusing on south-western Albania, along the valleys of the Vjosa, Drino and Bistrica rivers, we will explore the processes of territorial transformations in Albanian countryside through eight thematic layers: Countryside of Energy, Countryside of Water, Countryside of Movement, Countryside of Nature, Countryside of Cultivation, Countryside of Heritage Preservation, Countryside of Building Construction, and Countryside of Communities.
Thinking about and planning the future of cities is well established. The countryside areas however have not received equal attention by researchers, designers and policy makers. We hope that this project will be instrumental in working toward a much-needed urban agenda for the future of the (European) countryside.