Location: Tirana, Albania
Program: Re-conceptualization of exhibition, lobby, auditorium, administrative, and curatorial spaces within a historically classified museum.
Our proposal for the National Historical Museum puts forth a history in two parts: The History of History and The History of the Future.
The History of History is a constructed history. It consists of categories, timelines, narratives, clarity, and facts…at least as much as we can know them. This is an instructive history, without which we can hardly claim to be a civilization.
The History of the Future is a discursive history. It thrives on speculations, unpredictable outcomes, and ambitions. This is a hopeful history, without which our optimisms have no choice but to fall silent.
The two histories are inseparable. Each is animated by its never-ending orbit around the other.
The National Historical Museum is split into two halves: The History of History and The History of the Future.
The History of History: The museum’s western wing is organized by pavilions tailored to the display of specific exhibition materials. The individuated rooms that frame these pavilions focus the visitor’s attention on single subjects. A direct, enfilade circulation route strings all of the subjects together. The History of History displays are long-term installations that use the museum’s holdings to recount the rich and complex story of Albania’s national history. The tailoring of these rooms will be based on input from museum officials and curators.
The History of the Future: The museum’s eastern wing is organized as an open plan, experimental exhibition space where multiple subjects may occupy a single room. These rooms are clear of interior partitions to enable maximum flexibility for the installation of temporary exhibits.
Curators, historians, guest artists, writers, politicians, educators, and others will be invited to consider Albania’s history in new ways, to present objects from the museum’s collection together with contemporary works, invigorating Albania’s history as well as its future.
The infrastructure of these spaces – lighting, media, power, hanging systems – will be designed in response to input from museum officials, curators, and other cultural voices in Albania.
Our project positions history as a catalyst for Albania’s public culture. The country’s past is continuously activated by integrating it into its future and placing it within urban, national, and global contexts. Public, educational and event spaces are woven throughout the building to guide and serve museum staff and visitors, as well as to host additional events and publics:
• The Culture Café, on the second floor above the lobby, accommodates the general public, who will be drawn into the museum to meet, eat, and linger.
• The Culture Hall, the auditorium at the entry level, will be opened up with glass walls to make it more visible for city-wide events ranging from film festivals to symposia.
• The Culture Commons transforms the museum’s large courtyard space into an event space that can host galas, fairs, and temporary exhibitions of public art.
• The Culture Forum, located directly behind “The Albanians” mosaic and identified with its own mural by artist Helidon Gjerji (as an example) could operate as a public venue to host private functions, such as dinners, conferences and even weddings to generate additional operating funds for the museum.
Our project was a finalist in this international competition.
WW Project Team
Principals: Ron Witte and Sarah Whiting
Design Team: MacAulay Brown, Mary Casper, Sophie Eichner, Drew Heller
Historic Preservation: Harboe Associates / Gunny Harboe
Artist: Sarah Oppenheimer
Curatorial - Culture: Bryony Roberts
Curatorial - Art: Alison Weaver
MetroPolis, Tirana, Albania