The National Theatre of Albania has recently received a BIG facelift. More specifically, Bjarke Ingels’ high-profile architecture firm (BIG) has created a 9,300-square-meter replacement for the original venue in downtown Tirana, Albania’s capital. The new structure resembles an oversized bow tie and will stand next to public landmarks like Skanderbeg Square, the National Art Gallery, and the National Opera.

National Theatre of Albania - BIG

The venue hopes to create new urban gathering places, as it contains three indoor performances spaces, a rooftop amphitheater and café, and a public plaza.

Raised up off of the ground, the structure consists of a central auditorium and a building on either side of it, one for the audience and one for the performers. The gap underneath the venue creates even more room for events and street performances, staying true to the design’s pedestrian focus.

National Theatre of Albania - BIG

Ingels himself explains: “Our design for the National Theatre of Albania will continue the city’s efforts at making Tirana’s public spaces more inviting and its public institutions more transparent.”

“Underneath, the theater arches up from the ground, creating an entrance canopy for the audience as well as for the performers, while opening a gateway to the new urban arcade beyond. Above, the roof mirrors the archway, forming an open-air amphitheater with a backdrop to the city’s skyline.”

National Theatre of Albania - BIG

Visitors are invited to enter the theater from either side of the building. Once inside, they’ll find the main ticketing area. After climbing the two grand staircases to the rooftop amphitheater and performance venues, they’ll get to relax in the lounge, at the bar, or at a restaurant.

The prism-shaped structure incorporates two glazed facades to reveal the building’s interior along with the activities taking place inside. BIG recognized that the city was lacking public spaces and described this as “creating a storybook for the public and allowing the theater operation to act as a stage in its own right.”

National Theatre of Albania - BIG

Ingels continues: “One side reveals the foyer, lounge, bar, and restaurant as well as the two experimental stages to the passers-by, like rooms in a dollhouse. The other side reveals the entire section of the backstage, side stages, understage and fly tower, exposing the entire theater machine to the curious observers.”

“Where a theater typically wouldn’t be open to the public until the early evening, the new Albanian National Stage will become a spectacle of production as well as performance throughout the day.”

National Theatre of Albania - BIG

Tirana’s mayor, Erin Veliaj, was quick to approve of this project, as the transformation aligned with his own vision for the city. Since assuming office in 2015, Veliaj has started both a school delivery program and a drive to plant two million trees. The expansion of The National Theatre of Albania will create a similiarly inviting atmosphere for those who pass by. As the mayor puts it, “Tirana is going through an era of unprecedented transformation and innovation.”

“It is a leading child-friendly and pedestrian city, with countless playgrounds and large car-free areas like the Skanderbeg Square and New Bazaar. Tourism has also grown 2.5-fold in recent years as a leading city-break destination,” Veliaj adds.

National Theatre of Albania - BIG

The building is still under construction, but it will undoubtedly become the center of attention for the local artists and dreamers just as soon as it’s finished.