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Tirana’s new facades, source: http://www.provisionalfutures.net

Part 1: The Color Scheme

As we return from a month break at FAVELissues, I wanted to start this new series of posts with a very short post on an interesting city’s transformation: Tirana, the capital of Albania.

For a number of years now, I have learned about the Albanian’s capital and the quirky aesthetic transformations the city underwent through one of the most minimal physical interventions possible, the use of paint. During the post-communist period Tirana, witnessed a series of chaotic development. On one side, uncontrolled growth, due to high rural migration, in the city lead to spurt of informal settlements around the city. On the other, a cacophony of high-rise buildings, and illegal structures rising in public areas began to dominate the urban landscape.

In 2000, the city reached a turning point, undergoing some environmental reforms and mostly some beautification strategies. Edi Rama- painter, rapper, and Tirana’s mayor at the time- inspired by his love of art, pushed to revitalize his city primarily through the use of paint.[1] Similar to Las Peñas in Guayaquil (Ecuador), by painting facades, Tirana’s gray, soviet eraarchitecture was transformed into a mosaic of colors and compositions, creating a unique image and identity for the Albanian capital.

Video :: Painting the House Red (ABC Australia)

Part 2: How “formal” is “too formal”?

Since much has been written on the painted facades, I wanted to present one of the strong implications arising with the sort of intervention.

Tirana’s new image was accompanied by a large gentrification process. Although gentrification seems to have been the main objective for Mayor Rama (the video reflects this), it is important to note that this was achieved through the simple use of paint… Typically, with gentrification comes displacement, which in its turn can lead to segregation and disparity. In some way, Tirana reflects Neil Smith’s assertion that gentrification became a hallmark of the emerging ‘global city’;”[2] new ‘productive’ worlds were carved out of ‘unproductive’ old ones.[3] Looking through this particular lens, one might ask oneself, who is the new Tirana image truly benefiting?

Thus, Tirana is a quick example to show that we cannot simply talk about ‘the simple use of paint,” but instead, this surface application has much deeper implications and consequences- the politics of paint.

Works Cited: 

Jacobs, Jane M., “Eastern Trading: Diasporas, Dwelling and Place.” in Edge of Empire:

Post-colonialism and the City. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Smith, Neil, “Introduction” and “Is Gentrification a Dirty Word?” The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City. Routledge, 1996.


[1] Although the use of paint was one of Edi Rama’s strongest moves, he also resorted to a harder approach consisting in the eradication of slums and urban renewal.

[2] Smith, pp.39

[3] Jacobs, pp.75.

3 thoughts on “The Politics of Paint: Tirana

  1. Pingback: “Philly Painting”- Favela Painting «

  2. Pingback: Supergraphics Then and Now «

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