As we’ve discussed before in our reports about rebuilding Gjirokastra, Albania, the community’s effort to develop a sustainable economy is dependent on their amazing built heritage. So what happens when local craftsmen and contractors no longer have the skills and knowledge needed to maintain the large stone tower houses?
This question is answered regularly with the collapse of another historic building. Each loss makes the move toward a sustainable economy, largely based on heritage tourism, harder to achieve.
Fortunately for the people of Gjirokastra, the knowledge of traditional building skills still remains with a few builders in the area and in other parts of the Balkans. Adventures in Preservation, together with Cultural Heritage without Borders, is taking advantage of this good fortune.
With the help of your donations, craftspeople from the Balkans are earning a salary teaching traditional building skills to students and professionals attending AiP and CHwB’s hands-on projects at the Skenduli house in Gjirokastra.
These budding architecture, city planning and preservation professionals will be able to share their expertise during productive careers.
They will become a new source of old knowledge, once again giving property owners the ability to regularly maintain their buildings and at the same time contribute to the economic growth of their community. Thanks for working with us to support this transition.
Our Adventures in Preservation project in the World Heritage Site of Gjirokastra is greatly enhanced by the constant support of our partners. Some come from the local community and some are from the regional community. All are totally committed to using Gjirokastra’s built heritage to fortify the future.
One of our strongest allies is Albert Kasi, a lifelong resident of the city. Mr. Kasi is one of Albania’s leading sculptors with art displayed in the National Art Gallery. He is equally passionate about the economic growth of his city. He believes that saving the spectacular historic architecture is a great means to improve his neighbors’ standard of living by supporting heritage tourism, creating jobs and improving living spaces.
Another strong local partner is GCDO – the Gjirokastra Conservation and Development Organization. Started by motivated community members, their first meeting in 2001 brought 200 people to discuss how they felt about their community and its value as a cultural site. Now, working from a historic building in the heart of the old bazaar, this group fosters sustainable economic development by advancing the regions cultural life.
Our partner most active in hands-on training at our project site is Cultural Heritage without Borders. CHwB is a Balkan-based relief organization working to promote peace, recovery and development through the preservation of cultural heritage. With this great concept, they take students and professionals to historic sites throughout the Balkans to save a variety of heritages important to each project community.
All of our partners support AiP in demonstrating that through building conservation, we can create a greener more sustainable world.
Restoration of the Skenduli house reached a major milestone! Thanks to your support, the first group of twenty building conservation trainees arrived on September 1. You could feel the energy and enthusiasm as they began repair of this remarkable tower house in the World Heritage city of Gjirokastra, Albania.
The trainees were architecture students from Polis University in Tirana, along with international volunteers – 10 countries were represented. Your donations provided a great opportunity for these volunteers to receive hands-on training and gain experience in working with traditional materials and techniques.
Knowledge of traditional building is the key to appropriate restoration of the Skenduli house and others like it in Gjirokastra and the creation of jobs in both the construction and tourism industries.
One group of trainees worked to repair plaster on the exterior wall, which included testing to find evidence of the original decorative painting. The second group repaired the partially collapsed entrance gate, resulting in an entryway looking as beautiful as it did in the 1800s.
This was just the first of a series of work camps for students and volunteers. Your continuing support is vital and greatly appreciated. If you’d like to experience the progress in person, join us in Gjirokastra! It’s an experience you’ll be talking about for years to come.
The big news this month is that final preparations are underway for work to begin on the Skenduli House! Thanks to your support, restoration and repair of this Category 1 UNESCO monument begins September 1. With on-site leadership of our partner, Cultural Heritage without Borders, scaffolding is going up and supplies are being delivered to the site.
Earlier this summer Nesip Skenduli gave an interview to Balkan News. He voiced his fear that the large stone structure was threatening to become a ruin. He described how the interior of the house, with its extraordinary architecture, exhibits the best local craftsmanship in stone and wood work, allowing Gjirokastra’s history to speak.
Now, only a few months after this interview, it looks as though his fears will be lessened. A team of twenty Albanian architecture students will take on several projects. One group will begin repair of the exterior lime plaster. This repair is vital because large pieces of the plaster finish coat have fallen from the wall allowing rain water into the interior.
A second group will restore the main entrance gate which has partially collapsed. While the students complete their work under the guidance of trained craftsmen, conservation specialists will be working with local roofing experts to repair leaks in the massive stone roof.
This provides a huge boost to Gjirokastra’s efforts to develop a sustainable economy through heritage tourism. With your continuing support, we and our partners will keep working on the Skenduli house, one step at a time, until the threat of ruin no longer exists.
Look for our next report to see photos of work in progress and your donations in action!
As Albania strives to dig its way out of the depths of economic disaster, one man in Gjirokastra is devoting himself to saving his house for the purpose of fostering heritage tourism – the one means of saving his community.
Often in harsh situations, individuals step up to meet the challenges facing their communities. Nesip Skenduli is just such a person. He has become the lone steward of the massive stone tower house built by his family that is a cornerstone of Gjirokastra’s heritage tourism program.
During Communism from 1944-1981, the Skendulis shared the house with seven other families. At this point Hoxha’s Communist government claimed the house for use as an Ethnographic Museum. Not until 1993 was the house returned to Nesip Skenduli, along with the overwhelming responsibility for its repair and maintenance.
Many families left their massive stone houses to collapse. But Mr. Skenduli refused to do this, using any amount left from his small paycheck to cover urgent repairs. He has spent many hours before and after work, taking visitors on tours of the amazing house often for no fee. His goal is to see the house become –
Nesip Skenduli states his wish is to once again bring life into the house. Join AiP in September 2012; work alongside Mr. Skenduli and the AiP team as we aim to make one man’s dream of returning his town to a vital community come true.
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