Conservation efforts by Adventures in Preservation at the Skenduli house are part of a larger community program to save Gjirokastra, Albania’s remarkable history. This ongoing effort has given a new lease on life to some of the historic buildings that support this unique fabric of life, but sadly, in other instances help is not available. Every year sees the catastrophic collapse of another tower house.
An inspiring success story played out at the Bar Clavis, located in the center of the old town Pazar or Bazaar. Rustem Mikos invested his life savings after the fall of Communism to buy this building, and for almost twenty years operated a small hardware store. The building is as old as the pazar itself, and Rustem decided to restore and update the building for a new venture. During restoration, he removed a large wild tree from the foundation, and discovered to his surprise the original street level, paved in cobble stone. Rustem preserved his find under plexi-glass plates for you to see when you visit.
In 2008, AiP team members were invited into the Cene house for a tour by the elderly owners. The team was alarmed to see a major ceiling beam in the formal sitting room on the verge of failing. The owners stated that each night they went to bed fearing the beam would break and bring the house down on them. AiP brought this to the attention of city officials, and UNESCO made the house a priority, repairing the beam within the next few months.
But not all houses are saved in the knick of time. The Koloi house developed leaks in its roof, and resources were not available to repair the problem. Most of the roof collapsed within several years, and shortly after (in the winter of 2010), the house collapsed into the street. This has been the story for about one third of the tower houses in Gjirokastra. As family homes are lost, family members most often have to move to poorly built new apartments in the new section of town.
AiP is part of the team committed to conserving this amazing collection of architectural heritage. We invite individuals and corporate sponsors to join us in bringing this historic city back from the brink and again making it a lively, vital community.
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