Adventures in Preservation (AiP)

Adventures in Preservation (AiP) envisions a world where people use, understand, and appreciate historic buildings that are vital to economic and environmental sustainability and preserve cultural identity. AiP organizes international volunteer-based projects which provide educational training in preservation issues and technical skills, preserve and restore heritage sites essential to cultural identity, and support sustainable economic development through heritage tourism and job creation. Adventures in Preservation's mission: Connecting people and preservation through enriching experiential programs that safeguard heritage and foster community sustainability.
Jan 5, 2016

New Challenges for the New Year

Tower house that collapsed before intervention
Tower house that collapsed before intervention

You have supported the people of Gjirokastra for almost five years as they’ve worked to improve conditions in their community. As we start a new year, our goal is to build on recent successes –

  • three tower houses restored and opened as hostels and hotels,
  • several new restaurants serving local residents and tourists,
  • new businesses opening in the bazaar.

Although promising, obstacles may still overwhelm the progress. Here are some of the current challenges:

For every tower house that is repaired or restored, several more will collapse before intervention is possible.

The small but dedicated staff of the Regional Directorate of National Culture in Gjirokastra, AiP’s local partner, is responsible for saving, or at the very least documenting, hundreds of heritage buildings in the city of Gjirokastra and the surrounding district. Their minimal budget is too small to cover even the cost of one truck to deliver building materials to the few funded projects.

The huge exodus from Albania in the 1990s depleted the country of skilled workers and left many heritage buildings vacant and deteriorating.

Funds for building conservation in Albania are almost nonexistent, casting doubt on the possibility of continuing work on several important tower houses that have been stabilized with the hope of finding support for future conservation.

Lonely Planet named Albania it’s top choice for an affordable off-the-beaten-path destination in 2011, yet international volunteers are still uncertain about traveling here to join building conservation projects, leaving scheduled work unfinished.

Are you wondering if there’s anything you can do to help overcome these challenges? The answer is YES!

  • Contact university programs you have a connection with and tell them of the great on-site training opportunities for their students in architecture, engineering, preservation, tourism and more. AiP will customize sessions to meet the needs of specific university programs.
  • Talk to the head of Social Responsibility or Philanthropy in the business or corporation you have ties to, stressing the need for financial support of heritage building conservation.

We can’t wait to hear from you with news. Be the highlight of our next report as we share what you've done and the results. 

(All photos taken by Ilir Rizaj during May 2015 preservation session.)

Endangered orthodox church in Gjirokastra district
Endangered orthodox church in Gjirokastra district
AiP, CHwB, gov
AiP, CHwB, gov't & private interests joined forces

Links:

Oct 13, 2015

University Students Eager to Volunteer

Travel combined with training enhances education
Travel combined with training enhances education

University students are eager to gain valuable hands-on experience in their field of study, and no better way to get this experience than volunteering at an actual job site. 

Adventures in Preservation staff is talking to students in the fields of heritage conservation, engineering, architecture, tourism and more. We are sharing information on the important work underway in Gjirokastra, and letting them know they can gain knowledge and possibly credit by joining the effort. Equally important, students will be saving the city’s architectural heritage that is bringing increasing numbers of tourists and boosting the steady growth of the economy.

Most of our student volunteers come from the US and Europe, and we are working hard to broaden our outreach. Structural engineering students can assist with structural assessment and stabilization; those studying architecture can learn about traditional building materials and methods; art conservation students can document and assess decorative wall paintings and learn cutting edge methods to maintain the pigments on lime plaster. And those studying tourism can see first hand the importance of heritage tourism as a tool for supporting economic growth.

If you’re a student, or know a student, that would benefit from experiential travel, hands-on training, or is looking for an internship option, join us and spread the word about AiP. By getting involved, students will see that preservation is a powerful tool for change!

Links:

Jul 23, 2015

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Our hard-working team
Our hard-working team

AiP’s team returned from Gjirokastra in early June following two weeks of nonstop documentation and videography. We want to update you on the situation we found – some of it very promising and some discouraging.

From the moment of our arrival in Gjirokastra, we could tell that something had changed since our last visit: there was a bit of a preservation buzz in the city. On our way through the old bazaar, we saw three building conservation projects underway and heard there were several more nearby.

We visited two tower houses being restored by private investors, a first in town, and several Cultural Heritage without Borders stabilization projects that will save important houses for future conservation, if funding allows. It was evident that the combined efforts of the city and NGO’s such as AiP and CHwB are beginning to make an impact.

However, given there are at least 400 other Ottoman-era houses in great need of repair, you can understand the magnitude of the crisis facing this World Heritage city.

We told you in the last report that beginning stabilization of the Kabili house was the priority of our trip. This badly damaged tower house is one of Gjirokastra’s most historically significant. Unfortunately, the owners decided against AiP and Directorate of Cultural Monuments taking on the work. They opted for quick unauthorized repairs in order to rent the space, in spite of the fact that the building will not stand for many more years.

This highlights the ongoing issue of residents finding an adequate source of income. The decision between funding immediate needs and supporting the long-term economic growth of the city will hopefully lessen as heritage tourism grows, making more jobs available.

The city requested that we shift our efforts to another badly deteriorating tower house. It is the first historic monument visitors see as they take the main road to the castle. We have accepted the challenge and hope you will continue to support our efforts to boost Gjirokastra’s economy through the growth of heritage tourism.

Prep work to save the city
Prep work to save the city's unique wall paintings
Grandma Kore gives tour of house being restored
Grandma Kore gives tour of house being restored
AiP
AiP's next project!

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