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.
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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May 12, 2015

Community Success Slowed by Collapse of Heritage Houses

Rooms of Kabili house tenant apartment collapse
Rooms of Kabili house tenant apartment collapse

Community members in Gjirokastra are seeing positive results from their 15-year effort to improve the economy by welcoming tourists to their amazing World Heritage city. You’ve been part of this progress, supporting projects that have saved valuable and beautiful architectural heritage. The annual arts and culture festival is currently underway and the cobblestone streets are crowded with visitors.

Even as economic conditions are beginning to improve, the very houses that draw tourists are crumbling. In the last two years, two more tower houses suffered catastrophic collapse, and Gjirokastra’s residents fear that the Kabili house will soon suffer the same fate. Even houses, such as the Kikino and Skenduli houses, which are standing strong, are losing their decorative elements to time and weather.

With this knowledge, AiP jammers (our dedicated volunteers) are heading for Albania. They’ll be traveling from Australia, the UK, Kosovo and the US to join our local partners at the Regional Directorate of National Culture in Gjirokastra, who are anxiously awaiting our arrival.

We will all work together to complete a great deal of work in two weeks. Our team will continue decorative paint documentation at the Kikino house. Saving and restoring this art form will add to the value of each heritage tourist’s visit.

We will also be photographing and inspecting the Kabili house in preparation for stabilization. This project will begin in July, if funding efforts are successful. The Kabili house was one of the city’s largest and most important tower houses, initially damaged by bombing in WWII and slowly deteriorating over time. The collapse of one corner forced one family to evacuate, leaving their belongings behind. The other tower is still occupied, as that family has no other options for lodging.

Your support will be a great help in the Kabili stabilization efforts. Once safe, the restored house will offer affordable housing units and space for a local business, as well as several rooms for a B&B to generate income to cover ongoing maintenance.

Thank you for working together with AiP and Gjirokastra’s community members to continue their progress toward an improved future.

Kabili tenants abandoned apt leaving belongings
Kabili tenants abandoned apt leaving belongings
Young local "assistants" benefit from conservation
Young local "assistants" benefit from conservation
Feb 19, 2015

Sharing the Story - Visual Information is Key

Ilir Rizaj AiP volunteer&professional photographer
Ilir Rizaj AiP volunteer&professional photographer

Ilir Rizaj, a professional photographer based in New York City, has just signed on as an AiP volunteer to help us solve a dilemma. It is very important for us to provide a quick snapshot of both existing needs and progress being made, in a format that’s easy to understand and full of information. Without this, those of you interested in helping find solutions to Gjirokastra’s problems are left thinking in the abstract. Photographs fill that bill perfectly, but we have had difficulty generating the types of powerful images we need.

After AiP’s May session in Gjirokastra, this will no longer be an issue.

Ilir has stepped up and offered his time and talents – and even his airfare – to provide you and other project supporters with new visual information on Gjirokastra’s remarkable but, sadly, endangered tower houses. He will focus on illustrating the work AiP and our volunteers have undertaken, along with that of other organizations active in the old town.

Highlights will be the decorative painting at the Skenduli and Kikino houses, and documentation of the dire situation at the Kabili house, which has suffered a partial collapse, but still has tenants. We will share his photographs and videos with you this summer. He’s even using a drone to provide a perspective of our project sites that none of us has seen.

Mr. Rizaj currently lives in New York City, but is originally from Kosovo and has a deep understanding of the conditions and problems of the region. He is currently working on a documentary of Ottoman-era architecture in Kosovo and says of his passion for photography:

My journey as a photographer began in my native Kosovo, where the exotic East meets the cool modernism of the West in both culture and architecture – a fascinating harmony of history and artistry. As I sought out ways of visually exploring them through my camera lens, photography had found me.

We can’t wait to see Ilir’s images and share them with you. We think they will inspire all of us to redouble our efforts to save the irreplaceable resource that is Gjirokastra’s key to a brighter economic future.

Decorative painting at Kikino house deteriorating
Decorative painting at Kikino house deteriorating
Kabili house inhabited even with partial collapse
Kabili house inhabited even with partial collapse
 
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