Albania: Preservation Supports Sustainable Economy

by Adventures in Preservation (AiP)
Vetted
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
Koloi house waits for tlc with roof deteriorating
Koloi house waits for tlc with roof deteriorating

A house is only as strong as its roof, and a damaged roof can spell disaster for any house, new or old. Incredibly, the massive stone tower houses of Gjirokastra – 3 million stones strong – can be taken down by heavy rains in just one year if the roof is not sound.

Adventures in Preservation has been providing volunteers and technical assistance for conservation work at the Skenduli house for the past three years. Yet, the roof still has problems and there is no money available locally to complete repairs. This puts all the conservation work completed up to this point at risk. We can no longer relegate roof repair to our To Do list!

Please consider making a donation for the Skenduli house roof repair project. As the roof is repaired using traditional techniques, we will be showing other home and business owners that traditional repair is best for their historic building. This will lead to the creation of addition jobs for roofers and bring young local residents into the trade.

Crossing this item off our list will allow critical conservation work that is on hold – decorative woodwork repair, plaster repair, and the restoration of rare wall paintings – to get underway when AiP returns to the site in May of next year.

The project is already proving its worth. Tourists visit regularly, contributing to the steadily growing heritage tourism industry that is the path to improving the standard of living for this region.

Gjirokastra’s architectural heritage is vital to the people of Albania, and it is also a part of the common world heritage we all share. The loss of the Skenduli house would be a huge blow to the people of Gjirokastra and the people around the world who have worked so hard to save it.

Please donate today. One great way to make a donation AND experience the adventure of a lifetime is to join us in Gjirokastra in May! If making a donation online is best for you, we’ll keep you informed of all the great progress with photos that will make you feel like you’re there. Join our efforts!

Koloi house runs out of time
Koloi house runs out of time
Workers still practice traditional roofing methods
Workers still practice traditional roofing methods
Almost done!
Almost done!

Links:

AiP volunteers document damaged wall paintings
AiP volunteers document damaged wall paintings

Last week, a report came in from Deborah, an architect and one of AiP’s September session volunteers at the Skendli house in Gjirokastra.

Many groups of tourists continue to pass through the Skenduli house. Edlira (Mr. Skenduli’s daughter) gave tours all day! Her sons are the 11th generation of Skendulis to play in the courtyard. We are meeting the tourists and taking the opportunity to tell them about the project and AIP.

Debbie provided us with proof that the project is helping to create economic growth in Gjirokastra. Tourists are drawn to the site to see ongoing skills training and building conservation efforts and are eager to explore the architectural history being preserved. Your support is allowing conservation work at the Skenduli house and other historic buildings to continue, and these efforts are boosting the local economy, bringing tourist dollars and creating jobs.

In the past two weeks, eleven professional conservators from five countries completed testing, assessment and 3D laser scanning of the entire Skenduli house to detect and record any remnants of wall paintings. The group worked all weekend, and at times through the night!, to scan and assess the condition of two additional houses in danger of collapsing. All these professionals donated their time and even provided additional funding.

The May session will build on September’s results and begin conservation of the fragile remains of exterior wall paintings. Albanian students as well as international volunteers will receive training. Donations provide trainees from Albania with scholarships to cover their expenses while they learn their country’s traditions in wall painting. They will then use these old traditional skills, newly learned, to continue work at the Skenduli house and begin documentation at a nearby house.

Please continue your generous support to help us reach two goals: completion of vital roof repairs prior to the May session; and initiation of planning for the next stage of work preserving massive amounts of exterior and interior wood detailing – another tradition nearly lost.

We’re so happy to have you on board for this journey. With your support, we’ll continue to give 120% until our goals are achieved!

SAM professionals from Italy donate time&expertise
SAM professionals from Italy donate time&expertise
Conservator from London documents decorative paint
Conservator from London documents decorative paint
Part of volunteer team in Skenuli house courtyard
Part of volunteer team in Skenuli house courtyard
Tower house in danger of collapsing-next project?
Tower house in danger of collapsing-next project?

Links:

J O
J O'Connell is a project instructor from Australia

If you’ve been supporting AiP’s hands-on educational program in Albania, or if you’ve been thinking about joining our group of supporters, here’s another reason you’ll be proud to be part of the team.

Adventures in Preservation’s September project created so much buzz among building conservation professionals, that registration for the 2-week session has reached its maximum! The group of 14 – including four from Albania – will use their expertise and learn new skills to find hidden wall paintings and document their findings in preparation for May 2015.

The May session will initiate the restoration of paintings and is open to both students and professionals in the fields of building conservation, art conservation and related fields. The tradition of decorative wall painting, as seen at the Skenduli house, is becoming a lost art, and our volunteers plan to reverse this trend. Your donations will help provide scholarships for students, as well as cover the cost of some materials.

Saving traditions such as the Albanian style of wall paintings is vital to the continued growth of the country's heritage tourism initiatives. These amazing historic houses are the key resource in building a viable economy. Our partnership with Albania’s Institute of Cultural Monuments has allowed AiP and our volunteers to make great progress at the Skenduli house. But without our partnership with you, as a supporter, none of the work would be possible.

We appreciate your continuing generosity which has created such positive results. Our next report will fill you in on September events with plenty of photos to give you the inside story on work at the Skenduli house.

See you then!

Modern layer of paint hides original colors
Modern layer of paint hides original colors
Whitewashed walls hide uncovered treasures
Whitewashed walls hide uncovered treasures

Links:

Albanian students receive funding  to join work
Albanian students receive funding to join work

Those of you following the progress of skills training in Gjirokastra know that your generous support over the past few years has made a great impact on this World Heritage Site. Your donations have supported the preservation and continuing use of the city's iconic historic buildings, which in turn has spurred community development.

Our efforts are gaining momentum and others around the world are taking notice and adding their support. Two of AiP's international volunteers have received grants that will cover their cost to join work at the Skenduli house in September. AND includes some additional funds to help cover the cost of materials. Funding is being provided by the International Specialist Skills Institute that supports Australian professionals in gaining additional skills overseas, and The Zibby Garnett Travelling Fellowship that encourages those studying and working in building conservation to gain practical experience abroad, when not available in the UK.

Thanks to these two funding organizations, AiP is now able to use a greater percentage of your donations to cover expenses for Gjirokastrans wanting to work and learn at the Skenduli house. A group from the Gjirokastra regional office of the Directorate of National Culture will be attending; they'll use their new skills to help others in the region save, restore and use their historic buildings. This work is very important because preserving their cultural heritage is the region's only viable path to a sustainable economy, one based on heritage tourism.

We need your continued generosity in order for the September project to be a success. The impact of your donations will not only be felt at the Skenduli house, but will be spread to outlying areas of the region as members of the Directorate share their new expertise. As a result, you will have a direct effect on efforts to raise the standard of living for many people in the region.

We invite you to join this effort and see the results!

Albert Kasi of Directorate prepares for Sept
Albert Kasi of Directorate prepares for Sept
Details of cultural heritage being lost
Details of cultural heritage being lost
Cultural landscape brings heritage tourism
Cultural landscape brings heritage tourism

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Adventures in Preservation (AiP)

Location: Boulder, Colorado - USA
Website: http:/​/​adventuresinpreservation.org/​
Project Leader:
Judith Broeker
Boulder, Colorado United States

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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