The Butrint Management Foundation (BMF) has revealed the four teams that will design the new visitor center for Butrint National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on Albania’s Ionian coastline. Kengo Kuma & Associates, Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects, Philippe PROST / AAPP, and William Matthews Associates were selected to create concept designs for the 1,000m² visitor hub at the country’s most iconic cultural destination, home to artifacts and structures dating from the Iron Age up until the Middle Ages. The proposals will be judged in 2023, and the new visitor center is due to completion in 2025.
Recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1992, the 94 square kilometers park has a unique cultural resonance and visual appeal, which comes from its combination of preserved natural setting within monuments such as an ancient Epirot Theater, a Roman Forum, and an early Byzantine Baptistery, along with other monuments dating from the Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine, Angevin, Venetian, and Ottoman periods. In 2020, an Integrated Management Plan was established to safeguard the site due to the post-pandemic high visitor traffic. The scheme promotes sustainable, community-based, and environmentally sensitive tourism, giving way to calling out emerging and seasoned architect-led multidisciplinary teams to design the new visitor center.
© Albanian American Development Foundation
The project will welcome and orient visitors, interpret the site, convey the values of UNESCO, and be a gateway to National Park. As an educational forum, the design will integrate the community as a workplace for the Foundation staff. Other aspects of the competition include a new or extended ticket office; improvements to the core heritage area entrance and secure boundary; wayfinding and interpretation; and improved mooring facilities connecting the mainland to the Ksamil Islands.
We were delighted with the international response to our competition; teams entered from 17 countries, and viewers from more than a hundred visited the website. […] Butrint attracted an extremely strong field of designers. […] it is exciting to now move to the competition’s next stage. We focus on selecting a winner who will create an architectural exemplar, a unique statement for the site, and Albania.’ – Elva Margariti, Albania’s culture minister
© Albanian American Development Foundation
With an initial funding of USD 2.45 million, and a final budget of up to USD $4 million, the two-stage competition, organized by Malcolm Reading Consultants, encourages participants to consider further opportunities within the wider park in the form of a landscape visioning masterplan. The shortlisting follows a vast experience:
- Kengo Kuma & Associates is renowned for its cultural and civic projects focused on rediscovering local materials and updating them to be used in contemporary construction. Recent projects include the new headquarters for Bosonit in La Rioja, Spain, the Kusugibashi Bridge, and the Asukasa Culture Tourist Information Center, both in Japan.
- Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects is best known for its museums and public buildings, the office specializes in demanding design tasks in sensitive environments. LMA’s key projects include the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Poland (2013), along with the Urban Environment House in Finland (2020) and Community Centre Kastelli in Finland.
- Philippe PROST / AAPP’s work is characterized by respect for the site, its history, and its geography, such as the Ring of Remembrance in Ablain-Saint-Nazaire. Philippe Prost sits on the French National Commission for Heritage and Architecture, as well as the Board of Directors of the Fondation Le Corbusier.
- William Matthews Associates has worked in the UK and internationally on various cultural, commercial, and infrastructure commissions. In 2021 won the RIBA Stirling Prize with its Tintagel Castle Footbridge in Cornwall, and in 2022 was selected in a series of competitions in the Czech Republic, including the new cable car in Prague.
The anonymous competition submissions will be judged by a jury of local and international experts, including representatives from the Butrint Management Foundation. The finalists will visit the site in early 2023, and the new visitor center is due to open in September 2025.