In the framework of Mediterranea 18 – Young Artists Biennale , Studioarch4 , participate with the project “Before and After”. The Exhibition “Before and After” is about Villa of MR.X troubled history and what can be its renewed purpose, by confronting past and present, former regime and nascent democracy. The research and materials that we present in the exhibition are a common work between STUDIOARCH4, ALN, 2A+P/A, and Peter T.Lang. The work was part of the competition organized by Atelier Albania and Ministry of Culture, on Cultural Quartet competition.
BEFORE AND AFTER
THE VILLA OF MR. X
Villa 31 is an unassuming, if somewhat large modern residence built in the late seventies with an ample garden in a quiet but dense residential district in Tirana. The interiors of the house are well equipped and extensively furnished. The interior is filled with hand-crafted built-in closets, imported Austrian furniture, Italian designed bathrooms and kitchens, an elevator, a decorative spiral staircase, a small swimming pool, and large picture windows throughout. Villa 31 was also provided with access to hardened underground bunkers from the basement.
Construction documents prepared by the architects for this new residence drawn up in the early sev-enties refer to the original project with the single alphabetical letter “x.” This structure was specifically designed for Enver Hoxha and his family. “x” also represents the mark of censorship, a fitting symbol for what would become Hoxha’s difficult historical legacy: Hoxha’s sweeping political and ideological reforms were largely responsible for pushing the nation into deep economic and cultural isolation. Hoxha’s private family home reflected his public charismatic posing a difficult challenge for those concerned with opening the dictator’s residential quarters to the public today. How after decades during which Villa 31 has been closed to the public does one interpret and put on display the intimate interiors deeply imprinted by Hoxha’s domestic body politic?
Left as is, or with little modification, Hoxha’s house would certainly risk becoming a sort of latter day mausoleum to the man and his dictatorship. Nor would the sensitive preservation of the house in the name of Hoxha’s victims contribute much to the education of today’s Albanians and their children. After all, there are many sites across the nation where curious nationals, foreign tourists and concerned educators can see first-hand the traumatic environments where generations of Albanians were locked up, tortured and dispensed in whatever manner Hoxha, as supreme leader, saw fit. There is also the great risk the house would appear as if its original inhabitant lived inured to the outside world in an island of tranquility, untouched by world around him.
Villa 31 has been a residential microcosm frozen in time. Inaccessible then, and still inaccessible now, the house and its troubled history should find renewed purpose, by confronting past and present, former regime and nascent democracy. Hoxha’s house cannot be simply preserved, opened and displayed without actively engaging each and every room, one by one. From the gardens to the bunkers, from the living rooms to the swimming pool, the house’s many spaces should be documented, questioned and debated. Citizens and visitors alike should have the chance to be part of and witness to how symbols of power can be engaged, challenged, and re-imagined.
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