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“SEAMbisiosis” winners of Europan 13 Gjakova

Dea Luma, Erblin Bucaliu, and Rrita Pula are the architects of one of the winners of the Europan 13 Architecture Competition. Their project “SEAMbiosis”, is the winning proposal for the historic city of Gjakova, aiming to revitalize the city center and further develop the “Krena” riverbank, as well as create better connectivity within town.

More images and architects’ description after the break.

“Active society. Identity. Public transportation. Clean air and water. Community participation. Decentralization. Happiness. Cultural heritage. Flow. Children. Regulated sewage. Public realm. Artisans. Local stories. Religious harmony. Industry. Shared spaces. Education. Four seasons. Wellbeing. Bike lanes. Micro-economy. Organic farming. Lush nature. Green parks. Sustainability. Adaptive reuse. Technology. Traditions. Free movement. Diversity. Play. Accessibility. Tourism. Smokers’ corners. Weddings. Hospitality. Dignity. Connections. Safety. Pedestrian-based. Good will. Equality. Free spirituality. Arts and crafts. The old and the new. Opportunities. LED street lighting. Farmers market. City landmarks. Hybridity. Bridges. Water collectors. Solar energy. Vibrancy. Awareness. Day and night. Relaxation. Coexistence between generations. Sharing and caring. Blurred boundaries of public and private space. The seam and network between these essentials make the city of Gjakova a living organism; an urban SEAMbiosis.”

02“This proposal is encompassed firmly in the disciplines of architecture, urban design, and landscape architecture as instruments for improving the individual and collective experience in the city of Gjakova. Rooted in deep sociological, historical, cultural and profoundly humane features, it is build around three main principles:

COGNITIVE: Body encountering space leaves evidence, just as space is altered by the presence of body. The relation between the two elements, body and space, brings forward the spirit and psychology of a city through thought, experience, and the senses.
PHYSICAL: Gjakova is a tangible synthesis of build and natural environments. The architecture gathers meaning by its everyday function, by its presence in the townscape and by its form, while the natural assets (water, topography and greenery) present the critical agents for city’s performance and sustainability.
SOCIAL: Buildings and places, as social constructs of events, activities, and peoples, are centers of interaction, collaboration, meaning and memory. The behavior of the people, and their relation to the city, exists in a layered field of social, cultural, religious, and political conditions.”


“Gjakova’s synthesis of build and natural environments is achieved through making diverse spatial experiences along a linear continuous path that meanders gently along the river. Complementary are the structural components that cross the river and architectural public features.

GREEN HINGE: The site of intervention is a hinge between major parks of the city such as Cabrati Hill, Shkugeza Park, City Park, and other public parks. The role of the river is transformed into a unifying element within the landscapes of the city with a great potential to also be woven into people’s lives.
CONSTELLATIONS’ NUCLEUS: Existing diversity of functional typologies merges at the city center and forms the basis for city’s self-sustainable industry, economy, and tourism. Integration of the river, and spaces along it, as part of the city’s nucleus presents a passageway that encourages consolidated and interdependent functional constellations. Gjakova’s center provides complementary functions by reactivating neglected buildings/spaces into uses that promote youth engagement and a new re-attachment with the city.
FLOW: The existing infrastructure presents opportunities to adapt the road network into a more pedestrian and bike friendly city center. The web of major routes approaching the city are harmonized by a reoriented inner loop which eases congestion and allows for a regulated flow of movement in and out of the city. Connectedness and accessibility are necessary conditions for a healthy economy, culture, and community.

The definition of space is ethically manipulated by carefully crafting the physical city in such a way that results in freedom of movement and convenient access to all the good things Gjakova has to offer. The generated open spaces along the river function as catalysts for social activities and community engagement.”


URBAN SURGERY: Disassembly of existing structures consists of mostly (90%) informal and temporary commercial-use structures. In response, a cautious incision of new urban infill is proposed to complement the scale of the context and accommodate the displaced functions. Urban voids are occupied by new structures to create a fulfilling street experience.
SHARING IS CARING: Bicycle lanes, bike-sharing system, single-directional traffic, adequate parking areas, pedestrian-only zones, flush curbs, and wheelchair mobility make the city center more flexible, easily accessible, and welcoming. Multiple modes of movement coexist in shared areas and the river becomes an integral component for an improved experience of city’s interior. LEARNING LANDSCAPES: The gems of the city are interconnected in a 1.6 km long trail marked with an uninterrupted cobblestone course. Furthermore, the Treasure Trailbecomes a learning experience for and about the city of Gjakova, which also leads towards a new economic and touristic growth.
THE BIG IDEA: The city center becomes about a series of cross-axis and relations of spaces through and across the river. Spaces in the city are re-assembled in the way that brings people, things, and ideas together in a self-sustaining, continually improving cycle of exchanges that creates value.”


“In essence the river becomes the technology and medium for proper communication within the city. It acts as a landscaped structural element for social and recreational activities for all. These and other features of contemporary culture can be integrated into a coherent framework that reveals the hidden layers of the city, facilitates interaction, and preserves the sense of community.”


“Enhanced accessible spaces along the river stitch the historic town with the modern city and bring a new perspective to a familiar context. The sectional experience highlights diversity of zones along the river, which creates a framework for adaptable transformation of space. The city becomes a compact and diverse entity that promotes city’s cultural heritage, public places, and gives rise to a complex decentralized network of spaces and city’s landmarks. Recovery of spaces along the river creates safe conditions for experiencing the river by night and in all four seasons. Improvement of the public realm enables people to get around safely, efficiently, and in pleasant surroundings.”


All images courtesy of Erblin Bucaliu, Rrita Pula, Dea Luma.