Patterned public square based on an Albanian carpet

In the fishing village of Shiroka, Casanova + Hernandez’ project provides an inclusive public realm inspired by local carpet weaving. Rotterdam-based Casanova + Hernandez Architects has completed a large-scale public realm redevelopment project for the Albianian fishing village of Shiroka.

Located on Shkodra Lake, near the border with Montenegro, the village has a long history of small-scale fishing and handmade crafts such as carpet weaving. Due to unregulated post-communist privatisation of public space over the past few decades, the village’s waterfront had become crowded with haphazard private developments and parking areas.

The project from Casanova + Hernandez, named Albanian Carpet, restores an open and inclusive public space along the waterfront, united and enhanced by decorative paving in black and white granite with patterns that reference the local design heritage of Albanian carpet weaving.

‘The Albanian Carpet project not only aims to physically and functionally restore Shiroka’s waterfront, but also to rebuild the feeling of belonging and attachment to the public space, which is conceived as a large house made of different open rooms,’ explain the architects.

As well as paving, the project comprises new lighting, cycle parking, public seating, design installations and trees. Distinct areas (‘rooms’) have been designed to function as gathering spaces with wooden benches and public dining tables, or viewing platforms overlooking the lake, or play areas.

In one area, the paving steps down towards the shore to create what the architects call a ‘sunset amphitheatre’. In the centre of the project, a large area has been left open and uncluttered in order to enable public events once they are allowed again.

The project was commissioned by the Albanian Development Fund. Another phase of work is planned to deliver a new public museum overlooking the lake, also designed by Casanova + Hernandez, but work has been delayed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.