STSM Report – A Travel Captured: A Reading of the Material Unrest – Tirana and Kamza, Albania

STSM Contribution by Willie Vogel

The last fieldwork event of this action will take place in Tirana and Kamza, Albania. Under the theme of The Planned and Unplanned, we will explore their notions: embodied explorations, commoning practices and material unrest. To support this fieldwork event I have done a pre-research on the theme Material Unrest under the title: “A Travel Captured: A Reading of the Material Unrest – Tirana and Kamza, Albania.”

Image 1: Shooting © Amer Obied

Image 2: Final shot film © Willie Vogel

Tirana and Kamza are cities under drastic transformation. The pace and global influence have allowed certain practices to flourish while diminishing others. As an architect I’m interested in material practices. More concretely, I am interested in why certain building materials are normalised and other, often more local, materials are forgotten in both their substances and craft. With a growing feeling of emergency to work from local environments I would like to understand the political, social and environmental agencies leading the building culture.

Image 3: Map Albania © willie vogel

In this case I have done so in Tirana and Kamza where I have followed two material ecologies through which I explored the social, political and environmental structures which write the city, namely concrete and “waste” products. By starting outside the city, around the river banks of Milot, I followed the gravel from the countryside to the city centre. With this move inside I have seen the extraction sides, the factories, the building sites, the self-made neighbourhoods under threat of being demolished and the newly constructed high-rise apartment blocks and hotels. Since the ecologies of concrete and the “waste” with which the self-made neighbourhoods are made are critically debated I want to take an objective observing standpoint which I have tried to translate into my writing (both poems and daily itineraries), diagramming plus mapping and the recordings (moving images and voices). The purpose of the produced material is to unravel certain city-making activities so we can reflect upon them.

Image 5: Following Concrete © willie vogel

Image 6: Selfmade homes © willie vogel

Using the method of film was a totally new experience. Walking around with several cameras was quite an uncanny experience. Soon I dropped most of the cameras and walked around with the two smallest. I had a full program everyday, slowly moving from the periphery to Kamza and the city centre of Tirana. Slowly the conversations I had and the reading I did would be connected to images and atmospheres.

Image 4: Diagram Material Ecology Concrete © willie vogel 

The outcome of this work would not have been possible without the support of Dorina Pllumbi and Diana Malaj. I wish also to thank all the other collaborators of the film for the wonderful and eye-opening conversations I have had. 

I hope to continue this research whether that is with only concrete, waste and film, or just by writing and photography stays a question. Click here to view the film

Image 7: Presentation Polytechnic University of Tirana 2023

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