The Vjosa River is the second largest river in Albania and one of the last wild rivers in Europe.
On March 15, 2023, the river and its tributaries were protected by the creation of the Vjosa Wild River National Park.
The proposal of Casanova Hernandez Architects for a new Multifunctional Center and Information Stations within the National Park seeks to create an integral strategy on a bigger scale to promote environmental sustainability, social sustainability focused on local communities and economic sustainability for a conscious development of the National Park with respect for all tangible and intangible natural and cultural values of the area.
The proposal includes a general Interpretative Project for the whole area that is applied to 3 pioneering architectural interventions.
One of the main objectives of the interpretive project is to provide a rich and innovative interpretation of Vjosa River. The themes to be interpreted can be classified into 7 main thematic groups:
T1. Introduction to Vjosa River: The Last Wild River in Europe
T2. Biodiversity of Vjosa River
T3. River culture: relation between man and nature along Vjosa River
T4. Natural monuments of Vjosa River Natural Park
T5. Cultural monuments of Vjosa River Natural Park
T6. Vjosa River and the Arts
T7. Vjosa River Natural Park
The project promotes a variety of functions, educational programs, tourism activities, and recreational activities, all focused on the Vjosa River, for very different target groups and is focused on creating a rich visitor experience by using both traditional and latest technology exhibition methods to communicate with a big audience, as well as by creating spaces for relaxation, education, and research.
The target groups are not only foreigners or visitors from other areas, but also locals who should profit from the creation of these centers both financially and sociologically. The aim is to create a feeling of belonging for locals and to promote social and cultural exchange between the existing communities and tourists.
The architectural project consists of three independent interventions in different locations along the Vjosa River that are coordinated and complementary in terms of program.
The three interventions are created with the same flexible, modular, and organic architectural system based on prefabricated cells that can be combined in very different ways, which allows them to be implemented in the landscape as isolated units creating small relaxation areas or toilets, or combined creating bigger buildings. This system also includes an integrated array of environmental sustainability solutions, such as green roofs, or collection water solutions, and solar or wind energy roofs.
INTERVENTION 1: VJOSA RIVER DISCOVERY CENTER. TEPELENE (DISCOVER VJOSA)
Next to the river and just outside the center of the city, the Multifunctional Center located in Tepelene serves as a gateway to the Vjosa River National Park providing visitors with essential information, exhibits, and orientation.
It consists of five main elements:
1. Vjosa River Theme Park: It is formed by a series of winding theme paths that connect at some points creating a braided layout that resembles the braided river located around. The Theme Gardens located between the paths are planted with different species of native vegetation and present different interpretive themes about Vjosa River.
A Poemarioum, an Arboretum, a Botanical Garden, a Herbal Garden, a Mariposarium, and a Seed Bank complete the Park and awaken the senses of visitors.
2. Vjosa River Skywalk: This is an elevated walkway, the three-dimensional expression of the network of braided paths of the Park, that allows visitors to experience panoramic views over Vjosa and Bence River. It is perceived as a braided structure shaped as an arch that attracts visitors to pass underneath to contemplate the landscape working as a symbolic entrance gate to Vjosa River National Park. Four intertwined themes are explained along the Skywalk: the ecosystems of Vjosa River, the ecosystems of Bence River, the works made by Ali Pasha of Tepelene along both rivers and the trips made by Edward Lear along Vjosa River.
3. Vjosa’s Kitchen: is the café-restaurant of Vjosa River Discovery Center, where the chef and waiters explain to visitors stories about each course like its name and origin, the ingredients used, where they were obtained, and how they are cooked.
4. Bio-Lab & Research Center: This center supports scientific research in the park and communicates it to broad audiences and generations by promoting educational activities.
5. Vjosa River Discovery Center: is a central facility in the complex that welcomes visitors providing tourist information about the region and a rich interpretation of Vjosa River and the National Park.
INTERVENTION 2: VJOSA RIVER SENSORY CENTER. PERMET (FEEL VJOSA)
This Information Station is an information center placed at the entrance of Permet. Integrated into an existing forest, it has splendid views over the Vjosa River and Permet and enjoys a very rich soundscape that provides a diverse range of natural sounds, arising from its unique position on top of a cliff, which envelops the visitor with an extra layer of immersive experience.
Vjosa River Sensory Center is focused on providing an anthropological interpretation of the theme of River Culture presenting the relation between men and nature. It shows the importance of the river for local communities through legends, rituals, songs, and culinary culture.
The center aims to present an open and dynamic experience named “Feel Vjosa” that combines the presentation of interpretive contents, experiences, a program of activities and events organized in five sections that refer to the five human senses:
1. Tasting Vjosa (sense of taste)
2. Watching Vjosa (sense of sight)
3. Listening to Vjosa (sense of hearing)
4. Smelling Vjosa (sense of smell)
5. Touching Vjosa (sense of touch)
INTERVENTION 3: VJOSA-NARTA LAGOON OBSERVATION CENTER (OBSERVE VJOSA)
The intervention is conceived as an information pavilion located in a strategic position in contact with three main ecosystems of the Vjosa River: the wetland ecosystem of Narta Lagoon, the agriculture ecosystem, and the coast ecosystem that includes a small forest.
It is designed as a shelter covered by wooden lamellas cut off with diagonal openings that allow views in several directions. These cuts give a sculptural shape to the volume, functioning like virtual eyes that enable visitors to watch nature: on the one hand the lagoon and its richness of bird species, and on the other hand the forest and the salt evaporation ponds.Hide Text