Advanced Topics Studio with Jason Payne

M.Arch.I, Third Year


Sometimes significant buildings are not significant at all, at least not in whatever way was originally intended.

This studio explores a class of architectural object that is resistant to signification in any standard sense despite its supposed responsibility toward just that. However strange this may sound such objects do exist in our discipline, in the same way asteroids exist in astrophysics: difficult bodies just outside easy categorization, each its own thing regardless of propriety. Experts in the field most often regard such objects as beneath them, not worth the time it would take to examine their specificities in the face of suspicion that in the end they will still very likely remain difficult. Better to stay more centrally located in one’s area of study so that relevance is assured. 

Tirana’s “Pyramid” is such an object in our discipline. Formally called the International Center of Culture, this building exists at the center of Albania’s capital city without fixed identity and no apparent use. Originally constructed in 1988 as an opera house but never used as such, the Pyramid has gone through multiple subsequent proposals for programs it might contain: museum, conference center, exhibition space, and various other functions fitting for a monumental building in center city. Tirana’s continual disruption, however, has prevented any program at all from taking root here. Instead the Pyramid sits empty. 

Various efforts to demolish the building have been proposed but each has met with strong public resistance. It would seem that citizens of the city love this empty object, an icon to nothing, and wish to preserve it in the way useless objects that are not buildings are often preserved - like an artifact. Our charge, then, is to imagine ways to do just this.


Jason Payne