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Architecture of Albania

The Architecture of Albania is influenced by Illyrian, Greek, Roman, Ottoman and Italian architecture, while preserving distinct Albanian features such as the Albanian house. From antiquity to the modern period, cities in Albania have evolved from within the castle to include dwellings, religious, and commercial structures, with constant redesigning of town squares and evolution of building techniques.

The beginnings of architecture in Albania date to the middle Neolithic Age with the discovery of prehistoric dwellings in Dunavec and Maliq. They were built on a wooden platform that rested on stakes stuck vertically into the soil. Prehistoric dwellings in Albania consist of three types: houses enclosed either completely on the ground or half underground, both found in Cakran near Fier, and houses constructed above ground.

From the 5th century BC, the Roman colonies of Apollonia and Dyrrachium flourished, while a number of Illyrian cities emerged such as Byllis, Amantia, Dimali, Albanopolis, and Lissus. They were built on top of the highest hills surrounded by heavily fortified walls. Social structures were also constructed such as the Durrës Colosseum, the temples of Apollonia, Orik, Buthrotum, and various promenades (Stoa), theaters, and stadiums.

Between the 1st and 5th centuries AD, the walls of Dyrrah were reinforced with three protective layers, a hypodrome was constructed, while run off and sanitation systems were perfected. Meanwhile, additional structures were added to the centre of Apollonia such as an odeon, library, and Agonothetes. The period also marks the construction of thermal baths that were of social importance as places of gathering.

  • Cities associated with fortifications, such as Beret and Gjirokastra
  • Cities that lie in flat or steep terrains such as Tirana, Kavaja, and Elbasan.
  • Houses with vater zjarri, or fireplace/hearth. These houses are found in the Tirana area and characterized by the 'house of fire' (shtepia e zjarrit), which takes up the height of two floors, with surrounding areas interacting around it.
  • Houses with hajat, or porch. A distinguishing feature of this style is the relationship of the house with the backyard and natural environment. Oftentimes, these houses are built on flat grounds, with the ground floor used by inhabitants for agricultural purposes. The Shijaku House in Tirana is surrounded by adobe walls with a large gate entrance, and almost always covered with a simple roof.
  • Houses with çardak, a type of balcony found on the top floor reserved for guests or relaxation. They are mostly found in Berat, and less so in Kruje and Lezha. The cardak is a dominant element of the building’s outer composition being on the main facade of the house, originally designed to be open. The cardak is extensively used by dwellers in the warm season by exploiting the natural sunlight. It also serves as liaison with other areas of the house. These houses are divided into several sub types: houses with cardak on the front area, on one side, or at the center. An example of such structures is Hajdar Sejdini House in Elbasan.
  • Urban or civic kulla. They are found in Gjirokaster (see Zekate House), Berat, Kruje, and Shkoder used for defensive and warehouse purposes. The interior showed the extent of family's wealth, while the ground floor served as a safe place for cattle in the winter, and to keep water reserves for the dry summer months.


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