The Albanian landscape is littered with unfinished structures, but why?

Albania’s Concrete Skeletons

Albania’s Concrete Skeletons

Traveling through Albania, from Shkoder to Vlore, the rules of the road (or lack thereof) did not inspire a lot of confidence. Roundabouts appeared without notice. Donkeys, baby carriages, and old ladies wove in and out of fast moving cars. And a third, unmarked traffic lane mysteriously appeared in the centre of the highway. To combat the fear induced by this ‘organized chaos’, I fixed my gaze out the passenger window to the landscape. A curious pattern emerged: scattered unfinished buildings appeared every couple of hundred metres along the highway. A parade of cadaverous structures. Some of them were inhabited, others completely unused, and others still under construction.

A little research revealed the reasons for this unusual epidemic. Many of the concrete skeletons date from the 90s, when a series of nationwide pyramid schemes created a building boom that left many constructions incomplete. In the mid-1990s Albania was transitioning from a state-controlled economy to a capitalist market economy. The relative naiveté of Albanians in the face of large-scale financial investment led to a speculative mania, wherein many invested in what turned out to be pyramid schemes: companies without assets attracting investors by offering high returns.

After the fall of Communism in Albania in 1991, there was a lack of government regulation accompanying the introduction of private property: it became a kind of free-for-all. Based on their presumed riches, Albanians began constructing across the country. […]


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