Vlorë Boulevard [AL]

The Ismail Quemali Boulevard is the beating heart of the south Albania seaside resort town of Vlorë. It has everything you might want from a city: from shops, restaurants, bars and parks to a university, theatre, hospital and football stadium. And yet, this lively place was lacking in some aspects of liveability. There was very little shade and foliage, the layout was unstructured and the proximity of fast and noisy traffic was disruptive. All of this made the boulevard an unpleasant place to spend time. BOOM Landscape drew up plans that gave priority to pedestrians and cyclists. And the entire length was redesigned to create an attractive route that seamlessly links up all the amenities and allows for a subtle transition between neighbourhoods. 

Pleasant obstacle-free promenade

The opportunity to redesign the boulevard was prompted by the development of a parallel through road that will take most of the traffic. This meant we could remove almost all of the asphalt and design a promenade space for the comfort of pedestrians and other light uses.

Better zoning will help all users. The boulevard will be divided into several ‘lanes’, each with their own use. In the middle is the road for cars and buses, as well as clearly marked parallel parking lanes. On the raised pavement are areas for bus shelters, kiosks, trees and benches, then the cycle path and an obstacle-free pedestrian walkway, and finally the businesses with their display spaces. Each transition into a different zone is marked by a change in paving. Where there is enough space for patios, a tidy arrangement of hedges will delineate the separation. The paving stones of the promenade will be of local stone and a variety of sizes and patterns will define the zones. An interesting design feature is that some of the patterns will be repeated in the benches, bus shelters, kiosks, lampposts and hedges that furnish the boulevard.   

In order to ensure a unified space, the entrances to shops, bars and restaurants will also be renewed. For years property owners were able to take over adjoining public spaces for the purposes of their businesses: excessive promotional displays, uneven steps into their buildings and a range of materials used to claim their spaces. This resulted in messy pavements and a chaotic pedestrian experience. In the new plan all the steps will be designed from the same material and have similar rises, and the walkway will be completely free of obstacles. To compensate the businesses, each will be given a defined forecourt to use and furnish as they wish. 

Calm, integrated and consistent profile

Central to the plan is the creation of a calm, integrated and consistent profile for the width of the boulevard. It is important that the promenades for pedestrians and cyclists are not obstructed and can flow freely from end to end. Intersections with automotive traffic will therefore be raised and asphalt-free, forcing cars to yield to the slower traffic.

A good configuration of trees will complete the profile. The road will be flanked by two rows of local plantains, to replace the largely expired palm trees. Apart from the aesthetics of a tree line, the trees will also provide the necessary shade. And broader areas of the boulevard will gain a park-like setting because there is room for even more vegetation.

Three unique squares

The linearity of the long boulevard will be softened at three spots where we have designed three different squares. Each will have its own character. Circles and round shapes define the public space in front of the stadium; these are to be found in a fountain, the street furniture and the paving pattern. Farther along, in the space enclosed by the oval roundabout that takes traffic to and from the motorway, a park will be created based on shard-like shapes.

The final space is the new square in front of the theatre.This is where the city’s greatest source of pride will be integrated into the public space: Albania’s declaration in independence was proclaimed in Vlorë in 1912 and this handwritten text will be engraved into the pavement.

Client: Sphaera, Municipality of Vlorë and Albanian Development Fund
In collaboration with: Cityförster Urbanism + Architecture
Assignment: Transformation of a traffic road into a comfortable city boulevard
Area: 65.000 m2 (1.8 km)
Program: wide sidewalks, bike bus and car lane, street furniture
Additional program: pocket squares and parks along the boulevard
Design team: Philomene van der Vliet, Jan Maas, Mark Spaan and Angelo Renna
Text: Dianna Beaufort
Copyright text and images: BOOM Landscape