While doing research on history of architecture of my native Kosova and Albania, I came across Adventures In Preservation, an organization from Colorado, dedicated to safeguarding the world’s architectural heritage. Its programs give volunteers from all walks of life the opportunity to be involved in preservation in a variety of hands-on ways.
After a lovely chat over the phone with AIP co-founder Judith Broker, I volunteered to go to Albania and photograph their work in the beautiful town of Gjirokastra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where AIP was involved in restoration of some beautiful examples of distinctive houses that were predominantly built with stone (hence the city’s nickname "City of Stone").
During my one week stay, we went on to visit a few breathtaking places, like Labovë e Kryqit, famous for St. Mary’s Church, one of the oldest churches in the region. It has beautiful Byzantine architecture with some original and unusual features, like circular dome and fish-bone pattern of the exterior. I also had a chance to meet and collaborate with Albert Kasi, a sculptor and regional director of historic preservation in Gjirokastra, as well as Kreshnik Merxhani, a talented architect from Tirana who was involved in identifying and preserving historic structures.
Another magnificent place in architecture and scenery was Butrint, one of the most important archaeological sites in Albania. With its immense wealth of cultural and historical value, Butrint was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992.
After a week, we all traveled to my native Kosovo, where we scouted a possible new project for AIP. We visited several villages known for stone houses that were subjected to deliberate destruction by Serbian forces during the 1999 aggression.
This was an unforgettable experience for me, I got to visit and photograph some beautiful places and structures in Albania, and most importantly meet and become friends with some remarkable inspiring people dedicated to a noble cause of preserving heritage architecture.