Kengo Kuma’s winning design for Butrint National Park

In an international design competition, the team led by Kengo Kuma & Associates has been selected to design a new visitor center for Butrint National Park – Albania’s most significant archaeological site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to visualize the project that not only holds visual promise but also embodies significant values. Keep reading to learn more about Kengo Kuma’s winning design and witness the harmonious blend of architecture and natural scenery!

The structure was designed to be site-specific, utilizing locally sourced materials

A design competition for an exceptional site

Butrint is an ancient city located near Sarandë and overlooking the Straits of Corfu. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 and is situated within the Butrint National Park, a picturesque landscape with hills, lakes, wetlands, reed beds and islands. To safeguard this terrain and promote community-based and sustainable tourism, the Albanian Government approved the Butrint National Park Integrated Management Plan (2020-2030).

The hybrid building amid a spectacular natural setting

The international design competition organized by Malcolm Reading Consultants called for a carbon-neutral visitor center that blends well with the cultural and natural setting of Butrint. The competition brief was in line with the government-approved Plan while respecting the outstanding universal values of this World Heritage Site. Kengo Kuma & Associates collaborated with CHwB Albania, Ervin Paci, SOLARON Albania, iMEPS Engineering & Consulting, YOKE, Esmeralda Agolli and GE-D Engineering to submit their proposed design for the competition.

A place where the local community and visitors can meet

Butrint National Park Visitor Center

The new visitor center will play a crucial role in receiving and orienting visitors and interpreting the site. It will act as a gateway to the wider National Park and promote other nearby cultural and natural attractions. The center will be located in a breathtaking spot with panoramic views of the Vivari Channel and the Mediterranean Sea, about 1.5 kilometers from the entrance to the ancient city. Apart from being an educational forum, the center will also function as a public meeting place.

A conceptual image we created in the initial design phase

Site-specific naturalness

The design for the visitor center by Kengo Kuma & Associates features a sequence of limestone roofs, drawing inspiration from the striking stone structures, gates, and bridges found in Albania, along with the natural rock formations in the surrounding region. Our team created 30 conceptual images to experiment with ways of portraying the design as if it was an organic extension of the earth, seamlessly blending with the natural environment. After working closely with the architects, we finalized a set of pared-down images that best convey this concept, emitting a tranquil atmosphere. 

Another conceptual image that sparks visual interest

The new icon of the region 

Kengo Kuma’s winning design is not just an architectural marvel, but also a way of establishing new connections between the local communities, the national park, and the archaeological site visitors. The jury also praised the team’s deep connection with Albanian culture and memory, alluding to the building as a potential new icon of the region. 

Vision of the center that is due to open in September 2025

We consider ourselves fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute to our client’s success. We extend our gratitude to them for entrusting us with such a project, which has been an unparalleled experience for any archviz artist to explore their creativity. 

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