Bits of Identity in Ferizaj

Diellëza Tahiri
8 min readDec 18, 2022

Due to rapid urban growth, fast economy, and capitalist investments happening, notably in the city centre, a considerate neglect of architectural heritage is very much present in Ferizaj. Although the city is not particularly old, it still holds many significant and iconic buildings of XIX & XX centuries that in one way or another represent the identity of Ferizaj (Hyseni, 2014). A large number of modernist architecture buildings have been continuously restored in improper ways, which ironically degraded the building essential and authentic features. Hence numerous building permanencies that are found in the city, are weakly restored & reused, completely changed, in damaged condition, or abandoned.

It is substantial to mention the fact that because of this so called ‘ignorance’ or lack of proper heritage education, even people’s awareness towards heritage is remarkably low and misperceived, even further allowing architectural degradation of the remained bits of architectural identity (Elezi and Sadiki, 2019).

©DiellezaTahiri 2022. Sketch drawing of Hotel Lybeten (former condition)

HOTEL LYBETEN

Built in 1960, Hotel Lybeten is one of the most prominent and iconic buildings in Ferizaj. Resembling more with early modernism architecture as a style, the hotel is designed in 4 floors: ground floor hosting cafes and small shops, the first floor for administration and two other floors are used as hotel rooms. The building structure consists of modular repetitive elements of columns exposed on the surface and walls drawn back inside (Elezi and Sadiki, 2016).A characteristic feature seen on the facade of the building is the concrete brise-soleil, serving as expressive repetitive element that reduces heat gain within the building by deflecting sunlight. As a matter of fact, this feature is found in most public buildings in Kosovo, designed during this period.

The drawing on top shows an old image of the building former condition in the 60s. Today half of the building (lower roof part to be exact) is totally transformed, hosting some private shops and caffe/club like stores, which is a perfect example of weak and irresponsible restoration of heritage buildings in Ferizaj and Kosovo as well. However, an impressive cubist style mural of a waiter can be identified on the main plain facade, and it is an authentic & iconic element with which Ferizaj is known as a city even today.

©DiellezaTahiri 2022. Sketch drawing of the main religious buildings, which represent religious tolerance in Ferizaj (current condition)

GRAND MOSQUE & ORTHODOX CHURCH

Although religion does not hold a central importance to the people of Ferizaj, an interesting phenomenon can be noticed: two contraverse religious buildings cooperate in the same garden in the city centre. This symbol represents the religious tolerance that Ferizaj is known and identified in Kosovo and can be an example of how architecture can be an important factor of creating a sense of place. The Grand Mosque was built in the 1890s by the Ottomans and later destroyed by German bombers during WWII. The current Mosque was completed in 1943 and restored in 2013 when the second minaret was added. The Orthodox Church was built in the 1920s by Serbians, dedicated to the emperor Uros. Over the years, ethnical conflict took a toll on the church because the city was not known to be inhabited by Serbians, but the majority has always been Albanians, who did not consider themselves Orthodox, but rather Muslim or Catholic. However, after the war in 1999, the people of Ferizaj embraced the historical quarrels regarding religion, living now in tolerance and peace between three official religions.

©DiellezaTahiri 2022. Sketch drawing of the original train station building (current condition)

TRAIN STATION BUILDING

Built in 1874, the train station is one of the oldest buildings in Ferizaj, built coherently with the famous railway line construction of the same year. It holds a crucial importance to the people of Ferizaj since the city itself was made because of this railway and this particular station. The building is located at the heart of the city, accessible through the main city square “Adem Jashari” and boulevard “Dëshmorët e Kombit”, being in a proximity with other significant buildings like Hotel Lybeten and Public Library. Apart from being restored, modified, and damaged in the past, it has always survived and yet remained an active station.

In terms of architectural features, the station owns a typical structure of massive walls (50–60cm thickness), designed in two floors; the ground floor hosts a waiting area and other service and administration rooms of the station, whereas the first floor consists of 2 housing units, originally used by foreign station workers (Drenogllava, 2021). Today the building needs proper restoration, enhancement, promotion, and cultural, social, and economic integration with the city, gaining the attention it deserves as a substantial heritage of Ferizaj.

©DiellezaTahiri 2022. Sketch drawing of the main city library building (current condition)

PUBLIC LIBRARY BUILDING

The building in which the public library of Ferizaj operates today is believed to be built in 1912 (Qendra Multimedia). The original function of the building is not documented or known properly but it is quite evident that this building has been present and very central to the identity of the old city.

Nevertheless, as a library, it started to function from the 1950s under the name “Jovan Popović” and it is recognized as the first library operating in Ferizaj. Shortly after the war in 1999, it changed its name to “Anton Çeta” following a division in another old building built in 1923, known as the small library (today the city archive building).

In 2001, the library changed its name to “Sadik Tafarshiku”, a name which holds even today. The small library was merged with the main one under a single name in 2010. Afterwards the municipality decided to use the building as a city archive, not a very convenient choice frankly speaking, considering its historical value.

Despite the very weak condition the library is in today, it is still highly functional and yet not enough as it is the only library in the city, meaning the city seriously lacks public spaces for socio-educational activities.

©DiellezaTahiri 2022. Sketch drawing of the sports hall building (current condition)

SPORTS HALL “BILL CLINTON”

Literally representing the typical brutalist architecture in Kosovo (Gjinolli and Kabashi, 2015), this building shows a remarkable typology of the structure being directly expressed on the facade. Built in 1982 its materials consist of primarily reinforced concrete, articulate red clay bricks and repetitive colored glass. The building displays a high dose of monumentalism and late modernism, with consistent repetitive facade elements, stimulating a unique light & shadow effect.

Functionally speaking, this is the only building officially dedicated to sports activities, major events, concerts and other cultural and recreational purposes. It is located in the western part of the city, along Brahim Ademi street and it is easily accessible.

Based on very recent Municipality major projects, the sports hall’s facade will be insulated which theoretically means “lost”, as it is usually the case of every restoration project in Kosovo, irresponsible, commercial and a total failure.

©DiellezaTahiri 2022. Sketch drawing of the old city mall building (former condition)

FORMER CITY MALL

“Shtëpia e Mallrave” as the locals used to call it, the city mall of Ferizaj was one of the most impressive and influential buildings that not only held architectural values, but also cultural ones, in terms of public space and social integration.

Built in 1970, it consists of two volumes: the public mall designed in two floors; and the administrative part designed in five floors. Characteristic for this building is the particular facade membrane of prefabricated aluminium elements in triangular shapes. The double circular stairs in the middle of the mall are another interesting feature that used to make this public space quite brilliant. Due to privatisation and capitalist economy, today this building is almost utterly transformed into a private shopping centre whereas the described aluminium facade exists only on one side of the building. A preservation failure of this kind further degrades and even offends the heritage of the people of Ferizaj which is in very high risks and needs immediate attention.

A building of quite similar characteristics can be found in Prishtina as well, known as Gërmia, which in comparison to Ferizaj, still holds architectural values and is a target for new and better restoration projects (Gjinolli and Kabashi, 2015).

On the other hand, landscape heritage holds a significant value to the people of Ferizaj, especially when it comes to well-known landmarks as Luboten Peak or Nerodime Bifurcation. If we elaborate the cultural meaning behind these natural features as sort of symbolism, they can be regarded as typical examples of landscape identity and heritage in Ferizaj, and compose a genius loci that shows a fascinating emotional connection between people and landscape.

LUBOTEN PEAK

Luboten Peak is located at the border with N.Macedonia, has an elevation of 2498m, and has been an interesting symbol for the people in the region of Ferizaj, since the peak is visible from all parts of the city. The drawing shows a sketch of a typical view of this peak. If we elaborate the cultural meaning behind this peak as symbolism, it may be regarded as an example of landscape identity and heritage, a genius loci that holds significant values to people and shows a fascinating emotional connection to landscape. That is why it is customary for every citizen of Ferizaj to recognize in a heartbeat the peak of Luboten, and a numerous range of associations to this name, that are again related to this natural feature.

NERODIME BIFURCATION

Nerodime Bifurcation represents Europe’s only instance of a river bifurcation flowing into two seas, dividing into two irreversible branches. It flows from two mountain streams, the big stream (al: lumi i madh) and the small one (al:lumi i vogël), originating in southern part of Nerodime mountain, at an altitude of 600m. Both streams join near the village of Nerodime e Epërme, then flowing towards Ferizaj where the second bifurcation occurs. The northern branch flows ultimately into the Black Sea while the the main, southern branch joins with another branch of the Nerodime river and together continue the journey to the Aegean Sea. This phenomenon is attractive for researchers and visitors and has great importance to education, science, and tourism. This is another important landscape heritage element, with high cultural meaning and can be regarded as an identity symbol for the city of Ferizaj.

REFERENCES:

Hyseni, I. (2014). Ferizaj 1873–1944. Kosovo:Intergraf

Elezi,K., Sadiki,A. (2019). Architectural reflection in Ferizaj: from Eclecticism to the new wave of Modernism. UBT International Conference. 244.

Elezi,K.,Sadiki,A.(2016). Modernizmi në Ferizaj, 1960–1990. Fakulteti i
Arkitekturës dhe Planifikimit Hapsinor, UBT, Prishtinë. Kosovo:Europrinty Group. ISBN:9789951550154

Drenogllava,E., et al.(2021). Rilevimi i ndërtesës së stacionit të trenit në Ferizaj. Fakulteti i Arkitektures, Universiteti i Prishtines. Available at: https://issuu.com/edmond_drenogllava/docs/draft_rilevimi_i_nd_rtes_s_s__stacionit_t__trenit (Accessed in 30 May 2022)

Qendra Multimedia. (no date). Profili i bibliotekës së qytetit “Sadik Tafarshiku” — Ferizaj. Available at: https://qendra.org/profil-biblioteka-e-qytetit-sadik-tafarshiku-ferizaj/ (Accessed in 30 May 2022)

Gjinolli, I., Kabashi,L.(2015). Modernizmi Kosovar: një abetare e arkitekturës. Kosovo: National gallery of Kosovo. ISBN:9951587534

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