Shortlist for Butrint National Park Visitor Center International Design Competition Announced

Open call to design a new visitor center for Albania’s chief cultural attraction elicits strong international response

Butrint National Park Epirot Theater in the ancient city Albanian American Development Foundation
© Albanian-American Development Foundation

The Butrint Management Foundation (BMF) today [13 December 2022] revealed the four teams who will compete to design a new visitor center for Butrint National Park, an exceptional UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) on Albania’s Ionian coastline.

The four finalist teams are (in alphabetical order by team lead):

  • Kengo Kuma & Associates (Japan) with CHwB Albania, YOKE, Esmeralda Agolli, Ervin Paci, SOLARON Albania, iMEPS Engineering & Consulting, and R-Team Engineering
  • Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects (Finland) with Geometria Architecture, doxiadis+, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Giorgos Papazafiriou, and Sitowise
  • Philippe PROST / AAPP (France) with Michel Desvigne Paysagiste, William Van Andringa, Terrell Group, ECO + CONSTRUIRE, and CL Design
  • William Matthews Associates (UK) with Barker Langham, Harris Bugg Studio, Structure Workshop, and Atelier Ten

The finalists were the unanimous choice of a Shortlisting Panel, which included the Ministry of Culture, AADF, BMF, jury members, and competition organizers Malcolm Reading Consultants (MRC).

These architect-led teams (see biographies below) will now create concept designs. The brief is for a carbon-neutral visitor center that perfectly relates to the inspirational cultural and natural setting, and that has charismatic yet practical architecture.

The new center is intended to be a gateway to the wider National Park as well as help the BMF better manage rising visitor numbers for the WHS focused on the ancient city of Butrint, which is recognized as Albania’s chief cultural attraction.

Elva Margariti, Minister of Culture and Chair of the Butrint Management Foundation, said:

‘We were delighted with the international response to our competition, teams entered from 17 countries and viewers from more than a hundred visited the website.
‘Butrint attracted an extremely strong field of designers. We would like to thank all the competitors for their interest in the project.
‘After so much planning, it is exciting to now move to the competition’s next stage. We are focused on selecting a winner who will create an architectural exemplar, a unique statement for the site, and Albania.’

Malcolm Reading, Competition Director, said:

‘This is a fascinating shortlist, a unique mix of renowned architects.
‘These practices have achieved national landmarks and won significant awards. The connecting thread is their sensitivity… both in responding to a setting and producing resonant design.’

The new center will welcome and orient visitors and serve as an educational forum and community-gathering place, as well as a regional hub for other nearby natural and cultural visitor attractions.

Proposed designs must respect the WHS and Outstanding Universal Values as well as the wider National Park, being sympathetic to the landscape and built cultural heritage.

Located in the south of the country, approximately 20 kilometers from the modern city of Sarandë and overlooking the Straits of Corfu, Butrint is the most significant archaeological site in Albania.

Recognized for millennia as an inspirational place, Butrint has exceptional cultural resonance, and visual appeal, which comes from its rare combination of monuments within an unspoilt and spectacular natural setting.

The site’s highlights include an ancient Epirot Theater, Roman Forum and an early Byzantine Baptistery with a well-preserved mosaic pavement, along with other monuments dating from the Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine, Angevin, Venetian and Ottoman periods.

The wider National Park is endowed with hills, lakes, wetlands, salt marshes, plains, reed beds and coastal islands. An Integrated Management Plan to safeguard the site and promote sustainable community-based and environmentally-sensitive tourism was approved by the Government of Albania in July 2020.

The finalists will visit the site in early 2023. The winning team will be required to include an architect licensed in Albania as part of the design team for the project. This firm’s license must cover design works related to archaeological sites. Each finalist team will receive an honorarium of USD $10,000 for their concept design.

The anonymous competition submissions will be judged by a jury of local and international experts, including representatives from the Butrint Management Foundation.

Full details of the competition, including the jury, are available on the dedicated competition website at

The new visitor center is due to open in September 2025.