Tourism as propaganda

on-air, research

Albanian touristic development from 1944 to the regime fall

The People’s Socialist Republic of Albania was established in 1944 and it officially lasted until March 1992, year of the first democratic elections. During these fifty years, the country has been ruled by a Marxists-Leninist government, which deeply transformed and affected local communities, history, culture and territories.

Tourism played an important political role both at international and national scale, meant as a proper tool of propaganda. Indeed, tourism was strategically used for showing abroad the wonderful values of the socialist society, while it actually acted as discriminatory factor for local communities, generating class inequalities. Who could travel and who could not was strictly regulated by politicians and members of the socialist party, which had full control over the entire population.

Hotel Adriatik in Durrës. A touristic complex of five buildings on the beach at the city entrance, designed for foreigners and heads of socialist party (source: Albturist, 1958)

So, while entire delegations of tourists belonging to other Soviet countries were invited to travel in the country and to discover its landscapes and historical heritage – always under the control of local guides and following decided and precise paths-, the local communities were obliged to spend their holidays in working camps, generally located in the interior. Holidays were regulated according to the typology of job of family members, age, sex, education and, obviously, loyalty to the party.

On one hand, “tourism for foreigners” led to the construction of a proper utopia, where tourists were experiencing a reality far away from the actual: luxury hotels on the beach of Durrës, exclusive resorts along the Albanian Riviera, etc. In this way, socialist party aimed to show the world, both allies and enemies, the beauties of the country end the positive effects of their socialist government.

On the other hand, tourism for local Albanian society represented a vital factor for building a collective identity and it was mainly conceived as “domestic”. Visits to borders were discouraged, trips abroad were limited or simply disallowed, but in the meanwhile a touristic mass phenomenon was taking place within the country.

Map of the Albturist touristic structures and itineraries (source: Hall, 1984: 545)

Socialist tourism of propaganda represents an interesting study case because it somehow controlled the explosion of mass tourism typical of 60s-70s in many Mediterranean countries and preserved the natural and cultural landscapes. Tourism activities promoted can be considered as avant-garde of contemporary “eco-sustainable tourism”. As the anthropologist Vietti stated, socialist tourism has never sponsored individual departures for merely seaside stays, but collective experiences strongly linked to nature and mainly comprising moments of relaxation in special tourist-health facilities and open-air excursions, on foot, by bicycle, by boat.

Without putting aside the inequalities generated, it is worth to notice that socialist tourism promoted a territorial development tourism model which is unique and let Albanian landscapes arrive preserved until last two decades.

The research Tourism as propaganda: Albanian touristic development from 1944 to the regime fall has been selected for the collaborative project titled “Leisurescapes: Architectures and Landscapes of Tourism in the Global Sun Belt, 1945-1980″ in May 2020.

“Leisurescapes” is a research framework launched by the Mesarch Lab, University of Cyprus that currently hosts ongoing research projects co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Republic of Cyprus through the Cyprus’ Research and Innovation Foundation. More information available here.

Why do we stare at animals?

lecture, research

Zoo \ ˈzü \ – a facility with usually indoor and outdoor settings where living, typically wild animals are kept especially for public exhibition.
— called also zoological garden, zoological park (from the Merriam-Webster dictionary)

In 2020, many European cities are still famous for their zoological gardens and parks, from the oldest one of Western countries in Vienna, to the famous Berlin’s zoo with the world’s largest variety of species, passing from Lisbon, London, Hamburg, Paris, Madrid and Belgrade – among others.

The zoo of Adam and Eve / collage by Enrico Porfido and Claudia Sani

Zoological gardens were born as places for staging nature, especially when coming from exotic realities and far away countries, but also for education and science.

From the Persian paradeisos to the English menageries and the travelling fairs which crossed Europe in the XIX century, both western and eastern culture share the custom of gathering rare animals for curiosity and knowledge, and also to show power and to entertain. Finally, in the XIX century, they settled down in form of zoologic gardens. Born as proper institutions, they aimed at scientific research, not anymore to wonder, but capitalism and the urgent need of economic support drastically transformed them in thematic parks.

A contemporary collection / collage by Enrico Porfido and Claudia Sani

But today, in 2020, do we still need zoos to explore the animals’ worlds for educational and research purpose? In a century in which massive tourism transformed the distance perception, do we still need them to travel to the exotic?

The city of Belgrade hosts the “Garden of Good Hope”, which sounds like a great name for a place where animals live still in captivity. Which is its contribution to the city, local community, tourism and economy? Let’s walk it together and let’s discuss about a new concept of zoo, trying to reinterpret and revitalize this public heritage and to update it to our contemporary society. And us, do we really still need to go to the zoo and stare at the animals?

Why do we stare at animals? / collage by Enrico Porfido and Claudia Sani

“THE GARDEN OF GOOD HOPE or why do we stare at animals?” is a Urban Talk organised by BINA – Belgrade International Architecture Week 2020 in collaboration with Future Architecture Platform and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The lecture is scheduled for the 4th September 2020 at the Cultural Center in Belgrade, but due to COVID-19 restrictions it may suffer some changes.

STAGED NATURE · Zoo of zoos

design, research

“Staged Nature – Zoo of Zoos” offers an opportunity to reflect on the role of the zoos and zoological gardens on our contemporary cities, with a special focus on the Lisbon Zoo the oldest in the Iberian Peninsula.

The zoo originally was located in the Parque de S. Sebastião – where today are Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation headquarters – and later transferred to Quinta das Laranjeiras (1905), with the project of the Portuguese architect Raul Lino built between 1935 and 1972.

“Staged Nature” by pais(vi)agem and Mies. TV

Through a continuous chronological parallelism between past-present-future – which will become the fil rouge that joins all the elements of the virtual exhibition – the idea is to understand how this specific typology evolved into the current century and to answer the main questions: Is there a reason to still have zoos in 2020? Which are the new components and necessities of staging the nature in an urban environment?

The chronological tool lays a fundamental role in creating a narrative which connects the past (the architect’s original project), the present (current tendencies and perspective of various key figures involved) and future (which are the possibilities of regeneration for tomorrow). During the entire expo, we will fluctuate continuously between these three spheres of time in order to offer different views on the same architectural space.

The Lisbon Zoo project map by the architect Raul Lino / courtesy of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation

“Staged Nature – Zoos of Zoos” is a virtual exhibition curated by Enrico Porfido and Claudia Sani – país(vi)agem – with Arian Lehner and Theresa Margraf – Mies.TV. The projects aims to fulfill three main objectives through visual displaying:

· PAST / Valorizing the architecture of Raul Lino with a selection of his drawings of the Lisbon zoo from the archive of Gulbenkian Art Library.
· PRESENT / Understanding the status quo and diverse views of people related to the zoo with a series of targeted interviews, generating debate and thoughts.
· FUTURE / Based on the interviews’ results, to draw future scenarios.

The exhibition will be inaugurated in October 2020. More information are available here.

The virtual exhibition “Staged Nature – Zoos of Zoos” is curated by Enrico Porfido and Claudia Sani – pais(vi)agem – and Arian Lehner and Theresa Margarf – @miestvcom. This is an initiative of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation as a member of the Future Architecture Platform, a project co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

Notes about spontaneity in tourism architecture


The ownership of a second home or an apartment on the beach or in the mountains is a luxury; it does not answer a fundamental human need. Touristic architecture has always been considered secondary, due to its connotation as “unnecessary”. This simplistic idea means that very little attention has ever been paid to re- search on typologies and development of touristic architectures.

Since late 70s, however, the boom in mass tourism has made “travelling” into a primary human need. It is only now that we have started to understand the impacts and consequences of our lack of attention and to notice that it has strongly affected the evolution of touristic architecture, both morphologically and territorially.

“Economic aspects of tourist planning” by Jacinto Ros Hombravella, published in Quaderns 64/1966 – “Unresolved problems on the second-home market” by Emili Gasch, published in Quaderns 98/1973.
More articles of Quaderns are available here.

Spontaneity in touristic architecture can be analysed in two main ways: first on the territorial scale, examining the foundation process of the first touristic cities, and second by focusing on the spatial appropriation possibilities, taking the “campsite” as a touristic architecture typology. We can therefore express spontaneity on two different scales, urban and architectonic, both strongly influenced by the seasonal and temporary nature of tourism.

“What a great idea we had this year, right?” – he said looking at his friend who was trying to organize the pieces of an unsolvable puzzle. The other guy stared at him and went back to the car to pick up something. It was their first holiday in a campsite and the brand new tent seemed like something impossible to build. The pitch was 5×5 meters big and the two-person tent looked so small. They put it under the tree in hopes of not waking up at 6am to the morning sun. Everybody around them seemed so organized. The family in front had a big four-person tent, a table with six chairs and a couple of hammocks where their kids were swinging all day. At their right, a young couple was showing off with a new kitchen-tent equipped also with a mini-fridge, while the left neighbours were already lighting the barbecue and the smell of sausages was spreading quickly all around the campground. Walking on the main path allowed them to see the private lives of so many different people, all focused on trying to reproduce a domestic atmosphere. “Can you image that in a few weeks the summer will end and this small city will disappear forever? – Said the first guy – Some people might come back next year, with new equipment and gadgets. Although they will re-build their temporary home, the complex will never appear the same as the previous year. It’s like going to a different place every time but without changing your destination”. The other one smiled and said “So poetic, darling, but no. Not anymore do-it-yourself holidays. It’s a week that our tent is continuously falling down during the night. It’s definitely not our cup of tea!” 

When we compare the residential architecture of the industrial city with its contemporary touristic architecture, the spontaneous character appears to have undergone a completely different morphological evolution. And, from a territorial point of view, touristic architecture has had devastating effects on the landscape, especially in coastal areas.

Notes about spontaneity in tourism architectures – authored by Enrico Porfido and Ricard Pié – is part of a broader research conducted by Giuseppe Resta and Fabio Cappello, editors of the book “SPONTANEOUS – DO IT YOURSELF DOMESTICITY” published by Libria in 2018. The book is available for purchasing here.

Cover pictures by Fabiana Dicuonzo.

The Riviera perspective


Throughout the last decade Albania has been claiming its spot in the Mediterranean touristic panorama. Tourism represents one of the main challenges and greatest opportunities for the country, due to its fast and positive impact on the economy countrywide but the risks of local natural resources being exploited are high.

Due to such development, a significant part of the dissertation focuses on the creation of a solid state of art observed from three points of view: tourism geography, the history of tourism and economy. The dissertation in fact provides a complete overview on the evolution of tourism over the last century, the contextualization of Albania’s specific case on a worldwide geographic scale and a reflection of the impact tourism has on the national economy.

Visual timeline of the images used for promoting Albania. (i) Sketches of Kruja’s landscape by Edward Lear, 1898. Source: Destani (2008); (ii) Picture of a bridge in Shkodër, used to promote tourism during the 1930s. Source: Disho (1937); (iii) Cover of the tourism magazine DRINI – rivista mensile del turismo albanese (1942); (iv) Beach of Durrës in 1960s. Source: Albturist (1958); (v) Photo of everyday life in an Albanian town accompanying article on tourism in the magazine Europe, 1989. Source: Liebe (1989); (vi) Frame of the promotional video “Albania: Go Your Own Way”. Source: R&T Advertising (2015)

This research aims to explore the relationship between landscape and tourism in coastal regions, addressing the overall research question concerning the possibility of defining a tourism model that positively impacts southern Albania’s coastal landscapes. Therefore, the theoretical framework ranges from tourism models to landscape and ecology theories. The most well-known tourism models – chosen for their similarities to the main case study in terms of scale and resources – are presented and analyzed so as to settle the basis for the design of a new one.

The “bubble model” proposed for the Albanian Riviera / elaborated by Enrico Porfido

At first, southern Albania’s touristic landscapes and spaces – in terms of quality and impact of tourism – were analyzed to frame their evolution and single out critical issues. Upon making comparisons with other Mediterranean cases it was seen that they supported the choices made in the final part, in which a “bubble model” is described and transferred from theory to practice with the proposal of a Riviera Protected Landscape Park establishment. The conclusion provides input for further research and opens up a discussion about the need to re-interpret the concept of conservation and protection.


Porfido, E. (2019) From the Grand Tour to Social Media: The metamorphosis of touristic landscapes representation in the case of Albania. In Pié et al (2019) “Turismo y Paisaje” (96-109). Valencia: Tirant humanidades. · download

Porfido, E. (2019 – in press) Landscape Parks as protection, valorization and territory promotion devices. The case of the Albanian Riviera and the “bubble” model. In the proceedings of the national conference “XXII Conferenza Nazionale Società Urbanisti Italiani”. Planum Publisher: Bari, 5-7 June 2019.

Porfido, E. (2018) Tourism for Landscape / the new Seman National Natural Reserve. Tourism and protected areas as possible combination for territorial development, protection and valorisation. In: “When a river flows into the sea: the central role of Albania in the Adriatic-Ionian region” (156-165). POLIS press: Tirana. · download

Niented, P.; Porfido, E., Ciro, A. (2018) Sustainable tourism development in Albania in times of liquid modernity. In Cavicchi, A. (2018) “Enhancing sustainable tourism in Adriatic-Ionian region through co-creation: the role of universities and public-private partnerships.” (73-91) Edizioni Università di Macerata: Macerata. · download

Porfido, E. (2017) Tourism as Economic Resource for Protecting the Landscape: Introducing Touristic Initiatives in Protected Areas of Albania. In the proceedings of the international conference “AESOP Annual Congress 2017 – Space of dialog for places of dignity. Fostering the European Dimension of Planning” (2141-2147). Lisbona, 11-14, July 2017. · download

Rossi, L., Pedata, L., Porfido, E., Resta, G. (2017) Between LAND and WATER. Fragile edges and floating strategies along the Albanian coastline. The Plan Journal, Volume 2/2017 – Issue 2, Pagg: 685-705. · download

“From isolation to ‘pleasure periphery’: the Riviera perspective. A tourism model for South Albania’s coastal landscapes” is the PhD thesis in Landscape Architecture authored by Enrico Porfido and tutored by Luca Emanueli – Ferrara University, Besnik Aliaj – POLIS University and the external expert Ricard Pié – UPC Barcelona.

The PhD thesis was defended in 2019 in the framework of the IDAUP – International Doctorate in Architecture and Urban Planning program of Ferrara University and POLIS University. More information are available here.

PAIS(VI)AGEM · guidelines for Guaraqueçaba Bay

design, research

Tourism and landscape form part of an interactive binomial of dependence: there is no tourist development without a landscape; it also seems that landscapes, especially those called cultural landscapes, need tourism as an economic activity to be sustained (Goula, Spanou and Perez Rumpler, 2012 · download).

Pais(vi)agem aims to introduce the ecotourism concept in the norther area of Paranà State in Brazil – the Guaraqueçaba bay – working at two different scales, from the territory to the architectonic objects. Pais(vi)agem transfers the Lerner’s Urban Acupuncture theory to the landscape, through small-size interventions on natural landscapes that influences the whole territory.

The waterfront of Guaraqueçaba / pictures by Enrico Porfido, Claudia Sani and Elsa Montecchi

The project gives a structure to the existing touristic system, integrating and enhancing this spontaneous cluster. Guaraqueçaba becomes a natural-sportive-scientific hub around which natural hotspots gravitate. It provides the main touristic services – accommodation, restaurants, infrastructures, etc – since it is better linked with the region, while the hotspots are one-day destinations.

The cluster strategy avoids the worthless construction of infrastructures, promoting no-carbon emission transportation solutions (as kayak, bike, sailing boat), and it controls the touristic fluxes, protecting and valorising the natural heritage. Funds saved are re-invested in territorial promotion, protection, valorisation and formation in order to make citizens aware of their own territory value.

Tourism cluster connections in the Bay of Guaraqueçaba / designed by Claudia Sani and Enrico Porfido

Guaraqueçaba Square design is the main project intervention in order to transform the city in the network activator centre. The project is a simple addition to the existing waterfront of a wooden platform that re-draw the coastline both in terms of shape and functions. The pier becomes the fundamental link between land and sea. 

The new city asset / drawing by Claudia Sani and Enrico Porfido

The acupuncture interventions around the bay are entirely designed in wood and built according to traditional techniques for emphasizing the strong relation with the territory. They create a new landscape from the existing one. The four typologies differ in approach to the coastline, but are generated by the same module 2x2m.

The walk among mangroves allows to appreciate the coastline variation from close-by, driving the tourist to cross the threes branches. The bird-watching tower instead offers a panoramic view and permit to enjoy it from its top. The dolphins observation platform turns upside down the ordinary viewpoint, forcing the observant to watch the landscape from the water. The sambaquis barrier joins two functions, protecting the archeological heritage and disclosing it to the surrounding giving the possibility to stand close and contemplate it.

The micro-architectures designed with local materials / designed by Claudia Sani and Enrico Porfido

Pais(vi)agem deals with sustainability not only in terms of technological solutions and flexibility, but also social impact on communities. The local materials use and the idea of recovering the traditional techniques are functional to a formative process addressed to the bay citizens. Pais(vi)agem promotes a sustainable approach in the touristic process in order to emphasize its action on landscape and communities. The installation of the micro-architectures around the bay want to start an awareness process about territorial identity for proving that it is a “common heritage” that needs to be both preserved and enjoyed.



Porfido, E. & Sani, C. (2018) PAIS(VI)AGEM – Tourism as opportunity for valorisation and protection of natural and cultural landscapes in the Bay of Guaraqueçaba, Brazil. Paesaggio Urbano, Volume 3/2018 (60-67). Rimini: Maggioli Editore. · download

“PAIS(VI)AGEM Tourism, infrastructures and natural heritage: guidelines for Guaraqueçaba Bay regeneration, Paranà, Brazil” is the Master Thesis in Architecture by Claudia Sani and Enrico Porfido, tutored by Luca Emanueli, Alessandro Cambi – Ferrara University – and Marta Gabardo – PUCPR Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná, Curitiba. The thesis was defended in March 2015 at Ferrara University.