Prishtina is still a city in transition, recovering from a long period of conflict and the shift to a market economy. The population has increased fast after the war due to the influx of people from the countryside and refugees repatriated from other countries, and the presence of employees of international organisations.
The increase of the demand for housing and offices led to what Vöckler (2008) calls “turbo-urbanism”, which means “unregulated construction, transgressing upon every standard I had been familiar with” (p.7). This construction was done through informal networks linking extended families, the diaspora, and local investors.
The construction frenzy was not restricted by regulations by the emergent national governments and the transitory UN administration. Properties were occupied because there was often no access to land registers, and architects and urban planners were not involved because there the planning documents from the Yugoslavian time were insufficient. In 2000, the director of the city planning agency was shot to death, after signing demolition orders for illegal buildings.
The city soon became overbuilt, as investors tried to get as much usable space out of their lots as possible. This meant building up to the property boundaries and adding up floors until the money ran out. Additions were also made to the sides or top of existing buildings. As shown below, the urban landscape gained unique elements described as “maximum houses” and “houses on roofs”.
Source: Archis Interventions
Streets, public squares, and parks were not improved as this did not contribute to the investors’ profits. There was also a drastic reduction in the space for pedestrians, as the new and extended buildings used previously empty space and took over the pavements.
In the old town, many old buildings were replaced by new high-rise buildings and streets were turned into narrow, one-way lanes, leaving no space for emergency lanes, accesses, parking, or street activity.
Outside the old town, the ground floor of many buildings was also changed in order to create extra commercial space. Due to the scarcity of space, pedestrian pavements are now permanently filled with merchandise, cars, or both. The never-ending construction activities add to these obstructions and contribute to the deterioration of streets and pavements.
Further away, in the hills bordering the centre, gates and doors open directly onto the narrow streets and there is no provision for pedestrians, even in areas that are new or were radically changed.
Elsewhere in Kosovo the situation is not much different, if not worse, as the case below in Ferizaj.
According to Vöckler (2008), the solution for these problems requires re-thinking the dominant concept of comprehensive ‘master plans’ supported by public-private partnerships, because in the case of Pristina, almost every level of society was involved in illegal construction activities. Urban planning in post-conflict cities needs forms of cooperation that take into account the role of local social networks and economic patronage system.
Vöckler, K., Archis Interventions (2008) Prishtina is Everywhere. Turbo Urbanism: the Aftermath of a Crisis. Archis, Amsterdam.