After World War II there was considerable activity in the area of cultural heritage in Albania. The work involved with research, documentation, conservation and restoration of cultural heritage is already well known and publicised.

In the whole range of Albanian cultural heritage, vernacular architecture is a particular genre, almost exclusively represented by domestic residences. There are two main groups of this type of building: rural houses and urban houses. They possess significant value, at both the Balkan regional level and on a European scale.

In effect, the historical situation in Albania has favoured the setting-up of regional economies since the beginning of the 20th century, characterised by self-sufficiency and slow development over several decades. As a result, the country retained a wide and varied range of regional and traditional architecture. The Albanian government, aware of the unquestionable value of traditional architecture, has worked from the 1960s to select the most representative examples of this architecture and to has undertaken where possible to place them under the protection of the State, using criteria of typology and authenticity.

This systematic work of maintenance and restoration has been advanced from the 1990s by placing rural habitation sites under the protection of the State (that is to say, classified as ‘cultural monuments’). Around 70% of these listings have been restored in accordance with contemporary standards. The carefully prepared documentation and research has resulted in the collation of a considerable amount of valuable information.

In the 1990s, following the establishment of democracy in Albania, efforts towards the conservation and economic development of vernacular architecture have continued - however, despite all this attention, it has diminished in a drastic way. Systematic conservation and restoration has been suspended in the course of the last 10 years. Taking into account the fragility of the material and the techniques of rural habitations, their age, and the way in which their owners have tended to transform and adapt them to cope with new living conditions, we are obliged to admit that these monuments risk becoming either totally altered or destroyed.

These buildings have unique value and constitute an authentic testimony of European cultural heritage. We believe that by outlining the risks in this report on Albanian vernacular architecture, we can contribute in a decisive way to the safeguarding of our heritage. We are equally confident that Albanian specialists possess the professional competencies and the necessary experience to confront prospective scientific or technical problems in the protection of these monuments.

ICOMOS Albania