Distinguished architect Lirika Vula Weston: I work to affirm Kosovo's independence in Spain

Translated from a Telegrafi Interview by Lumturije Bekaj on 14.07.2020

Although Spain has not yet recognized the independence of the Republic of Kosovo, Lirika Vula Weston the distinguished architect living and working in Spain continues to contribute in this quest, through her work as well as raising awareness of commendable qualities in Kosovar people as hardworking and freedom-loving peaceful people.

In an interview for the Telegraph, the architect Lirika Vula – Weston, believes that the gratitude from the lord mayor, of Benissa Mr. Abel Cardona, on the evening of the inauguration of the installation 'Skywave', during his speech of thanks, he mentioned in particular that Lirika is Albanian from Kosovo.

She also has a message for Kosovar youth, she encourages them to have strong self-belief and with hard work that they pursue the realization of their ambitions and dreams into reality.

"Whoever has the will, will always find success, no matter where they live or work! ", said in a recent   interview Lirika Vula - Weston, who lives in the town of Benissa, in the Valencian community.

She also talks about the challenges and difficulties from the beginning of her career to her success, mentioning many projects with which Lirika has distinguished herself with her work as an architect in Spain.

The business she runs with her husband, Weston Vula Architects, who is also an architect, has been running since the two met while studying in London.

"The strongest support not only in my professional life but also in everyday life, is the trust that family and society have placed on me. This has been an additional push in the most difficult cases, for me not to give up and work even harder to reach the goal. "As the old Albanian saying goes, ‘every mountain has a downhill and an uphill” ”she said.

Telegrafi: Mrs. Vula-Weston, you are one of the most distinguished architects in Spain, precisely in the city of Benissa, the Valencian community. Tell us a little about your path, challenges, and difficulties from the beginning of your career to your success?

Lirika Vula–Weston: In 1998, while I was studying Architecture, I moved from Kosovo to Great Britain, consequently my studies remained unfinished. It was my long-standing ambition to complete my studies in this field, but for this opportunity I had to wait two more years. I was accepted at the University of Greenwich in London where I subsequently was able to continue my studies and where I completed the first part of my studies in Architecture.

I continued here with my Diploma and finally completed my studies and became registered with Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

In 2001, I returned to Kosovo for a period of six months, a period when I had the opportunity to work in the company of my father, Architect, Rexhep R. Vula. It was a very important experience for me, to understand closely and from another angle the architecture of my hometown which had had a strong influence in me during my childhood years. Among other things, I came to a deeper understanding of my national identity, which represents the axis of my career and which I proudly carry in all my references.

In 2002 I moved to Spain for two years, where I was offered the opportunity to work in the profession and gain more experience on my journey in architecture before returning to the UK for continuing studies in Architecture.

In 2004, while studying, I met Neil my husband and now partner who had come from Spain to the UK to study. We married soon after graduation, and decided to settle in Spain.

Spain from the beginning was easier for me, for the fact that I had previous experience of the culture from my Architectural studies and readings, but this did not include knowledge of the Spanish language. Given the fact that our firm was British and the associates and clients happened to be mainly English, it made communication at the start easier. In the meantime, I started learning Spanish, especially the Valencian (Catalan) dialect, which is often the first language spoken in the region we live in.

Telegrafi: Since you come from a family of architects, how much has this helped you in developing your career?

Lirika Vula–Weston: With an architect father and my mother, Mrs. Feriale Bokshi Vula, who was a teacher, in our house there have always been interesting conversations. It was a combination that nurtured my ambitions, growing in a spirit where art and architecture have always been present.

It was my father whom was the first to encourage me to focus on architecture, something I consider myself lucky for.

Telegrafi: With extraordinary and tireless work you have got to where you are, what has been the greatest difficulty and who and who has helped you the most in achieving this success?

Lirika Vula –Weston: I run the business with my husband Neil, who is also an architect, and whom I met during my studies.

We have formed a great team, we are very supportive of each other and complement each other in terms of the variety of abilities that we each bring to the table. Sometimes I take the lead in design, while Neil takes over the administration, or the other way around, depending on the projects. Also, my father-in-law is an architect, so we have much support from both families to rely on.

This has also worked in our family life, with my husband´s (Neil P. D. Weston) support, we have ensured to incorporate traditions, reading, writing and conversations with our children in the Albanian language. It is not unusual, during our daily life we often hear the term "with mother, we speak in Albanian ".

The strongest support not only in my professional life but also in everyday life, is the trust that family and society have placed on me. This has been an additional push in the most difficult cases, for me not to give up and work even harder to reach the goal. As the old Albanian saying goes, “every mountain has a downhill and an uphill”.

Telegrafi: Have you had any invitations from Kosovo institutions for any possible cooperation, and are you ready to return and contribute to your country of origin?

Lirika Vula–Weston: So far, I have not yet received any invitation from Kosovo institutions. It would be a real pleasure for this to happen! I am always ready to contribute to my birthplace. I hope this will soon become a reality.

Telegrafi: An installation of yours stayed for months in the town of Benissa (Valencian community). Can you tell us more about this project?

Lirika Vula –Weston: The project was titled ‘Skywave’. It was conceived as a single installation, staged for an annual event, but is now remembered by residents as one of the most memorable installations. Such installations are set for one night only. Skywave is still the only installation chosen by the mayor to appear for longer than the night it was designed. It was located opposite the Cathedral of La Marina, and spread organically like a reflective dome in the sky. The 636m2 installation was erected over the town square, illuminating and attracting visitors to see it.

Relying on the famous summer breeze of the city of Benissa, a city located 275m above sea level, the installation was light in weight but resistant to weather and fire, which were the primary requirements to ensure the safety of more than 6000 people who gathered under the Skywave during the Fiesta (celebrations).

Telegrafi: What are your current projects and those you have on your work agenda for the coming months?

Lirika Vula –Weston: We are working on many projects. One to mention would be a project in the city of Valencia, which deals with complete renovation of an apartment in a listed a protected building in the old town, from its’ dated and basic state to a modern and eco-friendly apartment.

This enables me to preserve the history, identity, tradition of architecture, and at the same time incorporate the eco-friendly and functional side of architecture in life today.

Other projects include: Design and construction of a modern four storey residential block including a commercial floor along with a swimming pool. Then, building a family home within the town (in the historic part), extending an existing house by the sea and much more.

We also take part in competitions at RIBA with the most recent on "How to live in the future after the pandemic", where we presented some ideas about 'living in isolation' that is crucial at the moment.

Telegrafi: What is your collaboration with the Albanian community living and working in Spain?

Lirika Vula–Weston: Unfortunately, where I live with my family is far from the big cities, where Albanian communities are usually more active. However, there have been times when I have been involved in helping newcomers, with country contacts, etc., and I never hesitate to assist. Also, due to family ties and friendships from living in London, I am also active with the Albanian community there.

Telegrafi: How much has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your life and work, as Spain has been rated in the red circle, just behind Italy and the UK, in terms of those affected by the coronavirus?

Lirika Vula -Weston: The pandemic has undoubtedly affected everyone, we have not been an exception. On March 12, we were informed that from March 16, we would be living in isolation, something quite unbelievable to imagine only a few days before. On March 8 we celebrated my birthday at a concert in the town square together with 3 thousand people, without any worries! No one would guessed on that day that we would be in quarantine for the next 2 months!

During the isolation, at first, most architectural and construction projects continued but by April due to a shortage on building materials all projects were stopped. From the issue of supply of construction materials to funds being paused by concerned of investors.

Only recently, the "new normal" life has begun under a pandemic, where work is still only progressing slowly.

Telegrafi: Social isolation is another concern during the pandemic in question, how did you get through this phase of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Lirika Vula–Weston: Usually my social life and that of my family is very active, and in the first days of isolation, without social obligations, being at home with family was a real pleasure. After we finished all the board games, watched a lot of movies, preoccupied ourselves with the news, gained weight, etc… the concern about the expanse of the spread of the global pandemic, took effect. To keep our mind from constantly being concerned with the pandemic, we decided to behave as if we are not obliged to stay at home, but because we chose to.

To get away from this monotonous situation, one of the few projects I carried out was to finish the interior of our office with the installation which I have named the Hive as it resembles a bee hive, using over 2 thousand recyclable tubes which are fixed to the ceiling and combined with a lighting finish. The use of recycled cardboard was intentional for ecological reasons, something that we constantly rely on and try wherever possible to use recycled materials, and give the material a functional and environmentally sustainable life, without sacrificing the design or beautiful scenery in the process.

The decision not to treat or paint the tubes in any way underscores our preference for the organic and natural state of the material we use. We wanted to show that shape, depth, contrast and beauty can be expressed without relying on unnecessary applications, which can change the natural shade and highlights created in pipes and trees by natural light.

The purpose of the Hive office design was to create a functional environment that tells the story of our passions, interests and ethics towards work and the environment. We wanted it to be wonderful in design, through originality, and to be an intriguing ‘icebreaker’ in conversation giving us the opportunity to communicate these important values that we hold as individuals and architects.

Telegrafi: Asa successful Albanian in the state of Spain, a country that has not yet recognized the independence of Kosovo, what is your message to young people from Kosovo?

Lirika Vula–Weston: It is true that Spain has not yet recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Indeed, Spain has supported Kosovo until the day it declared independence, and for domestic political reasons that Spain has, where some regions want independence from Spain - as in the case of Cataluña and the Basque region, Spain does not support The "independence" of other regions in Europe. The Spanish Parliament thinks that Kosovo has not gone through regular channels of justice and European rules, and as such could initiate chaos in the state of Spain.

I continue to work and affirm the independence of Kosovo in Spain through my work and to introduce my people, as I know them, a hardworking and freedom-loving people. I believe that the gratitude from the mayor, Mr. Abel Cardona, on the evening of the inauguration of the installation 'Skywave', where during his speech of thanks, he mentioned in particular that I am Albanian from Kosovo.

My message to Kosovar youth is to have a strong self-belief and with hard work that they pursue the realization of their ambitions and dreams into reality.

Even when faced with many difficulties, do not give up but persevere until you reach your goals. He who has the will, will always find success, no matter where he lives or works! /Telegrafi/Lumturije Bekaj/