Together with renowned Georgians, the various levels of this contradictory city are explored at a particular stage of a transformation that oscillates geographically and intellectually between Europa, Russia, Turkey and the Arab states, between East and West, between the 19th century, the Soviet Union, and an optimistic 21st century. With its feverish urban construction activity and its wild night life, the city is attracting international attention.
Modern boutique hotels opposite decaying Art Nouveau buildings,
improvised single-family homes behind new apartment towers,
abandoned vast parking garages from the Soviet era – there are
just a few of the endless possibilities to discover something
new around every corner. Yet a glance at the details also
reveals a cosmos of its own time and again. There are plenty of
surprises in store behind historical front doors. The ubiquitous
will to create something individual, which one can discern among
the residents, is particularly impressive. No two buildings are
alike, and there are no uniform appearances or colors – possibly
an obvious reaction to the decades of Soviet socialist urban
planning for the new man that still characterizes the city’s
peripheral districts to this day.
Large/small, old/new, spacious/compact, rich/poor, tall/low,
straight/slanted, modern/historical, steep/flat, colorful/gray –
these are not pairs of opposites, but adjectives that describe
the buzzing, fascinating and eclectic impression that Tbilisi
makes on its visitors. Hybrid Tbilisi, indeed
The historical, political and building developement of Tblisi
The history of Tbilisi until 1920 Legend has it that King
Vakhtang Gorgasali came hunting in the area and shot a
pheasant.The bird fell into a hot spring and was boiled.
Thereupon, the king decreed that on the spot a town be built,
which he named “Tbilisi”, meaning “warm” in Georgian. This
occurred in the year 458 CE. Tbilisi has had a town charter ever
since, and in the late 5th century became the capital of the
east Georgian kingdom.
Tbilisi has experienced much suffering in its eventful history – alongside Armenia, Georgia is an enclave of Christianity in a part of the world dominated by Islam. For centuries it was pillaged and burnt to the ground by belligerent neighbors. From the 6th to the 11th century these were the Sassanids, Byzantines, Arabs and Seljuks. The 12th century became Georgia’s “Golden Era”. From the 14th to the 18th century the country was laid waste in forays by the Mongols, Ottomans, and Safavids. This is why there are no civil buildings built before 1790 left standing in Tbilisi.
In its need, in the 18th century the Georgian nation sought protection from its powerful Christian neighbor Russia. In 1801, the Georgian kingdom was incorporated into the Russian Empire – Tbilisi became the capital of the Caucasian protectorate. Hotels and banks replaced the old residences and caravanserais. Baroque merchants’ villas were built ever higher up the slopes of Sololaki Hill. After the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917 Georgia declared its independence on May 26, 1918.
The period of transition: 1990 until 2003 The late 1980s, when the Soviet Union was breaking up, saw the beginning of Georgia’s most difficult period. Demonstrations and rallies were part of everyday life. Rustaveli Avenue became the place for political ambitions and euphoric passion. On April 9, 1991, on the basis of a referendum, formally announced its exit from the USSR and the independence of the Republic of Georgia. At the turn of the year 1991-92 there were civil war-like conflicts in Tbilisi. What was known as the “Christmas War” between supporters of President Zviad Gamsakhurdia and the National Guard lasted almost two weeks. As a consequence of the dramatic events the reconstruction of Rustaveli Avenue and Freedom Square was due, an enormous challenge for Georgian architects. Following the declaration of independence, urban development has been dominated by the mechanisms of private investors and a market economy. Municipal apartments were transferred to the tenants as private property, extensions were added without planning permission, the so-called “kamikaze loggias”. The authorities no longer conducted any major measures to improve living situation of the city’s inhabitants. Satellite towns and pre-fabricated buildings fell into disrepair. While the 2003 “Rose Revolution” ultimately was supposed to bring to an end the Mafia-like cronyism in politics, it did so only to create a new form of it.
Urban development: 2000 until 2018 At the beginning of the new
millennium a private construction industry emerged that first
and oremost served the needs of the aspiring upper middle class,
but also initiated various projects hinging on property
speculation. Housing became investments that served profit
maximization.The predominant type of structure built as a result,
with the trend towards monumental edifices in Tbilisi, was
multi-purpose high-rise complexes, where offices, hotels,
fitness centers, casinos and clubs were all grouped together
under one roof, like in New York. The structures (Biltmore
Hotel, Axis Towers) were often over-sized and led to a reshaping
of the homogeneous cityscape. What is meant by New Style in
Georgia seems to be dictated by the capitalist world that is new
to the country; high-end residential complexes stretch to the
very limits of the land they are on. The multi-purpose
“Rustaveli Residence” in downtown Tbilisi, which was
commissioned in 2012, and recent Chinese construction projects
such as “Hualing. Tbilisi Sea New City” demonstrate interest
global players have in investing here. As does the Museum of
Fine Arts, which serves as an exhibition venue, lifestyle center,
and hotel at one and the same time, a hybrid cultural machine,
which unites art and commerce.
Refurbishment of the old town: 2011-12 At the suggestion of the national ICOMOS committee, in 1999 Georgia proposed that the old town of Tbilisi be inscribed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List in a drive to generate global interest in the fate of the city. The old town dates from the 19th century. Narrow alleys, buildings with open verandas and beautifully carved wooden balconies, not to mention a number of old edifices, make for a picturesque sight. Old buildings hang like grapes from the cliffs above River Kura (Mtkvari). Initial restoration of the old town took place in the late 1970s and embraced Baratashvili Street and the surroundings. The project received strong public funding. The second stage from 2011-2 under President Saakashvili saw the elaborate comprehensive renovation of the Kala district and Abanotubani. Entire districts (Marjanishvili) and boulevards (Aghmashenebeli Avenue) dating from the 19th century were radically recreated with replicas of historical buildings and a focus on facades. As of 2012, the new government initially continued the trend, but of late a change would appear to be looming. Much of what survived and accounted for the unique flair is now falling victim to gentrification or unprofessional restoration. The next generation Hybrid Tbilisi introduces a new generation of Georgian architects and designers and as examples presents four positions: Nikoloz Sebiskveradze and Dimitri Elikashvili from Sebo & Dito Studio, Nikoloz Japaridze from Architects of Invention, Giorgi Khmaladze Architects, as well as Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia from Rooms. They studied at the Tbilisi Art Academy, at Delft, Paris, and Harvard Universities, and did a doctorate in Moscow. Despite their young age these architects and designers have long since been internationally renowned. Their buildings are defined by diverse influences. Their spaces combine a 1930s western atmosphere with the charm of old Tbilisi. And not least of all, their interiors represent a “Georgian” blend of Asian and European elements – indeed, Hybrid Tbilisi.
ENRICHING BOOKS AND BUILDINGS: NEW PUBLICATIONS ON ARCHITECTURE IN GEORGIA
Symposium with DOM publishers
GEORGIAN FILM EVENING
GEORGIAN ARCHITECTURE EVENING
FILM EVENING IN COOPERATION WITH ALLERWELTSKINO E.V. KÖLN
DAM AS GUEST AT UAA
Director Peter Cachola Schmal Deputy Director Andrea Jürges Curators Peter Cachola Schmal, Irina Kurtishvili Exhibition Design Mario Lorenz, Laura Risse, Katrin Mueller – Deserve, Wiesbaden Press and Public Relations Brita Köhler, Rebekka Rass Education Curator Christina Budde with Bettina Gebhardt, Arne Winkelmann Registrar Wolfgang Welker Head of Archives Inge Wolf Library Christiane Eulig Director’s Office Inka Plechaty Administration Jacqueline Brauer Installation Team Marina Barry, Paolo Brunino, Ulrich Diekmann, Enrico Hirsekorn, Caroline Krause, Ömer Simsek, Beate Voigt, Gerhard Winkler under the direction of Christian Walter Museum Technician Joachim Müller-Rahn Printing of the Exhibition Panels inditec GmbH, Bad Camberg Translations Jeremy Gaines (German, English), Tamuna Gurtschiani (Georgian) Editing Wolfgang Till Busse (German), Tea Tvalavadze (Georgian) Photographers i.a. Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk, Mario Lorenz, Peter Cachola Schmal, Sandro Sulaberidze, Irina Kurtishvili, Jesko Johnnson-Zahn, Achim Riechers, Guram Kapanadze, Marcus Buck, Tobias Hein, Louisa Chalatashvili, Dimitri Kavtaradze Guided Tours Yorck Förster Archives
Oktober 4, 2018