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.
“Hybrid Tbilisi. Reflections on Architecture in Georgia”
September 29, 2018 — January 13, 2019
Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM)
Schaumainkai 43, Frankfurt am Main
Almost forgotten, palaces, administrative buildings, churches, and museums built by European architects in the 19th century are falling into disrepair. Next to them stand Soviet-era structures attesting to Stalinist and Constructivist trends, and even hyper late-Soviet formal experiments, such as the Ministry of Highway Construction, a true icon of Soviet Brutalism. In the transition period thereafter, self-built, life- threatening “kamikaze loggias” proliferated on pre-fabricated buildings. Later on, with a new Messiah as president, entire streets were reconstructed, spectacular newbuilds signaling a bright new future. Today, in the era that followed, it is the private investors who rule, building on a grandiose scale. Tbilisi, the small Caucasian would-be European.
CITY WALK – COLLAGES ON THE KURA
In Tbilisi, you quickly find it nigh impossible to track down something that constitutes “typical Georgian architecture.” The appearance of the built environment in the city on the banks of the Kura River is too heterogeneous and contradictory for that. In addition to the medieval churches and the old town with its Oriental influences not to mention the Historicist quarters south of the Kura, one can find almost every significant architectural style of the last 150 years in its original condition in Tbilisi – making the city an inexhaustible trove for travelers with an interest in architecture.
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.