When you land in Tbilisi and then when you travel inside of Georgia couple things are impossible:
1) It is impossible not to be shocked by new modern buildings everywhere, starting with the police station on the way from the airport 2) by the crazy design of petrol stations on the highway to Gori 3) by new buildings in Kutaisi or Batumi. But it is also impossible not to notice old town of Tbilisi falling apart or abandoned ruins of castles when you go into highland regions. Should a country which tries to “rebuild” itself focus more on future or preserving the past? We talk to Eka Odzelashvili, young architect from Tbilisi.
Podróżniccy: If you were to choose what to work on – coming up with ideas for new constructions or working on rebuilding old architecture – what would be your choice?
Eka Odzelashvili: I would gladly do both, but I am not a restorator, and that’s why nowadays I’m creating new projects. Rebuilding old architecture is one of the biggest problems happening in Georgia for the last months, because not all the monuments of architecture were rebuilt properly, and in my opinion it would be better to leave them as they were then to rebuild them badly.
So what are you working on now?
Now I’m doing a project for a contest that is about a recreational complex in Tsavkisi (near Tbilisi). It’s a type of a wellness resort where people from all over the world may get a treatment they need, relax and enjoy the beautiful nature far away from their everyday work and routine.
And in the past?
One of the latest projects was the Akhalkalaki Railway Station which is a joint Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan project that will connect Azerbaijan and Turkey via rail. I worked on it with J.Mayer.H. Architects (Germany). They designed an exterior of the building and our studio worked on interior, architectural plan and more on its technical side. The station is under construction now and is projected to finish in 2013.
How many other new buildings which projects were developed by international architects?
Actually a lot, for the last few years (Since 2003 when the Rose Revolution happened) it was sort of an invasion of foreign architects to Georgia. I’ve already mentioned Juergen Mayer, he has worked here not only on the Akhalkalaki Railway Station but he also worked on Mestia Airport, Mestia Police Station, Rest Stop in Gori, Sarpi Border Checkpoint, Public Service Hall in Mestia and many others.
One of the first foreign architects was Michele de Lucchi, who developed Presidential Palace, the Bridge of Peace in Tbilisi, the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Tbilisi (The one you see on the road from the airport to the city) and Public Service Hall in Batumi.
Another well known architect who worked in Tbilisi is Massimiliano Fuksas. His projects are – Public Service Hall in Tbilisi and a theatre-showroom in Tbilisi Rike Park.
About two months ago the construction of Kutaisi David Aghmashenebeli International Airport was finished and it was designed by well known UNStudio.
The Business Center which belongs to the current Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, was also created by a famous architect Shin Takamatsu in 2008.
How do you think they shape and match the older Georgian architecture?
Well some of them match but some of them unfortunately not. For example the Peace Bridge. There were many discussions about it, whether it fits Old Tbilisi or not, whether it is okay to put such a modern element in ancient surrounding or not. But somehow after the time has passed people got used to it and the bridge also became some kind of a trademark of the city. Same thing happened to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I also got used to it, but I think that this place could have a better bridge, for example like the one that it used to have a century ago. The problem is that all this buildings can definitely be built here, but somehow not the proper places are chosen for them, and I think its a big mistake of these architects. They may be great professionals, they may have wonderful skills, but unfortunately they don’t know Tbilisi, they don’t know which type of architecture it needs. For example Massimiliano Fuksas, used to be one of my favourite architects, till he made a project of a theatre and showroom in Rike Park, which covers the whole view of the old city. That’s why I really wish that we could have more contests on every single building which is being built here, so we could have the right to choose between right or wrong, because trust me there’s no ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ in architecture, it can be only right or wrong.
Which are in your opinion done well?
Well I really like Kutaisi David Aghmashenebeli International Airport by UNStudio. I also like what Juergen Mayer is creating in regions. Unfortunately my truly favorite foreign architects are not presented by projects in Georgia.
Why there is so many building by international architects and not Georgian?
I really don’t know?! I also ask this question all the time! We have so many brilliant architects. And do you know what is their main advantage? They know their country, they know its architecture. That’s it. They know much better what’s good for the city they were born in. And also so many young architects who would gladly take part in every contest if there were more contests.
If you had a chance to design something – where in Georgia would it be? And what?
I would design something closer to the reality but at the same time put a little unique thing in it. For example looking at the residential blocks or “Khruschevkas” as we call them, which were left to us by the Soviet architecture, I always had a dream to bring back an, century-old, spirit of the city to those blocks. In the beginning of the XIX century, during the Russian empire the houses were obliged to look the same and their architecture was neo-classical. But Georgians somehow managed to put their national spirit in it. Some time after balconies started to appear on those cold buildings, wooden balconies with great ornaments, which are now one of the beautiful details in Georgian architecture. So my dream would be to create a skyscraper which would have inner yards on several floors and wooden old-style balconies looking down on them. And just like in many Georgian neighborhoods yards would be noisy with men playing chess or backgammon, children running around and women doing the laundry.
So what will you show us tomorrow while taking care of Phone Around The World?
I’ll somehow try to transfer the spirit of my city through this phone with the help of its camera. And yes, also me and my new buddy (The phone) shouldn’t be late for work tomorrow, where I can show you the projects that i’m working on right now ;)