I went to a talk at the British Georgian Society in London about the architectural heritage of Tbilisi. Ecommos Georgia organisation is a French restoration NGO working for architectural preservation and is lobbying against the loss of the architecture heritage and town plan. They argue it is destroying the spatial coherence of city.
Many different architectural examples were spoken of in the talk. Islamic aspects, Neoclassical baroque aspects, Art nouveau aspects in some areas. The city’s orientation looking to east and to west, the medieval old city where from every point it used to be possible to see the church on the mountain.
A Cobble stone side elevation was displayed showing the ancient foundations of houses which are now ruthlessly being dug up and replaced with concrete. The traditional overhanging balconies are being replaced with cheaper versions, faster to construct.
The traditional old Italian courtyards that open onto the street are an example of the unique space created by Tbilisi architecture for the inhabitants which challenges public and private space and the subterranean space of the cellar traditional used for storing wine.
There is a complete lack of awareness of the psychological space of the city and of the architecture, that you might read about, for example in Gaston Bachellards' Poetics of Space book.
There was a strong Psychogeographical element. I was very interested how the speaker, Maia Mania, had been making photographic walks over many years collecting a huge, wonderful and valuable archive. She was clearly distressed by destruction she had witnessed. As I watched the talk I realised that what is lost is partly a collective memory stored in the brickwork.
It seems that the main issues that are sustaining the problem are sharing knowledge, access to old materials, a lack of true cost benefit analysis and builders trying to rush things in order to save money and to upgrade the city space in order to accelerate tourism. However, this process of ‘rennovation’ is often a process of destruction and is making the problem worse.