Architecture gallery – Tbilisi
If a city were a canvas, it can become an architect’s dreamscape. Georgia in particular has offered artists and architects a willing urbanscape to paint in varying styles – from Byzantine to Neo-Classical to vernacular to Armenian, Russian, Azeri, Persian and Art Nouveau to Brutalism.
In the last instalment of my Georgian travel, this one is dedicated to architecture – most of which is forgotten and with little info available online. I scoured for information for days and stitched together whatever I could find. And even then, I am barely scratching the surface. The city is too rich to devour in a week; even its own people don’t know just how rich and diverse their capital is.
Very few cities I have visited have such dynamism as Tbilisi; its pitch to be a Western country and align itself with the Christian world over the “Islamic East” led the city to have such an eclectic mix.
The one thing common among most architectural monuments I saw was the height. Just about everything was tall, towering and cavernous.
Holy Trinity Cathedral
On 23 November 2004, St George’s Day the cathedral was consecrated
If there is one thing the Georgians have perfected, it is building high ceilings
Saint George, the patron Saint of Georgia who is known to have brought Christianity to Georgia
Queen Tamar is likened to Queen Elizabeth and renowned for bringing Georgia its “Golden Age”
Named after Mt Zion, the Sioni Cathedral was built in the 6th century
Sioni Cathedral remained operational through the Soviet period
The one murals and iconography was painted by Russian artist, Grigory Gagarin
Melodious hymns at the Metekhi St Virgin Church
Neo-Classical (with touches of Art Nouveau)
The old National Bank of Georgia
State Academy Drama Theatre
Stunning architecture that has now been converted into a commercial outlet
An old, disused cinema National Parliamentary Library of Georgia
Formerly the office of the State Bank the Art Nouveau building (called Modern Style in Georgia), was designed by architect, Micheil Ohanjanov and built in 1910. The interiors incorporated iron and glass to let in the light, curving lines that emulated the movement and forms of vines and leaves, at the same time adding Neo-classical and Palladian touches from Greek and Roman temples.
Glass domes and wrought iron frames to support the dome and also add decorative elements
Neo-classical touches to the door frame combined with Art Nouveau elements
The hall is designed like an atrium with a large glass skylight in the centre allowing natural light to enter the building. Made for a perfect spotlight for these 2 dancers
Mascarons were whimsical elements with frightening or chimeric expression. These sculptural decorations were usually placed in the most visible places: above arches, windows or door openings to scare away evil spirits from homes
It is the only stained glass house in Tbilisi but no one knows who the owner was
The stained glass looks almost Persian in origin but can also be inspired from Art Nouveau movement
Intricate latticed balcony frames
Latticed work continues along the wooden deck that overhangs onto the garden
For the love of balconies…
Art Nouveau in Tbilisi
Merchants of European goods who traded with Asia built fine houses in Tbilisi. Georgia’s Western connection to France, Germany amd brought the country Art Nouveau.
From late 19th c until WWI, Art Nouveau thrived in Europe and in Georgia too. Many Armenian and Georgian architects created their own vernacular to help Georgia join Europe’s vision towards “style moderne”.
On 12 Chonkadze street is a house of Brothers Bozarjantsi. Bozarjants was the owner of the tobacco industry in Tbilisi
This three-storey house was built in 1912-1914. The design belongs to Michael Ohanjanov and his co-author Petre Kolchin
After the Soviet occupation in 1921 the house was confiscated from the owners and different members of political elite took possession of the building throughout years making this beautiful palace a communal apartment building.
The Bozarjantsis also lost the tobacco factory
This was a house I wandered into quite by chance attracted by its celing design
Use of glass and wrought iron is common in Art Nouveau to allow light to come in
Wide staircases were an integral part of the buildings that made for grand entrances and grander arrivals
Stained glass designs mimicking nature were also common
A Tiffany blue colour apartment block
An old lift well
Not quite Art Nouveau but resembles apartments from 1960s & 70s
It’s like being inside a time warp
Ornately craved iron structures resemble vines and flowers
Extensive use of arches and curved forms is integral to Art Nouveau style
Wrought iron gates that borrow from green houses
Yet another abandoned apartment block with arches, decorative ceiling, marble staircases and coloured walls
Plants, flowers and vine embellishments
Sea shell shaped roof inspired by nature
Built in 1909, the Apollo is the only surviving Art Nouveau style cinema in Tbilisi
Located in the old German neighborhood, the Apollo is one of the city’s distinguished works of Style Modern The Apolo
Here’s a look inside this jewel of a building that is no longer in operation
Built in 1985 by Georgian architect, G Bichiashvili, the Tbilisi Technical Library resembles a radiator
Brutalism intermixed with Art Nouveau elements – ornate wrought iron doorway
Very little is now known about the building or its architect
Lies in total disarray with not a soul that cares to revive its past
Bank of Georgia Building is the very best of Brutalist architecture. Completed in 1975, this protected building is based on Space City design that allows greenery, ventilation and nature to flow through.
The building, which previously served as the Ministry of Highway Construction of Georgian SSR, also alludes to a broken up highway or a bridge or a railroad – the infrastructural components which were once a backbone to the old Soviet Union.
The building was inspired by Moshe Safdie’s Habitat ‘67 and also resembles The Interlace in Singapore
St Nino monument by architect Zurab Tsereteli, it was erected in place of Friendship of Nations statue when the USSR collapsed, a statement to establish the return to religion with the depiction of one of the most important religious figures for Georgia who brought Christianity in the 4th century.
Palace of Rituals was criticised for its allusions to the male anatomy; some municipal officers disapproved its ecclesiastical elements that were against Soviet style but Victor Djorbenadze had based his design on the female anatomy, from his mother’s Gynaecology book.
A drone photo sourced from the internet shows the full scope of the Wedding Palace’s architecture – the uterine shape of the hall and the phallic tower which still has bells that allude to the church design
Former Museum of Archeology, it was founded in 1988 by Georgian architect Rostam Abramishvili who was leading Tbilisi archeological expedition
The entrance of the building which no one visits but is heavily guarded by security high on coca-cola though I am told that the museum ￼ houses an archaeological collection inside and is therefore locked and closely guarded.
The museum is located in a hill and resembles a cave or and Egyptian temple that is accessed via a flight of stairs
The Radio Computing Centre belongs to the Radio Fortuna Holding. It was formerly also known as Transcaucasia Power Control Centre or Managing Computing Centre of the United Board of Energy System of Transcaucasia.
Completed in 1973, it is still in operation and occupied by FM 106.9
The dense, concrete-of brutalist buildings means that there is little beauty – oh but there is and this one even has music
Chronicles of Georgia, often known as the Stone Henge of Tbilisi was built in 1985 but was never completed
16 pillars approx 30-35 m in height depict stories from Georgian folklore
Brutalism but because it chronicles the history of Georgia, it is treated more kindly over other former Soviet buildings
Each of the pillars is carved from top to bottom with events from Christianity, Georgia’s golden era other cultural symbols