Stone Age: Old Yerevan awaiting new birth

The ‘Old Yerevan’ project, which includes the dismantling of buildings left from the pre-soviet period in the center of Yerevan, will come to life when better weather arrives, architect Levon Vardanyan told ArmeniaNow.

A decade ago, when large-scale construction works started in the center of Yerevan, particularly Northern Avenue was constructed, numerous old buildings were dismantled. The urban authorities were numbering the stones of the buildings and keeping them, making sure that they would be used while reconstructing the buildings which represent the old Yerevan image.

Vardanyan has presented the project to the urban authorities of Yerevan since 2005, however, according to him, mainly because of the world economic crisis its realization was postponed, and now finally favorable conditions are created for restoration of 14 dismantled buildings in Yerevan.

“In fact, this is not an old Yerevan, this is only one part of Yerevan with 300 meters length and 70 meters width. It is a section which lies between two streets. I try to integrate 14 dismantled monuments into this new urban development environment,” says Vardanyan, adding that the construction works may last three-five years.

The project will be realized in some sections of Yerevan’s central Buzand, Koghbatsi, Aram and Abovyan streets, as well as in the territories near Margaryan Maternity Hospital adjacent to Mashtots Avenue and near Mashtots Park. These territories, under the Governmen’s decision (in 2005) were divided into lots, were put up at auction, and sold to three private companies, which keep the stones of dismantled buildings in their storehouses.

The project will be realized by the owners of the lots, and they will decide what purpose the restored monument-buildings will be used for.

“I cannot interfere and decide what the function of the buildings should be, it is a private issue. Naturally, it [Old Yerevan] is near Republic Square and it will become a tourist center, there will be cafes, pubs, exhibition halls, souvenir stores, etc., there,” Vardanyan says.

These days Armenian environmentalists fight against installment of clothes shops in Mashtots Park (the upper part of which is included in ‘Old Yerevan’ project). Mayor of Yerevan Taron Margaryan, responding to the environmentalists’ protests, said that the kiosks were temporary, and that they would be dismantled after the realization of ‘Old Yerevan’ project. According to the project it is planned to restore the well-known Janpoladov Theatre in the upper part of the park, which became an Officers’ House during the Soviet Union (the upper section of present Vazgen Sargsyan Street).

Generally, the construction in the center of Yerevan during the recent ten years caused complaints not only among people who resided in the center of the capital city, and most of them were rudely evicted from their homes, but also among architects and environmentalists. Environmentalists are concerned about the reduction in green areas and about the construction which does not meet the seismic norms; and architects add to those concerns their own complaints, saying that the multi-style construction is disharmonious and tasteless.

“When we receive guests from abroad, we immediately take them to show Garni [Temple] and Geghard [Church], that is to say, we want to show that we are a nation which did not come out of nowhere, that we have an old culture. However, we do not have the same in the city [Yerevan] as all other cities of the world have. We lack this environment,” Vardanyan says.

Last year the opposition Armenian National Congress (ANC) in its demands to authorities mentioned about “spoiling the urban development image of Yerevan” and demanded to cease the construction of high-rise buildings in Yerevan. However, architects are not optimistic that Yerevan will one day have a full image and an architecture which would represent the image of the city.

“Our country is called Republic of Armenia, and it is not called Elite Republic of Armenia. Yerevan has serious urban development problems, only after solving these problems it will be possible to do some cosmetic changes,” says ecologist Gagik Sukhudyan.