Squared off Over Square: Proposed changes to Yerevan centerpiece raise dispute

The tender announced for the reconstruction of the Armenian capital's main square has raised a wave of discontent among outraged architects and people viewing it as premature and improper expenditure.

Last week's announcement by the Yerevan City Hall concerning the tender for the reconstruction of Republic Square was met with animosity among the sector of society which believes that municipal attention should rather be paid to the suburbs of the capital and development of the city infrastructures, especially the rainwater drainage systems.

The tender announcement says the projects to be submitted have to address the following issues: “modernization of the square complacent with the contemporary urban development processes”. Applicants should take into account that “the square has in fact become an overloaded traffic junction, active silhouettes have emerged around the square bacause of the development of the area immediately adjoining the square, having considerably distorted the important criteria of scale and dominance; certain buildings forming the square have been functionally transformed and the square, being of an important platform for republican and state events, has certain difficulties, after removing the Lenin statue and dismantling its pedestal, when it comes to organizing various festivities and large-scale public events.”

Yerevan chief architect Narek Sargsyan, heading the tender jury, in an interview last week said they are reconstructing the square to make it serve the public. It was last renovated a decade ago.

Architect Sashur Kalashyan, member of the 15-member municipal commission of architects, views this as premature and believes the tender has been announced with a number of violations of the law. Kalashyan points out that the traffic overload of the square is not at all an architectural issue and respective experts have to find a solution to it.

During his Monday meeting with the press, Kalashyan, also a member of the jury, said that the tender possibility was slightly touched upon at the commission meeting and that the opinions of member architects were disregarded. He stressed that part of the project will be determined as a result of a closed tender, the other part – in an open tender.

“The law prohibits holding simultaneously closed and open tenders,” he says, adding that the city hall authorized to deal with local issues only, should not be engaged in matters related to Republic Square, which is of state importance.

The architect believes that the initiators of this idea are planning to “elevate” the square to level it with the adjoining structures, which are “active silhouettes formed around the square”. Accordingly, he says, it is not ruled out that superstructures will be added to the National Gallery and foreign ministry buildings.