Old Yerevan: Urban restoration project for Armenian capital to be presented next year

Next spring the ‘Old Yerevan’ project which includes 30 historical-cultural buildings on Yerevan’s main avenue’s and Abovyan, Pavstos Byuzand, Eznik Koghbatsi and Arami Street sections will be introduced to the Armenian public.

Author of the project, architect Levon Vardanyan has one aim – to turn the section into a social, cultural center where there will be carpet, silver-making, embroidery, pottery centers, as well as galleries, museum centers – without a residential area.

“You see, the Vernisage that we have is in an embarrassing state… imagine a luxurious version of the Vernisage. I mean, I’d like there to be a carpet salon, where they sell, and they can also produce if they want to, thus all the Armenian we want to introduce, if it is supposed to be sold, let it be, but I want there to be galleries and museums next to it as well,” Vardanyan said.

On December 2, Minister of Urban Development Narek Sargsyan, on behalf of the Government of Armenia, signed an agreement with Multicontinental Distribution Limited regarding the investment project of Old Yerevan’s construction.

Architect Vardanyan said that he met different investors who, when introduced to the project, desired to dictate their ideas, while his problem is to restore a piece of Yerevan, to restore the environment.

“They are the first investor that immediately understood the project. I realized from their questions that we will be able to work together. Preliminary calculations speak about $120-150 million. The duration of the project is five years,” the architect said.

Addressing the controversial case of dismantling the Afrikyans Club Building last summer, Vardanyan said that Afrikyans building will have its place in the project.

“The Afrikyans building was indeed dismantled by professionals, all the stones are kept. It is a unique monument. I myself wanted it dismantled. Before the case got so loud some of my colleagues had not even seen it. It was in such an urban environment that it was unnoticed,” he said.

Vardanyan said that unlike Afrikyans, other ancient monument buildings were dismantled in a negligent manner, and most of the stones are missing. But project authors are not worried about that, because as he said the problem is not in restoring the monument, rather it is recreating the old city environment.

“I do not need the sign to say ‘Monument’. I want my grandchildren to grow up and see that Yerevan looked like this in the 19th century,” he said.

The layout of the project will be ready in March after which it will be presented to public discussions. It has already been discussed in the City Hall Urban Development Council.

Council member, architect Sashur Kalashyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that he does not recall any positive conclusion regarding the project. According to the architect, this idea is artificial, there is nothing like that anywhere in the world.

“There will be an artificial district on both sides of which there will be a street and there are ten-storied buildings on it. Do you imagine the view opening from those buildings? That location is not an urban environment anymore, but a public resort zone. But neither it is a resort zone, when you sell it to an investor, thus it becomes his property,” Kalashyan said.

According to him, money problems are solved, and after that any discussion is useless. All discussions were negative.