The FINANCIAL -- Georgian developers ARCI, LIBO+ and SASCO, organized an architectural workshop to work out a joint concept of developing Avlabari, one of the areas of Old Tbilisi. Three teams of architects from Europe and the US worked for 3 days under the coordination of Mr. Lance Brown, FAIA (Fellow of the American Institute of Architects), ACSA (the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture) distinguished professor, 2007 AIA/ACSA Topaz Laureate.
It is noteworthy that the joint workshop is the first example of these competitive Georgian developer companies creating an alliance and working in cooperation with one another.
“I can honestly say that the results of the workshop go far beyond my expectations. Normally you hope for the race to be run. You hope that the work will actually be completed and you hope that the work will be good, but I think what we’ve seen here this evening are three extraordinary explorations of potential. If you look carefully at the work that has been done, you can see a great and serious opportunity of how the richness of the city can be grasped by the hand and taken forward,” said Lance Brown, at the presentation of the Avalabari development project, held at the Sheraton Metechi Palace Hotel on 8 October.
“I want to underscore that the work that has been done by the three teams has addressed three scales we all relate to. They addressed what I would call, the global or city scale, and their considerations. They addressed the site scale, in all of its richness, from domesticity to commerce. And in each case they addressed human scale. They showed us something about the nature of what it would be and the potential individual moving through and inhabiting the said environment,” Brown stated.
“I think that this precedent of collaboration is creating the foundation for a very good tendency in the Georgian developer business. Three companies will be working on the same area in order to ensure its harmonized development. All three of us decided to work on one master plan for Avlabari and follow the same rules of the game. In order to execute our idea more efficiently we invited experienced European and US architects and conducted a 4 day workshop with 13 architects participating in it. I think that the result was extremely good. The architects we invited to the workshop were truly professionals. They completed a huge amount of work in a short period of time and offered 3 very interesting projects for Avlabari development. This is not really a profit-oriented project, but it is extremely interesting in terms of architectural and urban peculiarities,” said Gia Abuladze, managing partner of Arci.
Founded in 1989 Arci has been conducting housing construction business since 1992. At present Arci is an architecture and construction management company, with two main business directions: Architecture and Development.
According to Abuladze, each construction company will invest about USD 20-25 million in the project.
“When it comes to a common target of developing the city and forming its appearance, competition loses its importance as stress is placed on making the city more attractive - a benefit to all. In this case, the main point is not the selling and obtaining of profit. Avlabari is an area with unique specificities. Rehabilitation of this area undeniably needs the securing of Old Tbilisi sites. We have to combine modern technologies, contemporary tendencies, traditional architecture, and the unique peculiarities of Old Tbilisi. This is why we wanted foreign professionals’ comprehension of the project,” said David Sanikidze, General Director of Liboplus.
The construction company Liboplus was established in 1995 on the basis of the N11 construction trust. Liboplus is mainly oriented on construction-repairing works.
According to company representatives, Liboplus was the initiator of the primary idea for the project.
As Valery Bakhtadze, representative of Sasko Ltd, stated, Georgian architecture also shares a main concept with foreign architecture. “This collaboration is equally beneficial for all three companies. When working on the same area, a single strategy should be followed, which is impossible without teamwork,” said Bakhtadze.
The FINANCIAL interviewed a participant of the workshop Oleg Haman, President of the Czech Architects Society and Managing Partner of Casua Ltd, the Czech Construction Company.
Q. How would you evaluate the workshop organized by the three developer companies?
A. This workshop which I was invited to by Liboplus was pretty extraordinary and exciting. There were 12 of us and we were divided into groups of three. We didn’t know each other so it was quite an experience. I have to say that I was impressed by the efficiency of our cooperation. We had two and a half days to design a philosophical urban study of the Avlabari project. It was great to see us working till midnight, performing most of the work by hand. If you look at the result of our efforts you’ll see that an extremely large amount of work has been done. It was a pleasant surprise to see such a high level of professionalism especially when all the designs were handmade. I would like to thank all three developers who invited us to participate in the workshop.
Q. This is not your first project related to Liboplus. What other project did you work on with this developer company?
A. Two years ago we designed a project for Batumi. It was a developer competition. The city was selling a site. Our project was the construction of two small pyramid-shaped apartment buildings with views of the sea. Though I think the design was good, we didn’t succeed. Another investor was chosen. We now want to use the main idea for another site. We have made three studies for Georgia, but none of them are in the process of construction. So we are hoping that we will succeed this time and that the Avlabari project will be the first of many.
Q. How would you appraise the perspectives of Liboplus?
A. Liboplus has a good philosophy. I like the idea of selling flats that are already finished. The customer will be able to see the final result of the construction, and therefore have a better opportunity to make the right choice. If they like what they see they will buy it, if not, they will look for a more suitable apartment. People often buy flats while the apartment building is still in the process of construction. In such cases there might be noise pollution and disturbances for two-three years, as well as dirty, unfinished corridors. In the Czech Republic all apartments are finished before the company sells any of them, Liboplus does the same, which I like very much.
Q. How would you evaluate the Avlabari development master plan? What is the main concept of the project you offered?
A. We tried to retain a sense of Old Tbilisi and made the structures of buildings from the river similar to those in Old Tbilisi. We also want to make a border, similar to city walls around a territory, with yards, and four or five storey buildings. The emphasis will be placed on public space. Of course there will be offices and shops on the main street, and an administrative building - the city hall, in the middle. IT is quite a big field, there is a big chance for Tbilisi to take steps forward in its development. The biggest problem is the complicated terrain; there is also a metro station - a source of noise, quite near. The important thing is that the three developers came to an agreement to organize a joint workshop despite the competition that exists between them. It looks like a good start to me.
Q. What do you think of the way Tbilisi looks at present?
A. I think the biggest problem for Tbilisi, like many other cities is a problem with traffic and an unfinished transport system. The other issue is the regulation of location selection for high-rise buildings and rehabilitation of the old city, which is a very nice part of Tbilisi. The thing I like best about this city is that the people are so open and kind, which means a lot to me. Old Tbilisi is a mixture of cultures which makes it even more interesting. I haven’t seen many building here and don’t know many names, so it’s quite hard for me to talk about specific examples, but I have seen some old photos of Tbilisi which I found to be very interesting, and inspiring.
Q. What do you want people to think when they look at a building of your design?
A. I want them to get a good feeling from it. I want them to like the place where they live or work or go shopping. In fact, I cannot judge a building I have designed at the time of its completion. I have to go back two years, look at it then and if I still like it - it means the building is a success in my opinion.
Q. What would you love to have the opportunity to do professionally?
A. I was dreaming of designing an airport which would win the competition in Bratislava. There was one company specializing in airports but due to privatization the contract was cancelled. The second dream of mine is to build a bridge.