Georgian Ministry of Highways

 

The Georgian Ministry of Highway Construction (Georgian: საქართველოს საავტომობილო გზების სამინისტროს შენობა) is a building in Tbilisi, Georgia. It was designed by architects George Chakhava and Zurab Jalaghania [1] for the Ministry of Highway Construction of Georgian SSR and finished in 1975. The engineer was Temur Tkhilava. Today it is a property of the Bank of Georgia. The building is planned to have a new main entrance and underground lobby, as well as being completely renovated inside to a modern office space. The current renovation and design is under the direction of Architectural Group and Partners.
Contents 
 
George Chakhava was the Minister of highway construction in the 1970s. Therefore, he was both the client and the lead architect of this project. He could chose the site location best suited for the design himself. The building costs were 6 mio Ruble.[2]
In 2007 the building was conferred National Monument status under the National Monuments Acts. For 2009 a renovation and extension to 15.600 m2 was planned but not implemented.[2]
 
Architect
 
George Chakhava (გიორგი ჩახავა) studied architecture at the State Polytechnical University in Tbilisi and graduated in 1949. Since then he has worked as an architect with his own studio and realized projects in Georgia as well as in Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Livia. He claims that his main inspiration is the unique nature of my country with its individuality and beauty of each region in harmony with mountain villages. I was always amazed by the ordinary Georgian peasant's ability to build the house where the most expressive landscape was opened, sometimes preferring the nature's beauty to the living convenience. That is why the mastering of complicated relief became the defined moment of my creative work. On my view, the more relief is complicated, the more possibilities have the architect.[3] Chakhava received several Honoration and awards. He was honored by the Union of the Architects of USSR, 1983 he received the State Prize of the USSR Council of Ministers. The Georgian Union of Architects awarded him with a medal for "The Special honor in Architecture". In 1991 he became Honored Member of the International Academy of the Architecture of the Oriental countries. Chakhava died at the 25th of August 2007.[2]
 
Description
 
The wooded site lies in the outskirts of Tbilisi at the river Kura River. It has a steep slope, declining from West to East. Big parts of the building are lifted off the ground, the landscape runs through beneath. The structure is visible from far, three major roads leading from Tbilisi to the north pass the site. The building can be entered from both sites, at the higher and lower end.
The structure consists of a monumental grid of interlocking concrete forms. Five horizontal parts with two storeys each seem to be stapled on top of each other. Three parts are oriented at an east-west axis, at a right angle to the slope, two are north-south oriented, along the slope. The structure rests on and hangs from three cores. They contain the vertical circulation elements like stairs and elevators. The highest core has 18 storeys. The building has a floor area of 10.960 sqm.[2]
 
Architecture
 
The design is based on a concept named Space City method (Georgian patent certificate # 1538).[2] The idea is to use and cover less ground and give the space below the building back to nature. The architects reference was a forest, the cores are like the trunk, the horizontal parts the crowns. Between the earth and crowns there is a lot of free space for other living beings, which create one harmonious world with the forest. The Space City method is based on the same principle. This is supposed to create experience of psychological comfort and well being in the people.
The concept that the landscape or nature "flows" through under the building was used by other architects, too. Le Corbusier worked theoretically on the "house on pilotis" and realized this idea for example from 1947 on in the Unité d'Habitation. Frank Lloyd Wright used a similar idea at Fallingwater in 1935. Glenn Murcutt used the proverb Touch This Earth Lightly literally in some of his designs. A current example is the Musée du quai Branly by Jean Nouvel in Paris, where a garden lays beneath a building.
The design goes back to ideas of the Russian constructivists from the 1920s.[1] The architect El Lissitzky designed with his Horizontal skyscrapers (Wolkenbügel) 1924 a structure that looks very similar. He also divided the cores and office areas in vertical and horizontal elements as an antithese to the American concept of the Skyscraper.[4]
The Style can be called "post-constructivist" and it is one of the best examples of this architectural concept in the city. Based on the use of fairfaced concrete and the sharp, geometrical volumes the building can also be considered as part of the Brutalism movement. The concept of the space city has strong connections to Structuralism. Between Brutalism and Structuralism similar buildings were also built in other countries, for example the Yamanashi communication centre in Kofu by Kenzo Tange or Habitat 67 by Moshe Safdie, both finished in 1967.
Udo Kultermann, a German author, sees also a formal connection to the user of the building. The structure represents in his opinion the internal use by the formal reference to streets and bridges.[1] Describing the building Nikolai Ouroussoff, a New York Times's architecture critic, said: "Rising on an incline between two highways, the building’s heavy cantilevered forms reflect the Soviet-era penchant for heroic scale. Yet they also relate sensitively to their context, celebrating the natural landscape that flows directly underneath the building. The composition of interlocking forms, conceived as a series of bridges, brings to mind the work of the Japanese Metabolists of the late ’60s and early ’70s, proof that Soviet architects weren’t working in an intellectual vacuum."[5]
 
Controversions
 
The project is alleged actually stolen from a non-implemented one in Prague district Košíře of Czech architect Karel Prager.[6

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