TBILISI, DFWatch–Architect Irakli Zhvania walked us through the historic devastation of two parks in the capital.
The second edition of ‘Tbilisi Ugly Walk’ highlighted how two of the most beautiful green lungs in the city have been reduced by large buildings and roads, chipping away at the amount of green spaces available to the population.
Tbilisi Ugly Walks are organized by Iare Pekhit, a group promoting the rights of pedestrians, and the main message is that the government is favoring private business rather than people’s interests.
This time the tour began at Vake Park, the largest one in the city, where tour guide Zhvania drew attention to the embassies of Ukraine and Iran, and the building of Georgia’s Football Federation and the house of a parliamentarian, buildings which have all been allowed to take away space from what was historically the largest and most well-planned park in this city.
The walks, the first of which was organized in May this year, shows the city’s development over the course of three political periods in its history: ‘Shevardnadze Era’ (1993-2003), ‘Saakashvili Era’ (2003-2012) and ‘Ivanishvili Era” (2012 to present).
The architect continues by pointing to the location of where one more chunk of Vake Park was in danger of being developed, but saved after a several years long conflict. The site was designated for the planned Hotel Budapest, but activists managed to draw attention to the destruction this plan would cause through a series of protests organized by activists from a group called Guerrilla Gardening. They demanded that the building permit be withdrawn, which it was in March 2016.
Another part of Vake Park is now taken up by the French School of the Caucasus, we learn.
Closer toward the center of Tbilisi, the tour guide points out that the boardwalks along Chavchavadze Avenue are taken up by parked cars, obstructing the free passage of pedestrians.
Coming down to Mziuri Park, we are shown how the construction of a high-speed motorway connecting two districts of Tbilisi has torn through this ‘sunny’ park on top of the Vere river bank. There is now a multi-storey apartment building and a school built inside the park, which was also damaged in the dreadful flood in June 2015.
“The private use of public space has led to shrinking green spaces. We want citizens to work with government, business, and each other to create green, vibrant, thoughtfully developed urban environments that encourage walking and other modes of movement,” writes the organization Iare Pekhit, organizer of the Ugly Walk tours.