Modern Architecture Shakes up Ancient Georgia

Posted September 14th, 2011 at 3:02 pm (UTC+0)
1 comment

In the 11th century, David IV, a medieval king, forged a unified state of Georgia. To this day, he is revered by Georgians as “David the Builder.”

Almost 1,000 years later, Georgia’s newly elected leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, took his oath of inauguration at the tomb of David the Builder.

Since then, President Saakashvili has had mixed success bringing wayward provinces under Tbilisi’s central control.

But he has had more success putting his architectural stamp across his nation in the Southern Caucasus.

Georgia’s American-educated president is shaking up a complacent country, a place that seems like a patch of rural Greece transplanted 1,500 kilometers east to the far shores of the Black Sea.
In Tbilisi, the capital, he has plopped into the city’s ancient heart, an oddly successful, glass and neon “Peace Bridge.”

On a nearby hillside, he has erected a Greco-Roman Presidential Palace, a new city landmark because of its tall, egg-shaped glass dome.

Near the airport, visitors drive past a wavy, all-glass Interior Ministry.

For Kutaisi, Georgia’s second largest city and future legislative capital, President Saakashvili is building a $35 million new Parliament building that looks like a concrete and glass armadillo.

In Batumi, Georgia’s tourist capital, so many zany shaped buildings are rising for hotels and restaurants that some critics cry kitsch.

And strung along an east-west highway joining these cities is a series of see-though police buildings. By using glass for government buildings, the Georgian leader seeks to put into three dimensional form his drive to bring transparency to a nation long ruled behind closed doors.

Generations hence, Georgians may remember President Saakashvili as the nation’s “architect-in-chief.”

James Brooke
James Brooke is the Russia/CIS bureau chief for Voice of America. A lifelong journalist, he covered West Africa, Brazil, the American Rocky Mountain States, Canada, and Japan/Korea for The New York Times. A resident of Moscow since 2006, he was first Bloomberg bureau chief for the region. In 2010, he joined VOA. In addition to writing Russia Watch, his weekly blog, he also does video, radio and web reports from Russia and the former USSR.

One response to “Modern Architecture Shakes up Ancient Georgia”

  1. Bill Long says:


    I’m not active on LinkedIn, but the sent me an email with this link. It was good to see that you are now with VOA in Russia, doing good work. Lucha were wondering the other day what you were up to.

    We’re still in Boulder, spending more time in Chile, especially in the Colorado winter.





James Brooke is VOA Moscow bureau chief, covering Russia and the former USSR. With The New York Times, he worked as a foreign correspondent in Africa, Latin America, Canada and Japan/Koreas. He studied Russian in college during the Brezhnev years, first visited Moscow as a reporter during the final months of Gorbachev, and then came back for reporting forays during the Yeltsin and early Putin years. In 2006, he moved to Moscow to report for Bloomberg. He joined VOA in Moscow in 2010. Follow Jim on Twitter @VOA_Moscow.



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