"In Tbilisi’s early days, its churches would have stood on their own, not as quaint punctuation marks in the urban landscape but as lonely citadels. Today, Tbilisi’s churches have mountaintop counterparts that offer a sense of what those early churches would have looked like, naked against the rough landscape of the Caucuses, surrounded by shacks and sheep, if anything....Imagine how it looked to 6th century eyes, possibly as the only permanent structures they’d ever seen. Back then, in unpolluted Caucasian air, you could probably have seen longer distances than most people would ever travel in their lives."
"Regardless of the theology and practices that came with them, the concept of the church, as a physical, permanent manifestation of God’s holiness and literal manifestation of a congregation, would have offered Georgians—like early Christians anywhere else—the opportunity to define, and, indeed, create a landscape for perhaps the first time."
"As it happens, Tbilisi is now building a whole new generation of prominent, inventive buildings. Whether they are inspirational and durable is another matter."
As it happens, Tbilisi is now building a whole new generation of prominent, inventive buildings. Whether they are inspirational and durable is another matter.
With just enough spending cash, in part because of its former president and leading plutocrat Bidzina Ivanishvili (net worth: $4.5 billion; Georgia’s annual GPD: $39 billion), Tbilisi is going on a building boom. A raft of shiny, swoopy new structures have arisen, some not a censer’s swing from Old Town. They include the Peace Bridge, the Hall of Justice, an unfinished concert hall, and Ivanishvili’s own residence, a $50 million blue glass monstrosity that peers down at the city as if it’s auditioning for the next Bond film. Or like an airport terminal looking for its runway.
Meanwhile, the city’s outskirts consist of banal apartment towers as far as the eye can see. It sees a lot less far these days, thanks to pollution.
In other words, the old Tbilisi is being destroyed—not by invading hoards or Soviet tanks but by conventional monumentality and third-rate starchitecture, minus the starchitects. It doesn’t need the Babel treatment yet. Plenty of other cities are ahead of it in line. But, for the sake of keeping a wonderful old city from being further adulterate