Architects Shota Kavlashvili, Vladimer Kurtishvili – “Tbilqalaqproeqkti”, Fourth Studio
Civil Engineer Giorgi Karcivadze
Design 1964 Construction 1965
Original function bridge, multifunctional space
Current function bridge
Condition partly abolished
Location Nikoloz Baratashvili bridge
The banks of the Mtkvari River in Tbilisi are connected by twelve bridges. One of them, named after Georgian romanticism poet Nikoloz Baratashvili, was built in 1965 in the centre of the city. The three-span bridge on two piers with integrated exhibition space and café on the lower level, was designed by engineer Giorgi Kartsivadze and architects Shota Kavlashvili and Vladimer Kurtishvili.
In the 19th century exactly on this location the so called “Mukhrani Bridge Ferry” carried up to two thousand passengers daily (Kvirkvelia). Back in the early 1880s, the government of Tbilisi decided to build a bridge at this historically traffic-intensive intersection. From 1911 to 1965 the steel truss Mukhrani bridge, constructed by engineer Evgeny Paton, was installed on this site. Although this was the first bridge with welded joints in the Caucasus, it was soon decided to be replaced. According to architectural historian Tengiz Kvirkvelia, the reason for this decision was the insufficient capacity of the bridge, as its width measured only 11 meters. In addition, the water level in the narrowed Mtkvari River has risen sharply since the construction of the river embankments, leaving the remaining distance between the lower mark of the Mukhrani Bridge and the water surface less than a meter and a half. The transformation of river banks started in the 1930s. The right branch of the river has dried up, a number of small or large islands have disappeared, the main riverbed has been completely enclosed by walls and the historic buildings were demolished due to the road construction.
The new Baratashvili Bridge is 26 meters wide and 150 meters long. Its main feature is the separation of transport and pedestrian flows. The bridge deck is intended for traffic, although it has a sidewalk on both sides. On the lower level there are galleries for pedestrians connected to each bank by underpasses and stairs. On the same level there is an exhibition hall and a cafe. Integrated public spaces should have made the pedestrian connections more attractive. However, the narrow galleries running along the axis of the bridge underline the unequal planning for traffic and pedestrians typical of the period.
The exhibition hall has existed only for 20 years; It was closed in the mid-1980s. The public spaces were privatized in the late 1990s. Today Baratashvili Bridge needs to be thorough reconstruction. (mg)
Info: Irina Kurtishvili
Photos: Vladimer Kurtishvili personal archive, National library of Georgia, Ruben Agababian personal archive
Kvirkelia, Tengiz. Essays from the history of Tbilisi urban planning. Letter Two. Magazine „Sabchota Khelovneba“ 11, 1978. P. 45-54 (geo).
Kvirkelia, Tengiz. Architecture of Tbilisi, 1982. (rus).
Kardava, Dato. Mtkvari and its two banks. Tbilisi 2013 (geo).
Kurtishvili, Irina. Between yesterday and tomorrow / undergo. The parallels 2012.