Architects Givi Melkadze, Nelli Kvartskhava – “TbilQalaqProekti”, first studio, sixth studio
Civil engineer Davit Kajaia, G. Martinova, Vepkhvadze
Design 1966 Construction 1971
Original function Adminisrative offices
Address 7 Freedom Square, 0105 Tbilisi
The administrative building of “Tsekavshiri” – the Central Union of Consumer Cooperatives – “Cooperation House” was built in 1971 according to the project of Givi Melkadze and Neli Kvartskhava on Freedom Square (the former Lenin Square) in Tbilisi. At that time the square still had its basic urban structure from the period of reconstruction in the 1930s, and the surrounding buildings were mainly from the nineteenth century.
At the north-eastern end of Freedom Square, facing Pushkin Park, there is one of the most important monuments of Tbilisi’s cultural heritage – the building of the Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Georgian Art (Arch. Bernadazzi, 1825). The museum district begins here. In the north-western corner of the square is a residential building (1 Rustaveli Ave. Arch. Kubaneishvili, Kurdiani, Melia, 1939), the side facade of which faces the square. The building is much more massive than the square development and sets a new scale in the area. It was decided to build a “Tsekavshiri” office on the site between this building and the museum. Apparently, the Cooperation Union had the necessary funds and the privilege to choose the location. Part of the existing buildings on Gudiashvili Street was sacrificed for this purpose and later completely demolished.
Among the new buildings of that time, the “Tsekavshiri” building stood out for several features. What immediately attracted attention was the unusually high quality. As it is stated in the brochure of the TbilQalaqProekti, the main facade was covered with curtain glass and aluminium panels manufactured by the company “Femunkas” of the Ministry of Construction of the People’s Republic of Hungary. Aluminium “ribs” fulfilled the function of vertical division of the facade surface and at the same time the function of shading. Aluminium frames were clad with wooden elements inside. This simple combination of materials created a pleasant contrast between the exterior and the interior. The interiors were furnished with the most modern materials, and the technical equipment of the building met advanced standards. The project documentation kept in the archives of Neli Kvartskhava contains precise detailed drawings, of a high professional level.
The main feature of this building was its integration into the surroundings, its shape and volume. The floor plan of the seven-story building followed the existing street layout. The height of the neighbouring building, the plans for the future transformation of the square and the traffic concept were taken into account. The built-up area was 2400 square meters, the total area 9893 square meters, the total volume 51700 square meters. A landscaped garden was planned between the rear facade of the building and the residential building. In the basement there were parking lots, technical rooms and storage rooms. On the first floor there was a vestibule with a checkroom, book and souvenir store, ticket office, café-restaurant, newspaper kiosk and telephone booth. The open entrance area was directly connected to a small courtyard with a water basin. The second floor contained an auditorium, a foyer with an exhibition area, a reception area for visitors, and administrative offices. The third floor contained a screening and broadcast centre, a technic room, and several offices. The floor plans of the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh floors were identical and contained offices.
The designing a new administrative building in such an urban setting was a major challenge. All the more respect is due to the chief architect of the project Givi Melkadze and his colleague Neli Kvartskhava for the realization of such a project, which created the best contemporary testimony on a small plot of land between the architecture of social realism, the historical square and Russian neoclassicism, without damaging anything, and which stands as an example of the high culture, skill and professionalism of the architect. The building of “Tsekavshiri” could not survive. Unfortunately, the city did not appreciate its architectural value and historical significance and released it for demolition in the 2010s. What was built in its place, one of the hotels of so-called Panorama Tbilisi project, is in direct contrast to all the above features and reflects completely different values. Freedom Square from the time of “Tsekavshiri” can be considered lost. (ntch)
Photos: Neli Kvartskhava personal archive; National Archive of Georgia; Photo album “Tbilisi’75”, 1975. Compiled by V. Chiaureli, photographers: Archvadze, Dvali, Datikashvili, Kikvadze, Peradze, Raskin, Rukhadze, Turkia, Saakov
“Cooperation House on Lenin Square in Tbilisi” (rus). Rotaprint cci TbilQalaqProekti, order. N°55, 1972
Tchatchkhiani, Nino, Freedom Square 2013.