“Univermag Tbilisi” Complex

Architects Revaz Bairamashvili, David Morbedadze, Jakhuti Gordeziani, Leri Medzmariashvili – “Tbilkalakproekti”, fifth studio

Structural Engineer Shalva Gazashvili

Construction 1975

Status built

Original function shopping mall, theatre, metro station

Current function same

Current condition partly destroyed, completely changed

Address 2. Rustaveli Ave, Tbilisi
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Multifunctional complex was built in 1975 near Liberty Square, between Rustaveli Avenue and Sulkhan-Saba Street. The complex combined three functionally distinct and independent parts, which were masterly integrated to each other. It included universal department store “Univermag Tbilisi”, Metro Station Lenin Square (nowadays Freedom Square) and Alexander Griboedov Drama Theatre. The project was elaborated by architects of the fifth studio of the “Tbilqalaqproeqti” – Revaz Bairamashvili, David Morbedadze, Jakhuti Gordeziani and Leri Medzmariashvili.

The building of department store was supported by massive columns (distance – 7.60 m). Five pairs of central columns were forming transitional colonnade between the street and the inner courtyard. The yard was located higher than Rustaveli Avenue and created a quiet athmosphere. Similar to the classical atrium, in the center of the yard there was a pool. The courtyard was, like the whole building, a multifunctional space – during the daytime it was used by the customers of the store as a resting and meeting place, while in the evenings it served as an open-air theatre lobby.

Side Entrances of the “Univermag” were symmetrically arranged on the left and right sides of the courtyard. Here were located two open staircases leading to the second floor’s terraces. The right terrace was connected to the subway station and created its roofing. From the open space there was an entrance to the station vestibule. The main entrance of the Griboedov Theatre was located inside the courtyard. It was decorated with colourful stained glas windows by the artist Jibson Khundadze. Columns and outer walls of whole complex were clad with light-colored Eklar limestone.

The whole complex, which was an interesting example of the late soviet modernism, does not exist anymore. The building of “Univermag Tbilisi” was sold and in 2015-2017 as a result of a multimillion investment at the beginning of the Rustaveli Avenue has emerged a completely new commercial facility “Galleria Tbilisi” (Moshe Tzur Architects Int. LTD, Tel Aviv, Israel). The “Univermag Tbilisi” and its courtyard have been torn down. The Griboedov Theatre survived, but ended up incarcerated inside the private shopping center, like the new access to the city public transport, metro station Freedom Square. (ntch)

Translation: Ana Kiasashvili
Photos: David Morbedadze private Archive

Literature/Links

Nino Asatiani, 1970s architecture of Tbilisi. geo. (1988-1992)