For this week’s photo challenge from The Daily Post on “Letters,” participants are asked to consider how an “image might convey something bigger: a snapshot of how we communicate with one another, even if we don’t speak the same language.”
While I can’t communicate in the Georgian language, the powerful imagery of the banner shown below prompted me to seek out its meaning.
Save Old Tbilisi. Photo Jörg Albrecht
The balcony’s elegant scrollwork is reminiscent of the gently curving lines of the Georgian script. The clenched fist and bold graphics suggest the words have something to do with resistance and strength. Thankfully, as I learned, the banner’s message is stronger than the decaying ironwork that displays it.
Decay and protest in Lado Gudiashvili Square. Photo Jörg Albrecht
The banner hangs on one of the crumbling classical late 19th century buildings bordering Tbilisi, Georgia’s Lado Gudiashvili Square. In 2011, information about a radical redevelopment plan for the Square and its historical buildings surfaced. As part of the government’s misguided ongoing campaign to “clean-up” the city to attract investors and tourists, modernization of many areas of Tbilisi had already resulted in the destruction of architecturally important buildings.
News of the Square’s pending redevelopment prompted a group of concerned citizens to establish an “Occupy Gudiashvili” movement. They organized peaceful protests, urging the government to stop the destruction of the buildings and start reinforcing and restoring them. Then, in May 2012, while no building permits had been issued and city officials denied approving the controversial plans, the demolition of one architecturally significant Gudiashvili Square building, known as the “Blue House,” seemed to be illegally underway. The “Occupy Gudiashvili” group continued with their protests, garnering considerable media attention for their cause.
The Square’s radical redevelopment has, for the moment, stopped, “…the Austrian owners have now pulled out, thanks largely to public pressure and the exposure of alleged corruption within the Tbilisi Development Fund. Today the Fund now owns Gudiashvili Square, although it remains leaderless.”
An early 20th century building near Lado Gudiashvili Square, Tbilisi, Georgia. The monumental Kartlis Deda or Mother Georgia statue is visible in the distance. Photo Jörg Albrecht.
The presence of historical buildings give us a visual connection to our roots. They encourage us to learn about history and use that knowledge to create a favourable future. As a child, I was intrigued by the sleek futuristic world presented in the TV show The Jetsons. As an adult, I’m saddened at the thought of losing old world charm and craftsmanship. Many cities have successfully modernized without destroying their connection to the past.
The future of Tbilisi’s many historical neighbourhood’s remains uncertain. The გაამაგრე გუდიაშვილის protests, like the buildings’ decay, continue. If, like me, you see the value in preserving historical architecture, consider joining the efforts to save old Tbilisi.
To view other participants’ submissions for this week’s “Letters” photo challenge, please visit the links posted here.
Newsflash from Tbilisi: Demolition of the Lermontov House
Tbilisi Architectural Heritage Group
Tbilisi Destroys its Past: The Old Town is Transformed
Tbilisi Forum for Architecture
Tbilisi, Where Restoration Means Redevelopment
The Georgian Alphabet: A Gallery of Specimens (georgiasomethingyouknowwhatever.wordpress.com/)