This blog was intended as a chronicle about the destruction of one unique, hand-carved building – “The Palace of Poetry “- in the city of Tbilisi, Georgia. Ultimately, it turned out to be chronicle of death of it’s architect – Shota Bostanashvili (1948 – 2013).
UPDATE: A year later after the destruction of Palace of Poetry Shota Bostanashvili’s another significant project – the residence in Vake was sold. The new owner demolished it without any consideration of it’s importance for modern Georgian architecture. The last two decades of his life the architect dedicated all his creative energy to the two building that are now erased from the fabric of the city.
The construction of Palace of Poetry began in the late nineties. The three towers and the side curvilinear concrete side façade define the architecture of the building. Unlike the type of construction that we are used to seeing nowadays, this project restores the expertise and imagination of the hands who build it – the hands of the architect. From 1999 to 2002 Shota Bostanashvili worked on site carving in plaster the sculptural parts of the building. Later the forms were cast in concrete (white marble crumbs mixed with concrete). In 2003 the construction was halted. The building stood for a decade in the form represented in photographs. The building drew much attention; it took part in many exhibitions and received three international awards. Read below to find out its ultimate fate.
Palace of Poetry is the name that the architect gave to the building; Palace of Poetry is the program the architect invented. Palace of Poetry is the form from the hand of the architect.
Palace of Poetry is the name defined not by the function (hence, the client); it is the poetry of palace (of architecture) that makes (from the Greek poiesis — ποίησις — making) it.
The three polyphonic and polysemic towers, like flowers, grew at the foot of the mountain. They represent the dialogue between the nature and culture: firstly, they are located on the border – where the city ends and mountains begin; secondly, it is the paradoxical “dialogue”, meeting point of artificial stone and flower – meeting point of cultured and natural, of raw and cooked.
The palace of poetry lies at the gates of the city. This also contributed to its emblematic character – it was to function as a sign with all the complexities, multiplicity of meanings, ambiguities that a sign can possess.
The palace of poetry lies at the borders of city and nature, at the borders of millennia, at the borders of architecture and sculpture.
The curvilinear surfaces of the towers find their root in Georgian culture (writing and alphabet). The complex meanings of the towers find their roots in Georgian culture.
The palace of poetry defies the time of its making. It rejects the technocratic paradigm of the digital age. It saw the architect return to the construction site; it saw the architect make the building (by hand) – not just conceive it (using pencils or computers).
The three towers can’t be described in the terms of ornamented form. Here form and ornament converge. The three towers differ from each other – each follows its own order; an order that can’t be found in the treatises on architecture; an order from an imaginary history of Georgian architecture. It is a memory of a non-existent architectural order.
Man, Tiger and Ram are the only figurative forms in the writing of the towers. Shota Bostanashvili’s sculptural interpretation of these three figures is a separate chapter in history of sculpture. Unlike traditional sculpture, where the viewer has to move around the object the palace of poetry makes it possible for the viewer to stand in one place; the sculpture itself (visually) moves around the viewer.
From a far distance the shape of the palace is immediately recognizable. From medium distance the attention is drawn to the curvilinear surfaces, play of light and shadow. The building draws you nearer. In our culture where everything needs to be done as rapidly as possible the Palace of Poetry makes you pause, stand still and look in contemplation. In the culture of streamlined design and “instantism” the Palace of Poetry offers complexity, contradiction and deferral.
The palace of poetry defies the concept of modernity. It makes its own time. It is the other.
Shota Bostanashvili working on the site
In 2012 the building was bought by the NGS Group (Vasil Sopromadze). The new owner had his own plans for the site – a profitable housing complex. The destruction of Palace of Poetry was seen as a mere removal of an obstacle. The Palace of Poetry was an obstacle for the lucrative plans of the city and businesses – this uniquely beautiful area was considered a good place to fill up with concrete blocks for housing. The Palace of Poetry acted as a guardian of place, of nature. After its demise this green part of the city will be taken over by asphalt and concrete – as it already happened in many other parts of Tbilisi.
The destruction began in January 2013. On 15 February the side façade was gone.
Ultimately, the palace of Poetry and digital technologies did “meet”; a 3d laser scanned pointcloud made by a firm based in Tbilisi – Engineering Idea (director – Malkhaz Lekveishvili) – is the form in which the building continues to “exist”.
21 February 2013 Palace of Poetry hosted its first event – Shota Bostanashvili read his poems in front of a small audience. The Palace on its way to non-existence was the perfect place for a poetic performance.
On a rainy day of 25 February 2013 the two towers were destroyed. Two days later, the last remaining tower fell.
The video shows the destruction of the towers and Shota Bostanashvili reading poetry:
3 March 2013 Shota Bostanashvili visited the remains of Palace of Poetry and made the last poetic performance.
– the architect whose 40 years of architectural practice include over 100 projects, many of which have received international and local awards.
– the professor who had a unique way of thinking architecture and original method of teaching. The studio Poetics of Architecture founded in 1990 focused on the original and innovative educational program where architecture is included in the interdisciplinary studies (philosophy, semiotics, epistemology, cultural studies, literature).
– the poet who made the Georgian language speak in a revolutionary way.
– the sculptor
– the artist.