Massimiliano Fuksas on Tbilisi’s mix of old and new architecture

Tbilisi’s architecture is a reflection of the city’s history. Byzantine, Classic and Soviet influences combined with traditional local Georgian features make the city one of a kind. However, over the last few years, a spree of modern and futuristic buildings was built in Georgia, adding to the country’s rich architectural identity. “It is important for every country to combine its great cultural tradition with contemporary architecture to create part of the country’s history of the future,” believes Italian architect Massimiliano Fuksas, founder of Studio Fuksas and one of the names behind Tbilisi’s modernization projects. “Tbilisi has a relevant historic legacy, which unfortunately has been left without any maintenance for the last 15 years. In this context, the plans to regenerate the city not only include the rehabilitation of the landmark of Tbilisi’s Old Town, but mostly to incorporate the requirements of a modern functional city,” the architect adds. Asked about the contrasting mix of modern and traditional architecture in Tbilisi, Fuksas believes that those are coexisting elements: “The best way to experience a city is to guarantee high architectural quality that is able to communicate and represent the various epochs of history. Tradition and innovation need to be combined together to provide a contemporary urban and architectural solution.”

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Photo Credits: fuksas.it

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Photo Credits: fuksas.it

The new Tbilisi Public Service Hall is one of Fuksas’s most recent creations in Georgia. According to him, the concept of the building comes from the flower symbol – in his words, “a recognizable symbol related to rebirth.” Inspired by nature, the building is covered by 11 huge petals, with long and strong steel, tree-like columns supporting the roof, resembling a forest. To Fuksas, “the most interesting challenge in the design phase was to combine the idea of the project with the functions of the building.” The first floor of the Tbilisi Public Service Hall is the ‘main square’, where the activities for the public are aggregated, while the offices are on different levels, linked by walkways.

Apart from the Public Service Hall, which was finished in 2012, Studio Fuksas has another landmark project in progress in Tbilisi, the Music Theatre and Exhibition Hall in Rike Park, not far from the Public Service Hall on the other bank of the Mtkvari River. According to Fuksas, “the design concept aims to express poetically the changes and renovations that are happening now in Tbilisi. Special attention is given to technology and building techniques.” Like the design of the Milan Trade Fair, a “structure designed for communication and exchange of ideas,” the Music Theatre and Exhibition Hall in Tbilisi breathes the latest technology not only in its design, but also in its system. Fuksas’s work is an equation that results in high tech, inside and out, a combination of “innovative forms, record size, total usability, highly advanced technological equipment [resulting in] the utmost in spatial design.”

Fuksas says: “Inspiration can come from everywhere, from everyday life. The only thing that I can say is that I’m not always searching for inspiration; so I don’t look for it, but in the end I find it anyway.” He adds, “I’ve never seen myself as an architect in the strict sense. The thought process that lies at the root of my work is more similar to that of a visual artist. For example, I’ve always said that architecture, when successful, turns into sculpture. Afterwards, it has to turn into something more, too. In fact, architecture is something that belongs to the city, to the people, to everyone. Furthermore, it also must be able to integrate new buildings and their history. In order to do this, there is a need to find a dialogue between actors and spectators as well.”

For Fuksas, creating a new project is “an emotional matter. We can talk about what comes first and what comes next, but the birth [of an idea], which is the focus point, has something miraculous, unintelligible, unique and unrepeatable. It is something that fills an empty space. For several days, I sketch ideas and craft models, I paint on canvas. The idea springs from the investigation when it wants to, not when I want it to. When a new project is completed, I just feel amazement and pride.”

Artigo escrito para a revista Made in Tbilisi, em Janeiro de 2014