Healing Garden: From Industrial City to Urban Healing

by Tekla Tevdorashvili

The immersive audio walk takes on a journey through Rustavi, a Georgian city with a rich history and a unique industrial legacy. Participants are invited to explore Rustavi’s past, its struggles with air pollution, economic challenges, and the therapeutic potential of urban environments.

The first episode unfolds at the Rustavi metallurgical plant, where we delve into the city’s historical roots, tracing its origins back to the 5th century. We then fast forward to the 20th century when Rustavi became the industrial heart of Georgia, courtesy of the Soviet Union. This episode not only paints a picture of Rustavi’s fascinating history but also touches upon the pressing issue of air pollution, suggesting ways for listeners to monitor air quality in the city.

In the second episode, anthropologist Tea Kamushadze guides us through the Soviet history of Rustavi,
shedding light on its rebirth, historical significance, and its ever-evolving identity. We are invited to visit one of the smallest churches in Georgia, surrounded by a peaceful garden that holds recreational potential.

The third episode is narrated by environmental activist and Gavigude movement director, Tinatin Maghedani. Tinatin offers insights into Rustavi’s context, and Gavigude’s role in addressing these issues. Listeners are transported to a location near a striking sculpture of a respirator air filter mask, serving as a reminder of the dust and air pollution originating from nearby factories. This episode also reveals the extensive waste and plastic pollution in the area, prompting the group to embark on a cleanup mission.

In the fourth episode, the audience is then invited to explore the expansive Rustavi floodplain, stretching along both sides of the Mtkvari River. This area represents the first step in any Georgian city’s attempt to reconnect the community with its natural surroundings. Data Tsintsadze discusses the “Napirze” Rustavi floodplain project and “Data’s Garden,” Rustavi’s first urban garden that he created in his yard.

Lastly, the fifth episode offers a unique auditory experience. Listeners embark on a soothing sonic journey, designed to alleviate the stresses of urban life, and highlight the healing potential of urban gardens and green spaces. The episode is situated within “Data’s Garden,” encouraging listeners to visit the garden, be inspired, and consider similar initiatives in their own cities.

The audio walk was initially tested with a group of approximately 15 people on October 30th, followed by a discussion by the project’s key contributors: Tea Kamushadze, Data Tsintsadze, and Tekla Tevdorashvili. Soon, the walk will be available in English, opening its doors to a broader audience. This project holds the potential for more in-depth research on Rustavi and further interviews with residents and experts. It can also be expanded to other cities in Georgia and beyond, offering a platform for exploring various urban environments and researching their unique contexts.

The audio walk in Georgian is available on SoundCloud, and you are encouraged to explore the episodes at specific locations, with links provided in each episode.