In August and September of 2023, the vibrant city of Tbilisi played host to the reimagine your city summer school in collaboration with Tbilisi Architecture Biennial, where 25 young professionals from diverse backgrounds embarked on a collective journey to explore public spaces and local inititatives in Tbilisi and evaluate the outcomes of a two-year program reimagine your city.
The Center of Contemporary Art, under the guidance of Aleksi Soselia, served as an inspirational starting point for our exploration. Aleksi introduced participants to CCA’s annual festival centred around the use and access to River Mtkvari, the city’s main river. Afterwards, the participants could get the full experience by going to the river banks through a wooden ladder.
The group also explored another facet of the city, learning about the case study of Dighomi Meadows a remarkable green space that sadly exemplifies environmental degradation in Georgia. The area is marred by extensive waste dumping and resource extraction, issues that authorities have largely overlooked in pursuit of economic development. This prioritization of economic growth has come at the expense of the environment, with industry frequently disregarding regulations for financial gain.
Another highlight of our summer school was a day trip to Gldani neighborhood. Ana Revazishvili took the group on a tour through Gldani, often called a city within a city. Exploring various markets, experiencing suburban life, tracing its continuity through Soviet-era blocks, and observing the changes in public spaces in the wake of capitalism, participants got insights into the dynamic nature of urban transformation.
Moreover, we had the pleasure of meeting Levan Asatiani and his inspiring project, the Street School. This non-formal education and workshop space is located in a garage within one of the city’s residential areas. Less than 80% of Tbilisi garages are used for car parking, so there’s a need to rethink their function. The street school is one of the examples of neighborhood reactivation through repurposing the unused spaces.
Over five days, exploring Tbilisi opened our eyes to the incredible diversity of public spaces and their multifaceted use. We owe this experience to the guidance of inspiring local experts, activists, artists, and architects. A walk with Wato Tsereteli allowed us to rediscover the city, unveiling its hidden stories. We also had a chance to immerse ourselves in the Desertirebi Basar through a sound walk by artist Mareike Splint as part of the “Cooking Imaginations: Tbilisi Migrant Stories” project. This interactive sound walk through the bustling Deserters Bazaar, the city’s largest produce market, showcased the market’s role as a public space where diverse cultural identities converge through food. One of the last visits was exploration of the National Trust of Georgia and the exhibition by David Grigoryan about the changes in the neighborhood around the building where National Trust of Georgia is located. Our time in Tbilisi was a whirlwind of exploration and discovery, leaving us with a profound appreciation for the city’s unique stories.
The project was realized in collaboration with Cultprojector (UKR), Wrocław Institute of Culture (POL), and Tbilisi Architecture Biennial (GE), funded by the Federal Foreign Office in the framework of the Eastern Partnership program.
Pictures: Katya Romanova