Buildings Are Not Enough

Living Factory - Tinatin Gurgenidze

Since 2013, Tinatin has been studing the built and lived enviremonts of the Gldani neighborhood in Tbilisi. Tinatin's work Concentrates on sociological approach towards architecture and urban space. In her work, she tries to understand what has happened within the Gldani neighborhoud during the Transi-ton Era, after Georgia became a country independet from the Soviet Union. In previous years Tinatin has visited various flats in Gldani, where she conducted several detailed interviews with the dwellers.

Visiting Leri's flat in Gldani offers a unique insight into a standardized USSR home. It is a summer Sunday afternoon, Leris mother is cooking in the kitchen, through the open window we hear noises from the patio. There's a specific smell in the flat, it reminds me of the other buildings I visited in Gldani. We sit down in the living room. In the corner there 's a piano with piles of books on top of it. The flat is lit by the sunlight, despite of that the lights are turned on. Through the window we can see Gldani's blocks and mountains on the horizon. Everything is very silent, it seems that there's no movement in the house.

„Before we moved here, we lived in another microdistrict in Gldani. We had no other choice. If I could, I would move to a family house outside of Tbilisi. My favourite areas in the city are, upper Vera or Sololaki. But I would only move if the living conditions were better, I don't want to live in a block house like this one anymore. I'm not a very sociable person. We're the third generation living in this flat - the first was family Kuibishev who received this place when it was built. Mr. Kuibishev used to work in the metro company, he left for Russia instantly after the collapse of Soviet Union. I live here with my sister and my mother. When we moved in we were four but my father passed away 8 years ago. I find our flat big enough I am satisfied with the rooms as they have enough space. The first years living in this flat, I remember that we had no electricity and I was playing in the yard a lot. Later we had a generator, so when there was no electricity our neighbours used to come to us to watch soap operas in the evening. When I was young I liked the space, because here I had my own room. Now I don't like either my flat, nor the district, the city and the country. I don't like anything anymore.

My flat is comfortable in some situations but you cannot change the planning. Some neighbours did it even it was not supposed to. I have to work a lot and my family members help me, I move around and work in different rooms. I influence the flat by working here occupying the whole space. The flat has changed my way of live. I would be a different person if I lived in the old town for example. I don't communicate with the neighbours that much, I just meet them sometimes in the elevator. I don't feel connected with my neighbours through the building, compared to the 90's today everybody retires to their own places. The architecture of this building is ruff, brutal, a bit boring... the rhythm is very boring.The quality of building is also very low; it was built too fast, but compared to other blocks our building is still in a good condition. I think that the spaces just don't work in this framework, as the connections between neighbourhoods are inconvenient. I don't think that the state and architects back then made a good job in planning these blocks. They just considered the basic needs of people, like having their own toilets. Living in the block was more comfortable for those who came from the villages, but the thing is that they were rural inhabitants and did not know how to live in the city.

In 1989 there were legislative changes allowing the people to make additions. I think this was a big mistake. In general Georgians don't take responsibility for public spaces, they simply don't care about it. They only take care of their own place. Here You can see that people are trying to adjust the space to their own needs but they don't adapt to already existing spaces. These buildings where produced in factories. They created a certain type of person but the whole system was artificial, that's why it broke down so easily.

Leri Tsikadze, photo courtesy of Tako Robakidze 
The text was originally published in the frame of the project Archive Transition in 2015. www.archiveoftransition.org