In the frame of the artist-in-residence exchange programme of < rotor
>, the Armenian artist Vahram Aghasyan spends one month in Graz. On
the 19th of April he talks about urban developments in Yerevan, specifically
about the Northern Avenue and its history.
Vahram Aghasyan, born 1974, lives and works in Yerevan, Armenia.
in cooperation with:
Cultural City Network Graz
City without a Center.
Construction as a Criminal Act
Lecture by Vahram Aghasyan on April 19, 2011, 7 pm at < rotor >,
in English language
The Northern Avenue in Yerevan was planned as a street to connect two
city centers (the opera house and the Republic Square) with each other,
as part of a master plan developed in the 1920s by the architect Aleksandr
Tamanyan. This overall plan signifies the enthusiasm of the 1920s to construct
a just, equal, and prospering society, and was accompanied by the desire
of designing a garden city.
Under the influence of Stalinist revisionist politics of the 1930s, the
socialist city started to be constructed in a neoclassical style, and
the modernist plan was omitted. Except for administrative buildings and
avenues, the rest of the city center (secondary streets, alleys and yards)
were left unfinished.
Later, WWII, Stalin’s death, and the beginning of the Cold War led to
the cancellation of the construction of Yerevan’s center together with
Northern Avenue and there was no construction allowed in this section
of the city until recently. The collapse of the Soviet Union and Armenian
independence, followed by economic ups and downs, the breakage in the
functioning of electricity, public transportation and communication networks,
as well as a “wild” privatization process, and fragmentation of the public
space had a huge impact on the city.
Northern Avenue is now in the axis of recent urban developments. On the
one hand, it serves economic interests of dominant groups of society and
the strengthening of their political power, on the other hand it is in
the middle of a revival of economy and development of tourism, which encourages
the commodification of national symbols and culture. A high percentage
of property owners are from Armenian Diaspora, who are in Yerevan only
for few months during the summer and rich Armenians, who regard having
property in this section as an investment. In addition, frequent traffic
jams and the continued presence of construction dust will keep and conserve
the Northern Avenue as a ghost city or an inner void in the center of
Yerevan for a long time.