According to architect Jurgen Mayer H, Georgia is using architecture to rebrand itself and “show there’s a change going on.” Mayer has built a variety of border checkpoints, airports and service stations there himself.
In an interview with design and architecture blog, Dezeen, the German architect said: “Georgia is a country in need of a lot of infrastructure and a lot of things that make the country run like a normal country.”
“So there’s an urgency. I sometimes compare it to Germany in post-war times when a town hall had to be built, a bus station had to be built, just to make the country work, and that resulted in some great contemporary architecture.”
Georgia is located in the Caucasus between Europe and Asia and was part of the Soviet Union until 1991.
Following the democratic reforms of 2003, the country planned a major investment programme, taking on board leading architects to give its infrastructure a fresh start.
Some of the projects included in this plan an airport in Kutaisi by UNStudio as well as a public service office in the capital, Tbilisi by Italian architects Massimilaino and Doriana Fuksas. Other projects include law courts, border crossings and town halls.
“Georgia has a very rich history in architecture but it’s also a very transitory country,” he said. “People drive and transport things from Azerbaijan to Turkey, and architecture along those transportation routes is maybe the only thing that you see when you drive through the country,” said Mayer.
“Georgia has a very rich history in architecture but it’s in a period of change right now,” he said. “Nothing really happened after the Soviet regime and architecture works quite well to show there’s a certain reach towards modernisation and a transformation of the country, also connecting the country to the West,” he said. “These projects are a very visible sign to show that there’s a change going on.”
The architect was invited by former president Mikheil Saakashvili to become part of this change.
“He saw our Metropol Parasol project [in Seville, Spain] in a book and he was inspired to invite me to talk about projects in Tbilisi.
“I think he had a really interesting vision to see architecture not only in buildings that we think are high cultural buildings, but also in very mundane structures.”
“To see that as an architectural contribution – how you welcome people entering your country or say goodbye with your checkpoint – I think that’s really impressive,” he added.
J. Mayer H. has three ongoing projects in Georgia: a 2500m2 private house; Saakashvili’s presidential library in the capital Tbilisi; and a train station that will connect the west and east.
“The station is in the middle of nowhere in the high plateau,” the architect told Dezeen. “It connects Turkey to Azerbaijan so they have to change the width of the train tracks, so everybody has to get out and everything has to be reloaded with security and customs and checkpoints and everything.”