Bank of Georgia headquarters
The Bank of Georgia headquarters (Georgian: საქართველოს ბანკის სათავო ოფისი) is a building in Tbilisi, Georgia. It was designed by architects George Chakhava and Zurab Jalaghania  for the Ministry of Highway Construction of the Georgian SSR and finished in 1975. The engineer was Temur Tkhilava. This 18-storey building was acquired by the Bank of Georgia in 2007. From 2010 to 2011, a new main entrance and underground lobby were constructed, and its interior was completely renovated and now has a total area of 13,500 m2.
George Chakhava was the Deputy Minister of highway construction in the 1970s. Therefore, he was both the client and the lead architect of this project. He could choose the site location best suited for the design himself. The building costs were 6 million rubles.
In 2007 the building was conferred an Immovable Monument status under the National Monuments Acts. For 2009 a renovation and extension to 15.600 m2 was planned but not implemented.
George Chakhava (გიორგი ჩახავა) studied architecture at the State Polytechnical University in Tbilisi and graduated in 1949. Since then he has worked as an architect with his own studio and realized projects in Georgia as well as in Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Latvia. He claims that his main inspiration is the unique nature of my country with its individuality and beauty of each region in harmony with mountain villages. I was always amazed by the ordinary Georgian peasant's ability to build the house where the most expressive landscape was opened, sometimes preferring the nature's beauty to the living convenience. That is why the mastering of complicated relief became the defined moment of my creative work. In my view, the more relief is complicated, the more possibilities has the architect. Chakhava received several honors and awards. He was honored by the Union of the Architects of USSR, when in 1983 he received the State Prize of the USSR Council of Ministers. The Georgian Union of Architects awarded him with a medal for "The Special honor in Architecture". In 1991 he became Honored Member of the International Academy of the Architecture of the Oriental countries. Chakhava died on 25 August 2007.
The wooded site lies in the outskirts of Tbilisi at the river Kura River. It has a steep slope, declining from West to East. Big parts of the building are lifted off the ground, the landscape runs through beneath. The structure is visible from far, three major roads leading from Tbilisi to the north pass the site. The building can be entered from both sites, at the higher and lower end.
The structure consists of a monumental grid of interlocking concrete forms. Five horizontal parts with two storeys each seem to be stapled on top of each other. Three parts are oriented at an east-west axis, at a right angle to the slope, two are north-south oriented, along the slope. The structure rests on and hangs from three cores. They contain the vertical circulation elements like stairs and elevators. The highest core has 18 storeys. The building has a floor area of 10.960 sqm.
The design is based on a concept named Space City method (Georgian patent certificate # 1538). The idea is to use and cover less ground and give the space below the building back to nature. The architect's reference was a forest: the cores are like the trunk, the horizontal parts the crowns. Between the earth and crowns there is a lot of free space for other living beings, which create one harmonious world with the forest. The Space City method is based on the same principle. This is supposed to create experience of psychological comfort and well being in the people.
The concept that the landscape or nature "flows" through under the building was used by other architects, too. Le Corbusier worked theoretically on the "house on pilotis" and realized this idea for example from 1947 on in the Unité d'Habitation. Frank Lloyd Wright used a similar idea at Fallingwater in 1935. Glenn Murcutt used the proverb Touch This Earth Lightly literally in some of his designs. A current example is the Musée du quai Branly by Jean Nouvel in Paris, where a garden lies beneath a building.
The design goes back to ideas of the Russian constructivists from the 1920s. The architect El Lissitzky designed with his horizontal skyscrapers (Wolkenbügel) 1924 a structure that looks very similar. He also divided the cores and office areas in vertical and horizontal elements as an antithesis to the American concept of the skyscraper.
The style can be called "post-constructivist" and it is one of the best examples of this architectural concept in the city. Based on the use of fairfaced concrete and the sharp, geometrical volumes, the building can also be considered as part of the Brutalism movement. The concept of the space city has strong connections to Structuralism. Between Brutalism and Structuralism similar buildings were also built in other countries, for example the Yamanashi communication centre in Kofu by Kenzo Tange or Habitat 67 by Moshe Safdie, both finished in 1967.
Udo Kultermann, a German author, sees also a formal connection to the user of the building. The structure represents in his opinion the internal use by the formal reference to streets and bridges. Describing the building, Nikolai Ouroussoff, a New York Times's architecture critic, said: "Rising on an incline between two highways, the building’s heavy cantilevered forms reflect the Soviet-era penchant for heroic scale. Yet they also relate sensitively to their context, celebrating the natural landscape that flows directly underneath the building. The composition of interlocking forms, conceived as a series of bridges, brings to mind the work of the Japanese Metabolists of the late ’60s and early ’70s, proof that Soviet architects weren’t working in an intellectual vacuum."
It was the site of a contemporary art exhibition, "Frozen Moments: Architecture Speaks Back" in July 2010. Frozen moments: Architecture Speaks Back was a project organized by the Other Space Foundation in cooperation with the Laura Palmer Foundation in Poland addressing and taking place in the enigmatic Ministry of Transportation building in Tbilisi, Georgia. The Ministry of Transportation building is viewed by many Georgians as an eyesore and relic of the Soviet era, although many young Georgian artists admire the building. Recently bought by the Bank of Georgia, the building has somehow been turned over to a week of cross platform installations, performances, talks and activities that address the building and a constellation of political, economic, aesthetic and architectural associations. The project was financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture, the City of Warsaw and the Culture Program of the EC.
Controversy over design
The design is alleged to be stolen from a building that was planned but not built in the Prague district of Košíře, by Czech architect Karel Prager, who also designed the former Federal Assembly building in Prague. There is a version of some of the structural ideas of this project in the "Tree of Life" (Árbol de la vida) building in Lecherias, Venezuela, by Venezuelan architect Fruto Vivas.
- Coverstory of Time Europe 8.3.1976: It's a hard live for Ivan - Ultramodern office complex under construction in Tblisi
- Arthur Drexler: Transformations in modern architecture, Paperback, 168 pages, Distributed by New York Graphic Society (1979), ISBN 978-0-87070-608-0
- Udo Kultermann: Zeitgenössische Architektur in Osteuropa (DuMont Dokumente) (DE), Cologne, DuMont 1985, 254 pages, ISBN 978-3-7701-1554-9
- Architecture magazine domus, (IT/EN) Issue 577, Dec 1977, Pages 36,37
- Udo Kultermann: Zeitgenössische Architektur in Osteuropa, p. 59f
- Bank of Georgia headquarters. The Bank of Georgia. Accessed April 7, 2012.
- Information per email from George Chakhava (Junior) and Nino Kandelaki[original research?]
- George Chakhava
- see Müller / Vogel: dtv Atlas Baukunst, Band 2, S. 509 (German)
- Soviet Architects and Their Edifice Complex. New York Times (May 16, 2007)
- Frozen moments: Architecture Speaks Back on picasa
- "Pragerův federál provokuje dodnes (Prague Federal Building still controversial)" (in Czech). Portal of Prague. 26 February 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2014. Includes gallery of images.
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