III. Nation-building through YEREVAN- National narration through Urban Form
The city Yerevan is surrounded by Mount Ararat on three sides and Tamanyan has taken the natural landscape of the city as the key idea of his master planning. Tamanyan’s plan was circular, akin to the garden city. In Tamanyan’s plan of the city, Yerevan is bounded by Mount Ararat on three sides of the land with a broad ring highway lasting along the feet of the mountain. Within this boundary, there are two narrower concentric highways sandwiching a strip of circular green belt. In the center of all these concentric circles lies two of the important urban spaces, the Opera and Ballet Theater and Lenin Square, creating a hierarchy in the relief of the city.
Diagonal streets have spread out in the city to form a grid on the land. The streets does not only connect the exterior urban access, greenbelt and interior urban fabric, but could also serve the purpose of indicating important urban space in the plan. Before the city plan of Tamanyan has been applied, the narrow and winding streets of Yerevan were occupied by two-story clay or earth houses. They hardly have any directionality towards the statues or signs towards Armenian’s long-lasting civilizational legacy. In Tanmanyan’ s plan, he has reorganised the streets anchoring to the above-mentioned key urban space. Among all the streets, the Central Boulevard and the Northern Avenue was the key indicating access. The Central Boulevard was a preserved historical street which was previously the Grand Avenue in old Yerevan, it had led to the Opera and Ballet Theater, which is the major architecture of the cultural zone in Yerevan, as well as inviting a view of Mount Ararat into the cityscape.
National Narrative of a Long-Last Christian Country
Mount Ararat has a symbolic meaning for the nation as it was the mountain which, according to the Old Testament or the Book of Genesis, Noah’s ark has landed on. The locals referred to the mountain as the Sacred Mountain or Holy Mountain. Tamanyan has formed the narrative of Armenian as a Christianity nation by inviting the mountain into the city. This has also answered back to his version of utopia where the citizens will be able to engage in a national imagination with the unique city scape the sacred mountain has provided.
With indicating the Sacred Mountain and the cultural architecture, Tamanyan has reiterated the rich cultural history of Armenian, hence completing his narration for the nation.
The North Avenue, which led to Lenin Square, was an indication of the Soviet control. Lenin Square was designed to become the major public space of the city as well as the final destination of the military parades on major Soviet holidays. The government buildings were also settled around the Lenin Square to show the reign of the USSR over Yerevan. (Grigor 2007) From the description of the Lenin square in a Russian architectural magazine(1938), we could also see the importance of Lenin Square through the lens of the USSR.
‘’ The republic square of the city within its architectural space has been divided into four parts. The oval south part with a fountain is designed to ease the traffic congestion. Here most highways are being connected. The north side of the republic square with big fountains are designed for national events and hang outs. Parks and central districts are being connected to the republic square illustrating the neat design of the city. The Abovyan Street connect the Northern Avenue to the Republic Square in one side and to the Opera house to another north side.’’
“The project planning of Yerevan.” Leningrad. 1938. P.26.
In the same magazine, there is no mention of the Opera and Ballet Theater or any cultural urban space in Yerevan.
Boulevards and Avenues are often not only a tool to provide access, but also a way to strengthen control and narrative over a city. Haussmann widened and straightened the streets of Paris into boulevards so that the military vehicles would be able to enter the previously uncontrolled slums and medieval streets to enforce order. They are also often pointers towards monuments that demonstrate power, just like the obelisks erected in Rome by Pope Sixtus V. By constructing roads pointing towards the cultural and political center of the city, the historical content and soviet union is also framed and honoured by the city, strengthening narratives of the city.
1.“City Planning Project Of Yerevan”. 1938. Журнал “Архитектура Ленинграда” №2(Architecture Of Leningrad) p.23-26.Access: https://ru-sovarch.livejournal.com/797314.html
2.“The Practice of City Planning.”. 1938. Журнал “Архитектура Ленинграда” №2(Architecture Of Leningrad) p.12-18.Access: https://ru-sovarch.livejournal.com/797314.html