"The battle for the quality of life, which architecture is waging in the most remote, poor and dangerous corners of the planet - on the borders of the inhabited European world."
Alejandro Aravena. From the curatorial manifesto of the 15th Venice Biennale of Architecture.
The emphasized contextual approach closely related to the history of the place is one of the key characteristics of the interior design of the recently opened branch of the educational center TUMO in Stepanakert, the capital of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The Tumo center for creative technologies is a network of out-of-school educational institutions where adolescents 12-18 years old are given free access to education of a new format, high technologies, etc. (more than 10,000 children study for free). The first center was built in Yerevan, then its branches appeared in Dilijan, Gyumri and Stepanakert. Next year it is planned to open another center in Vanadzor.
The project in Stepanakert has embodied the semantic and historical multi-layered nature. The third in the list of TUMO centers, at first glance, it does not represent a large-scale architectural phenomenon, especially if we compare it with the central office in Yerevan. However, in the context of the current global architectural mainstream, the project looks more than relevant.
Initially, it was planned to build a separate building for the Stepanakert TUMO center, but for financial reasons this idea had to be abandoned, and the institution was located in a two-story building of the 19th century on the central square of the city.
It is paradoxical: in Soviet times it served the needs of the KGB, during the years of the Karabakh military conflict it was the headquarters of the Armenian armed forces, and now a modern educational center has been opened in it! This building was abandoned before the reconstruction for the center of TUMO.
The center is located on the ground floor of the building and consists of 8 working rooms (four of which are shared), a presentation hall, a recreation area and utility rooms. The premises were planned taking into account the existing load-bearing walls, which formed the contextual appearance of the center.
Major changes during the reconstruction took place only in the courtyard, where a recreation area was added. There is a bicycle parking near the main facade, which has not yet been implemented.
Despite the strict design constraints, a free and coherent spatial atmosphere has been created in the center. Therefore, window and door openings in the interior, for the most part, are open or filled with single-leaf windows and panoramic transparent doors. In particular, in the common rooms, window openings were deliberately left open, since the goal was not to divide these rooms.
In terms of its technological equipment, the center is in no way inferior to the Yerevan one and is equipped with the latest equipment, and its discreet design disposes to maximum concentration on the educational process.
Bright accents are set only by individual objects, in particular, in the recreation area, the authors took a little liberty and equipped it with orange chairs.
One of the main positions in the interior concept was the preservation of the existing masonry of load-bearing walls made of Shusha stone (a kind of limestone), which is maximally emphasized by the minimalist design. At the initiative of the authors of the project, the walls were cleaned and restored. These works turned out to be more expensive than the trivial plaster or drywall coating. This was partly a risky move, since, apart from the financial component, this decision falls out of the general design concept of TUMO centers, which is characterized by an ascetic approach to interior design with a predominance of gray shades and a maximum emphasis on technology. However, it was this “unpretentiousness” that became the determining factor in the ideology of the new interior: the history of the building, along with its gloomy pages, is not disguised, but, on the contrary, is released, making it possible, on the one hand, to get in touch with the past, and on the other, to mentally strive for the future.
Shushi Arts Center
In 2013, the Arts Center was opened in the city of Shushi, which became the first art institution to appear in Nagorno-Karabakh after the collapse of the USSR. An art gallery with modern technical equipment, the center has become a catalyst for the development of cultural industries in the city and in the region. Exhibitions and festivals are held here, for example, the Shushi Art Project. The building also houses the permanent exhibition of the Carpet Museum.
The institution is located on Gazanchetsots Street, not far from the Cathedral. The center is located in a two-story building of the Armenian Spiritual Inspection of the first half of the 19th century, which was in a dilapidated state before reconstruction.
In 2007, the Ministry of Urban Development of the republic handed over the construction to the family of the Moscow philanthropist Sergei Sarkisyan. In the same year, under the leadership of the architect Vlad Sargsyan, design work began, and the “Storaket” bureau was invited at the final stage to decorate the internal and external spaces, that is, to give the center a final look.
The reconstruction project involved the restoration of the front part of the building and the rebuilding of the rear half, with the new part, according to the original plan, to be sustained in the style of the historical half. However, in addition to the interior and landscaping, the changes also affected the facade, in connection with which the new extension now resembles a modernized traditional building, which is perceived independently of the historical one.
The building has two floors with a basement. The entrance is located asymmetrically, on the right side of the historic building along the street facade.
On the opposite side from the entrance, along the side facade, there is a staircase to the second floor. The first two floors are intended for exhibitions, so their interiors are designed as functional and restrained as possible, and the layout makes it possible to organize any type of exposition.
At the rear of the first two floors are the administrative and service premises.
The layout of the basement floor is more flexible, because, in addition to exhibitions, it is planned to organize other events there.
Of course, it is difficult to unequivocally determine the impact of the Arts Center on architectural trends in Nagorno-Karabakh, but it is obvious that after it other buildings with a similar architectural solution began to appear in the republic. In particular, the Narekatsi art institute in Shushi, which opened almost simultaneously with the Arts Center, is similarly housed in an old, dilapidated building, and the Park Hotel in Stepanakert is located in a former hospital.
The unrecognized republic, on whose borders shots are still heard, is in a state of fragile truce and so far has little to say to modern world architecture. In the 20 years that have passed since the end of hostilities, funds were directed primarily to the restoration and development of infrastructure, and only gradually projects of administrative, residential and tourist types began to be implemented. Of course, cult projects (restoration and reconstruction of existing churches and monasteries, as well as new temples), which carried a strong symbolic meaning, played a special role in the architectural chronicle.
Despite the absence of any resonance in the architectural community, it is obvious that the projects of the Arts Center and the TUMO Center are those rare cases when a modern approach to reconstruction and interior design becomes not only a tool for solving real problems, but also a contribution to the development of society.