Yerevan’s Disappearing Past: MPs Sound Off on Continued Demolition of City’s Landmarks
MPs from four of the six factions in Armenia’s National Assembly responded to the following question: “What do you think about Yerevan’s current architectural profile? Can a new Yerevan be built by demolishing the old?”
MP Zarhuhi Postanjyan – Heritage Party
I would say yes; we are destroying Yerevan. It’s sad and troubling. Today, civilization isn’t trying to control Yerevan but just the opposite; a nomad mentality is being applied here.
MP Margarit Yesayan – Republican Party
We started destroying old buildings 15-20 years ago. I have thought about this issue for quite a while and I am very saddened since there are old buildings that could be rehabilitated, reconstructed and used for public aims if there was a bit of goodwill.
For instance, take the building that used to stand at 30 Aram Street. I spent my childhood on Nalbandyan Street and passed that building often. It was a symbol of Yerevan. No matter how much the authorities claim that it wasn’t included in the list of cultural-historic structures, that list has no significance for me. Does such a list even exist? As a Yerevan resident it was a landmark for me and it was demolished. I was really saddened, as if something close to me was destroyed and no longer exists.
And today, we hear rumors that other building will be demolished. And the owners of these sites didn’t get property rights today but 10-15 years ago, due to the goodwill of certain individuals. Today, they are property owners and we are in a country in a free market system, and we respect property rights. From the perspective of the law, the owner has the right to do whatever. If an owner wants to demolish an old building and construct a high-rise, that person has the right. They should have realized back then, when they were giving away these property rights, that something exists on that land that mustn’t be destroyed. We are always looking at things in hindsight. Perhaps it’s an Armenian characteristic. We lose something and only then do we confront reality in the eye. We bemoan the loss after the fact and ask, why are we destroying all this.
MP Levon Zurabyan – Armenian National Congress
We’ve always been on a very low level when it comes to urban planning for Yerevan. What’s taking place today can’t be regarded as meeting the basic needs of urban planning for a modern city. For example, we don’t have enough good parks in Yerevan. Go to any European city and you’ll see that parks are the most important asset. We don’t have such parks because the authorities in Armenia and Yerevan, when planning the city, have a profit motive uppermost in mind and not the basic demands of constructing a functioning city. These authorities sell such green zones for construction purposes. They receive huge bribes for the land and they are ready to violate all urban planning norms just to get rich. This is what we see unfolding before our eyes in Yerevan.
Old buildings of cultural significance are being demolished to make way for 15 story buildings and the sale of apartments within. Other factors aren’t taken into account. Is there enough space for parking? What will be the impact on the surrounding neighborhood? What about infrastructure? All these are secondary considerations. Making money comes first.
When it comes to saving such historic buildings, the ANC has suggested that the parliament compile a list of such buildings and not the government, which is the case today. The government should be stripped of such a right so that it cannot, whenever convenient, remove this or that building from the list.
MP Naira Zohrabyan – Prosperous Armenia
One thing I can say for certain is that Yerevan today lacks any overall architectural silhouette. It’s a mish-mash of structures that have nothing in common. The city has lost any architectural logic where all construction norms are overlooked.
I graduated from the Theatrics Institute where we also took a course in cultural studies. So I look at things from that perspective as well a bit. Perhaps our touf stone has saved us and that we have a beautiful city in parts, but overall little has been preserved from Tamanyan’s Yerevan. The city has been turned into a megapolis built on an incomprehensible architectural logic and an attitude that anything goes. You want to demolish, go right ahead.
Top photo: Battling to save Yerevan’s Afrikyan Building (2015)