PALACE OF RITUALS aka palace of weddings
Architects: V. Djorbenadze, V. Orbeladze
Constructor: G. Pitskheluari
First of all, we should observe and say a few words regarding the process that is happening right now on a global scale among the people who are interested in architecture: it is the rising interest in Soviet architecture. This process of rising interest in Soviet architecture and Soviet History, in general, is occurring in Georgia as well. From this point of view, we could say that the process of Soviet Union’s historical reconstruction is happening right now as in we are building the political and cultural construction which will tell people what Soviet Union was and what was happening in there. I fear that this intellectual construction, this historiographical construction could become a kind of totality where all the individual stories, adventures, feelings, dependence will be lost.
We can start talking about the palace of rituals and the uniqueness of this building by saying a few words about its architect, Victor Jordenadze, who everyone in Tbilisi knew as merely Butsa. He was born in 1925 and his whole career encompassed most of the 20th century. He died in 1999. Butsa grew up in the city Samtredia where he received special education in music and foreign languages. His mother had the means to hire private tutors and as a result he could freely speak in French, English and etc. His circle of friends included Sergo Parajanov. You could say that the dialogue between these two great personalities has been reflected in their respective works. We should also talk about Butsa’s special interest in Georgian church architecture. He wrote an interesting letter about the Mtskheta’s cross, Bebri’s Castle and Svetitskoveli and carried out a very original research to properly analyze them. This is important to know in order to understand his approach to architecture. This analysis was primarily an architectural experience for him. For example, I remember how much he wrote about apses and even in the main volumes of the palace of rituals we can see the interpretation of the apses. The approach to this building, the walls which carve and create space on themselves, we can see all of these in Butsas’s other work such as the crematory at Mukhatgverdi’s cemetery and another very interesting building is the Ilia Chavchavadze Museum in Kvareli. I guess these three buildings are Butsas’s most expressive creations but all in all, his inclination towards plastic lines is visible in all of his works.
If we look at the location of the palace of rituals, we’ll see how hideous this part of Tbilisi is. It was like this before as well. This building became the first main feature of this outskirt. It is very expressive contrary to this place as well as other soviet-era buildings. Even then this was such an indifferent location – with no sense of architecture, anti architectural as one might say. Butsa managed to create a sterile architectural zone with this building. In retrospect, we can assign a historical importance to this building as Butsa was a man interested in architecture and multitude architectural experiences went through his prism. Palace of rituals is an outcome of these numerous experiences. We can recall early Modernism, Expressionism and late Modernism – an example of this is Corbusier and his Notre Dame du Haut located in Ronchamp, anthroposophical architectural models, Meldessohn’s Einstein Tower and etc. It should be noted that in contrast to the current architectural scene where the primary search occurs by creating composite situations (as in the main weapon of today’s architecture is creating various compositional situations), the characteristic of this building is the pursuit of harmony. It might be alienated because of its grand scale but its exterior doesn’t feel foreign and the interior is in complete harmony with man.
We can discuss the palace of rituals amidst two poles, one pole can be staging and the other mythography. By staging I mean the way the architectural space is distributed, what kind of games it offers to the public. An architect is a stage director, you see, as he creates spaces where people of his era can play, he creates a space where various rituals and events are held, be it religious, political, small-scale social gatherings or grand events. Aside from the stage element, we can also describe a few elements which are shout outs of the history of architecture. We can recall apses, which Butsa Jorbenadze was greatly interested in. Think about the Bana’s church and its apses as well as Russian architecture. These two cylindrical volumes could be inspired by those apses. We can also move on to Mythography – Butsa built a sort of factory where he could create a myth. This mythography, mythographical writing leads us to read mythographical symbols in everything we see. One of the most important topics is the crown roofing of the entrance, which is clearly an interpretation of Georgian traditional accommodations – a sun and a well (which is currently covered) below it. The well invites us to the lower mysterious spaces. This central space is a sort of medieval square. As soon as we stand here, we’ll discover that we are standing between the interior and the exterior. It doesn’t fit in the interior’s narrow space. Crown roofing above, a well below and entrances around the corners are reminiscent of medieval streets. The leading theme is walls of the palace as they create spirals. These spirals are the most interesting feature of the staging. For me, this building was a discovery. No matter how long you will look at its plan, you can never imagine what unexpected thing you will see when you tour among these spirals. In this case you forget the mythological writings such as the symbolical painting of Mr. Zurab Nijaradze in the back wall . This building pushes us to decipher numerous symbols, but when we enter the building we forget everything and the architecture becomes a sacred space experience. These spirals which continue to live from the interior to exterior and then come back inside, calls us, They urge us to wander endlessly, they push us towards the endless discoveries.
Text: David Bostanashvili
Photo: Ana Chorgolashvili, Levan Maisuradze