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SVAN

Tbilisi, GE
Art Installation
Client: Tbilisi Biennial
2x2x6 m2

2022


Georgia’s history is a history of uncertainty. At its origin lies a constant struggle of belonging —— are we Ottoman, Persian, Russian, European? Georgia’s architecture is a reflection of this volatility: a fragmented mix of various architectural styles, from Neo- Classical to Art Nouveau, from Modernism to Constructivism. Temporality everywhere; nothing seems to last.

The svan defence tower might be the only non-eclectic architectural typology of Georgian origin. Traditionally built alongside medieval village houses, residents of the Svanetia region could quickly lock themselves inside the tower in the event of a hostile intrusion. On the interior: a collection of rooms vertically stacked according to size: as the walls decreased in thickness towards the top, the higher up the room, the bigger the internal space.

The tower offered physical protection to its residents, but more so, it provided a profound sense of security; no matter what, no matter when, no matter how long, the villagers knew they could endure; a masterpiece of Georgian perseverance, an icon of permanence in the history of Georgia.

Reimagining the svan tower as a symbolic object rather than a functional one, provides a positive outlook: the porous and fragile appearance expresses confidence —— nowhere to hide, nothing to hide from. The internal structure now becomes visible, four boxes of increasing size hover above one another. Like an inverted Maslow pyramid, they symbolise the hierarchy between the various needs of the Georgian population: resources, living spaces, job opportunities, self-actualisation. Wrapped by four thin elongated pieces of fabric in one continuous motion, the boxes are delicately held up to form a well-balanced structure —— a representation of the political stability needed as the foundation upon which to progress towards a better future.

Team: Jorik Bais, Alexandra Heijink