ART VILLA GARIKULA
Site Garikula, Village Akhalkalaki, Republic of Georgia | Competition Holcim Prize in Sustainability | With Lasha Mamaladze, Kate Moxham, Marguerite Graham, Nick Gotthardt
Oral traditions recall the Garikula site as a key intersection in trade routes between Turkey, Georgia and Iran. Akhalkalaki itself was the seat of a Middle-Ages kingdom, a center for crafts and trade. The Bolgarski Villa, the hub of the Garikula arts complex, was built in 1885 as a summer home of Polish architect/engineer Vasiliy Bolgarski who also engineered a comprehensive water system that supported fruit, wine and spirits production. After the Soviet revolution in 1921, the site served as an army base and orphanage. Restoration began in 2000 by a dedicated team of art professors and students, and international programs have emerged in dialogue with the expansive realm of contemporary art, while revitalizing crafts and material traditions nearly lost under the Communist regime.
Development objectives for this rural campus include: preservation and re-interpretation of the landscape and architecture; expansion of organically nurtured polyculture orchards, vineyards and vegetable gardens; and construction of housing, studios, camping facilities, children’s classroom and exhibition space. Using low-energy building techniques and durable, inexpensive, local materials, the project will involve regional workers and integrate traditional construction with modern, sustainable practices to form a collective knowledge-base.
Reinvigoration of the village of Akhalkalaki is concomitant with the expansion. Basic operational systems of the site will be integrated into one another and serve to structure the landscape, providing an educational platform and ultimately a way of life at Garikula.
The village of Akhalkalaki is the site of other noblemen’s estates from the 19th century, including the house of Machabeli. Located on a hill overlooking Art Villa Garikula, it has served as the plein air painting center of the Tbilisi State Academy of Fine Arts since the 1950s.
In 2010, Garikula hosted The International Festival of Contemporary Art—Fest i Nova 2010. Artists from Georgia, Ukraine, Norway, Holland, Germany, Austria, France, USA, Armenia, Lithuania and Azerbaijan participated in exhibitions, performances, and special excursions. The success of Fest i Nova precipitated a communal dialog about how Art Villa Garikula can expand, develop, and grow sustainably.
2011 marks a pivotal time in the emergence and development of contemporary arts culture in Georgia. In October 2010 Wato Tsereteli established the Contemporary Arts Center of Tbilisi that features both galleries and classrooms. Since 2007, the Artisterium arts and culture festival has brought together international and Georgian contemporary artists for 10 days of exhibitions and events in Tbilisi. Today the sense of imagination, of optimism and energy in the contemporary arts community is palpable. Art Villa Garikula is a site where this spirit can be incubated and cultivated.