RA010 | BORJOMI
RA010: BORJOMI: TYPICAL SECTIONS IN ATYPICAL PLACES followed limber rail switchbacks and rugged dirt roads to discover former health sanatoria, mineral water sources, and villages in the Borjomi region. Research conducted in this workshop fueled a curatorial proposal for a festival interpreting the ecological “backbone” of this renowned health landscape.
Site Borjomi Plateau, Republic of Georgia
On the set of the film”Solaris” in the Solaris conference scene there are bottles of Borjomi water standing on the tables. The film crew members told that the action is in the far future and it is necessary to turn labels from cameras or to apply new labels. But film director Andrey Tarkovsky persisted that labels had to be seen. He was concerned that in the far future Borjomi will definitely exist.On the set of the film”Solaris” in the Solaris conference scene there are bottles of Borjomi water standing on the tables. The film crew members told that the action is in the far future and it is necessary to turn labels from cameras or to apply new labels. But film director Andrey Tarkovsky persisted that labels had to be seen. He was concerned that in the far future Borjomi will definitely exist.- Borjomi JSC web site
Borjomi is a small city mountain city with two significant 19th-century parks, several hotels, and frequent bus and train service to the capital of Tbilisi, which lies 2.5 hours to the northeast. The ski resort of Barkuriani, 24 km southeast of Borjomi, was the center for all winter sports training for Soviet Olympic athletes. The Borjomi-Bakuriani railway, affectionately known as the Kukushka, was once the primary means for families from the Soviet Union and Caucasus region to reach the villages, health sanatoria, and skiing destinations in the mountains above Borjomi. Sanatoria on the plateaus above Borjomi were oriented to capture fresh air currents believed to cure lung disorders and tuberculosis. Each village along the corridor features spring water with a specific and discernable taste due to its mineral chemistry. Borjomi mineral water is believed to cure many ailments from hangovers to stomach disorders; it is rumored that Yuri Gagarin’s first request upon returning to earth was a bottle of Borjomi water. Today the railway is operational, although resorts and sanatoria along the corridor lie abandoned due to the economic crisis that resulted from the breakup of the Soviet Union. Economic prosperity has been elusive for families residing along the corridor, and the area lacks accessible and legible tourist infrastructure.
A landscape gathered in switchbacks
Climbing 850 meters, switchbacking through forests and across steep gorges, the 37-km long Borjomi-Bakuriani railway connects the alpine Georgian cities of Borjomi and Bakuriani. An iconic destination for healing and recreation in the Cacuasus since the tsarist era of the mid-19th century, the Borjomi region of the Republic of Georgia has received little attention as the subject of architectural inquiry.The Borjomi region still struggles with the effects of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Rural development and economic planning is nonexistent. 2000 internally displaced persons, (or IDPs) from the Abkhazia conflict of 1992 still reside in substandard conditions in former sanatoria. The workshop asks participants to imagine interventions to effect a recuperation of the Borjomi-Bakuriani rail corridor that address the economic, social, ecological and technical challenges specific to Borjomi and post-Soviet redevelopment. The Georgian word for health, janmrteloba, translates to “whole soul”, combining the Persian root for soul—jan and the Georgian root for whole—mteli. This interdisciplinary workshop asks participants to devise a “whole soul” approach to recuperation of the Borjomi-Bakuriani rail corridor that includes:
- Development of architectural and site-planning strategies specific to climate and topography of the corridor;
- Intensifying four-season and non-touristic programming along the rail corridor;
- Design of permanent housing for IDPs;
- Adaptive reuse of sanatoria;
- Improving landscape interventions along the corridor for tourist access.
Field Study Program
- City of Borjomi
- Sadgeri Plateau cities: Tsemi, Libani, Tba, Tsaghveri
- Art Villa Garikula
- Rkoni Monastery
Participants explored villages by car, foot and rail, from the narrow gorge of Daba and Tsagveri, to the plateau settlements of Tsemi, Tba and Libani, to the high alpine resort of Bakuriani. At each stop they sketched and compose section drawings detailing the topography, architecture, mineral water sources (“tskaros”), rail infrastructure and vegetation. They examined in detail how the specific section governed by the rail grade might influence design proposals. The workshop included a trip to Abastumani, a historic spa village featuring many examples 19th-century Russian-Georgian wooden vernacular architecture.
Special thanks to Wato Tsereteli and Karaman Kutateladze