A summary of this lecture

August 9 2004 at 12:50 AM

Response to Lecture on Toros Toramanian

(Thank you Shahen for providing this.)

Department of Armenian Studies, Haigazian University
Beirut, Lebanon
Contact: Ara Sanjian
Tel: 961-1-353011


BEIRUT, Friday, 9 July, 2004 (Haigazian University Department of
Armenian Studies Press Release) - Mrs. Mary Danielyan lectured at
Haigazian University on "The Contribution of Toros Toramanian to the
Study of Armenian Architecture" on Thursday, 10 June, 2004.

Danielyan is a graduate of the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute and worked
after 1973 as an expert on the reconstruction of historical monuments in
the Soviet Armenian Ministry of Construction and later in the Board for
the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments. She was chief
architect, author or project manager of numerous reconstruction projects
of historical monuments in Armenia, including Garni, Makaravank,
Goshavank, Zvartnots and Noravank. From 1999 to 2003, Danielyan was the
chief architect of Zvartnots. Since 2003, she has been project manager
in the Architecture and Engineering Section of the Holy See of
Echmiadzin. She has also published a number of scientific articles on
some of these restoration projects.

Danielyan began her lecture by providing a biography of Toros
Toramanian, whom she described as a "talented artist and theoretician,
who acquainted the world with Armenian architecture." Toramanian was
born in 1864 in the town of Shabin Karahissar, then part of the Ottoman
Empire. He graduated from the Constantinople Lyceum of Fine Arts and in
the next few years designed a number of private residences for the rich,
as well as public buildings in Constantinople, Bulgaria and Romania.

Danielyan said that the lack of studies on Armenian architecture had
troubled Toramanian since his student days. In 1902, he accepted an
offer from Garo Basmajian in Paris to take part in an expedition to the
medieval Armenian capital of Ani, which was then part of the Russian
Empire. Toramanian participated in the excavations that the Russian
Caucasologist Nicholas Marr was conducting in Ani and was awed with what
he saw. Toramanian later took his research notes to Prof. Jozef
Strzygowski in Vienna. In 1918 the latter published a two-volume work,
Die Baukunst der Armenier und Europa [The Architecture of the Armenians
and Europe], acknowledging his debt to Toramanian. In 1921, Ani was
annexed to Turkey, and Toramanian could not return there to continue his
research. He asked Strzygowski in 1925 to return his notes, but to no avail.

When a committee was established in 1923 to preserve Soviet Armenia's
historical monuments, Toramanian became its chief expert and
participated in the reconstruction of parts of the Echmiadzin cathedral.
He also compiled the inventory of the Division of Architecture in the
History Museum of Armenia. Toramanian died in 1934. His published works
include a number of studies on the churches of Zvartnots, Gagikashen and
Tekor, as well the historical and cultural monuments of the Aragatsoyn
and Shirak regions, including the medieval church at Yereruyk.

The second part of Danielyan's lecture focused on Toramanian's
contribution to the study of the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator
or Zvartnots, the magnum opus, according to speaker, of medieval
Armenian architecture. The name Zvartnots, she explained, means 'the
abode of angels.' The church was built by the Catholicos Nerses III of
Tayk in 642-662, a period which also witnessed the first Arab invasions
of Armenia. The site chosen was believed to be the place where King
Trdat had met St. Gregory the Illuminator, who converted Armenia to
Christianity, after his release from the dungeon at Khor Virap. A
smaller church had existed in that same place before the seventh
century. The initial plan of Nerses III was to build not only a new and
bigger church, but also a city nearby. The latter part of his dream did
not materialize. The Church of Zvartnots has two altars, one of which
was constructed in Byzantine style in 652 to enable the Emperor
Constantine to receive communion in this new church according to
Chalcedonian traditions. The Church of Zvartnots stood for 300 years.
With its attendant constructions, it was the seat of the Armenian
Catholicos for some time, and Nerses III is believed to have been buried
within its compound.

Toramanian first participated in the excavations of Zvartnots at the
invitation of the Rev. Father Khachig Dadian in 1904. Toramanian was
highly impressed by Zvartnots. He said that although Zvartnots was not
as large as the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople or the Pantheon
in Rome, its architectural style was highly original and it could,
hence, compete with Hagia Sophia through its high artistic traits.
Toramanian was unhappy, however, with Dadian's unprofessional methods in
excavating the site. The latter frequently used dynamite to transport
the large pieces. That same year, Toramanian presented his own
reconstruction of Zvartnots. It was based on a newly discovered model of
the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator (Gagikashen), constructed by
King Gagik I in Ani in the tenth century. Gagikashen was reputed to have
been built in the Zvartnots style. Toramanian's theory was immediately
criticized by Dadian and Ter Sargsian, a renowned architect from St.
Petersburg. After Toramanian's death, his main critic was the architect
Stepan Mnatsakanian. Most experts in Armenian architecture do accept,
however, the validity of Toramanian's proposed reconstruction; Danielyan
described it as Toramanian's magnum opus.

Today, only five percent of the church's original structure survives,
said Danielyan. Following its destruction, the stones were used for a
variety of purposes by people living in its vicinity. In the year 2002,
the Lincy Foundation financed the partial reconstruction of this
monument, based on Libarid Sadoyan's plan, which had been approved in
1986. Moreover, the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund funded a separate project
to survey and digitalize all 2050 stone fragments still standing in the
Zvartnots compound. All these fragments now have their own ID cards,
forming an archive consisting of 30 volumes or 56 CDs.

The second part of Danielyan's lecture was accompanied by a slide show
of both archival and recent pictures related to the excavations and
reconstruction of Zvartnots.

In a very lively question-and-answer session that followed the lecture,
Danielyan answered a variety of questions related to local and foreign
influences in the architectural design of Zvartnots, the causes of its
destruction and the various signs carved by masons on stones used during
construction, as well as the bas-relief of a Zvartnots-type church on
the door of Sainte Chapelle in France, Toramanian's international
stature, the whereabouts of his notes used by Strzygowski, etc.
Danielyan told the audience that three years ago Toramanian's
granddaughter had sold all of her grandfather's remaining archives to
the Armenian Board for the Preservation of Historical Monuments. These
archives are now being catalogued, and the Armenian National Academy of
Sciences is planning the publication in three volumes of Toramanian's
scientific works. The Church of Zvartnots itself cannot be reconstructed
according to internationally agreed criteria, for very few of its
original stones remain in place.

Danielyan's lecture on Toros Toramanian was the first in a series of two
to be held at Haigazian University. Her lecture tour to Beirut was
initiated by Haydjar, the Association of Armenian Professionals
(Architects and Engineers) in Lebanon.

Haigazian University is a liberal arts institution of higher learning,
established in Beirut in 1955. For more information about its activities
you are welcome to visit its web-site at <>;.
For additional information on the activities of its Department of
Armenian Studies, contact Ara Sanjian at <>.


Department of Armenian Studies, Haigazian University
Beirut, Lebanon
Contact: Ara Sanjian
Tel: 961-1-353011


BEIRUT, Monday, 12 July, 2004 (Haigazian University Department of
Armenian Studies Press Release) - On Wednesday, 16 June, 2004, Mrs. Mary
Danielyan, project manager in the Architecture and Engineering Section
of the Holy See of Echmiadzin, gave the second of her lectures at
Haigazian University. This time, her topic was "The Creative Role of
Alexander Tamanian in Armenian Architecture and City-Planning."

The first part of Danielyan's lecture was devoted to Alexander
Tamanian's (1878-1936) early career in Russia. Born in the city of
Yekaterinodar, Tamanian graduated in 1904 as an architect from the
Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg. He oversaw the
reconstruction of an eighteenth century Armenian church in St Petersburg
in 1904-1906. Thereafter, he designed and constructed a number of
private residences and public buildings in various Russian cities. His
most famous work at this stage was probably the private residence of
Prince S. A. Shcherbatov in Moscow, for which Tamanian received a gold
medal from the Moscow City Commission in 1914. Danielyan also mentioned
that Tamanian designed in Yaroslavl in 1913 the square of a small
Russian town as part of the nationwide celebrations marking the 300th
anniversary of the accession of the Romanov dynasty to the Russian
throne. Tamanian was elected a member of the Imperial Academy in St.
Petersburg in 1914, at the relatively very young age of 36. He was
married to Camilla, a Russian lady of French origins, and together they
had two sons and a daughter. His sons, Gevorg and Iulii, would also
pursue their father's profession.

The 1917 revolutions in Russia brought architectural work to an abrupt
temporary halt. Tamanian was forced, for a short period, to design sets
for theatrical performances, including Shakespeare's Macbeth.
Nevertheless, he continued his active participation in public
organizations and was also involved in efforts aimed at preserving
antiquities and valuable works of art.

Danielyan said that Tamanian moved to Armenia in 1919, where he would
work until his death, except for a brief sojourn in Persia in 1921. From
1923, he worked on the general plans of a number of Armenian-inhabited
cities, among them Yerevan, Vagharshapat, Stepanakert, Leninakan and
Karakilise. He was also the architect of a number of industrial
enterprises, public buildings and educational institutions. Moreover,
Tamanian was active in planning for new roads and the restoration of
Armenia's irrigation network. He also headed the government's technical
section, was the Vice-President of the State Planning Committee and the
Chairman of the Committee to Preserve Antiquities. Tamanian had many
critics after his death. He was accused of being a nationalist, and some
of his disciples, like Mikayel Mazmanian and Gevorg Kochar, were exiled
from Armenia at the height of the Stalinist purges in 1937. Danielyan
opined that probably only Tamanian's early death saved him from a
similar fate.

The lecturer next dwelt on the chief plan of Yerevan devised by
Tamanian. The latter took into consideration the fact that Armenia's
capital, which then had 75 thousand inhabitants, was surrounded by
mountains, adversely affecting its continental climate. He therefore
envisaged the new Yerevan, designed to have a population of 150
thousand, as a garden city with the newly planted forests acting as its
lungs. Tamanian tried to preserve in his plan a number of Yerevan's old
streets, although these and the newly constructed ones would all be tied
to the city's center. The city would have two main avenues. The
industrial enterprises would be situated in the south so that the
north-south winds blowing over the city would assist in the dissipation
of the polluted air. Workers would live outside this industrial zone and
would commute to work using public transport. The students' and hospital
quarters would be constructed in the north-east. The city would expand
in future in both northerly and southerly directions. Its buildings
should not be more than three or four storeys high, while its roads
should be planted with green. Two bridges would cross the Hrazdan River,
which flows through the capital. However, Yerevan grew faster than
Tamanian and his contemporaries had anticipated. In 1935, he revised his
earlier plan so as to accommodate 450 thousand people in the future.
Some aspects of his initial plan were never implemented. The Northern
Avenue, which he envisaged connecting the Opera House to the central
square, is being constructed only now.

Danielyan next focused on three public buildings designed and
constructed by Tamanian himself as part of his general plan for Yerevan.
She identified the People's House (currently, the Opera and Ballet
Theatre), the Government House and the Yerevan Hydro-Electric Power
Plant as his three most important achievements, which helped inaugurate
the modern period of Armenian architecture. Tamanian remained
unsurpassed as an architect throughout the twentieth century, stated the
lecturer. However, the Government House, situated on Yerevan's central
square was not completed according to the original plan. Danielyan said
that Tamanian had first conceived the idea of a People's House as early
as 1917. He planned to have a giant structure with two (Summer and
Winter) halls, which would share a common stage. This original plan was
also changed later, and the Opera and Ballet Theatre and the adjoining
Philharmonic Hall are today both closed structures with separate stages.
Danielyan said that fellow architect Toros Toramanian, an expert in the
history of Armenian architecture, was Tamanian's main consultant. Their
friendship resulted in very fruitful cooperation, with Tamanian using in
his work many of the decorative motifs of the medieval Church of
Zvartnots, excavated and studied by Toramanian.

In the question-and-answer session that followed the lecture, Danielyan
referred to Tamanian's various efforts - as Chairman of the Committee to
Preserve Antiquities - to save a number of old churches in Yerevan from
destruction during the anti-religious campaign in the first decades of
Communist rule in Armenia. She also expressed worry that Tamanian's
basic principle that older sections of Yerevan should be preserved
during the expansion of the city is not being observed during the
current construction of the Northern Avenue. Some of the private and
public buildings that are being erected along this avenue do not seem to
be in harmony with the already existing structures like the Opera House.
She also described as a crime the turning of the Theatre Square around
the Opera House into a zone of cafés. The Circular Garden devised by
Tamanian is also on the verge of destruction, again because of the many
cafés that have been allowed to function in the area.

Danielyan's lecture tour to Beirut was initiated by Haydjar, the
Association of Armenian Professionals (Architects and Engineers) in
Lebanon. In addition to her two talks at Haigazian University, she also
spoke to the Armenian public in the village of Anjar.

Haigazian University is a liberal arts institution of higher learning,
established in Beirut in 1955. For more information about its activities
you are welcome to visit its web-site at <>;.
For additional information on the activities of its Department of
Armenian Studies, contact Ara Sanjian at <>.

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