erevan's Disappearing Past: MPs Sound Off On Continued Demolition Of City's Landmarks

February 15 2016 at 5:20 PM

Response to The destruction of Yerevan's built heritage

01:05, February 8, 2016

Marine Martirosyan, David Banuchyan

MPs from four of the six factions in Armenia's National Assembly
responded to the following question: "What do you think about
Yerevan's current architectural profile? Can a new Yerevan be built
by demolishing the old?"

MP Zarhuhi Postanjyan - Heritage Party

I would say yes; we are destroying Yerevan. It's sad and troubling.

Today, civilization isn't trying to control Yerevan but just the
opposite; a nomad mentality is being applied here.

MP Margarit Yesayan - Republican Party

We started destroying old buildings 15-20 years ago. I have thought
about this issue for quite a while and I am very saddened since there
are old buildings that could be rehabilitated, reconstructed and used
for public aims if there was a bit of goodwill.

For instance, take the building that used to stand at 30 Aram Street.

I spent my childhood on Nalbandyan Street and passed that building
often. It was a symbol of Yerevan. No matter how much the authorities
claim that it wasn't included in the list of cultural-historic
structures, that list has no significance for me. Does such a list
even exist? As a Yerevan resident it was a landmark for me and it
was demolished. I was really saddened, as if something close to me
was destroyed and no longer exists.

And today, we hear rumors that other building will be demolished. And
the owners of these sites didn't get property rights today but 10-15
years ago, due to the goodwill of certain individuals. Today, they
are property owners and we are in a country in a free market system,
and we respect property rights. From the perspective of the law, the
owner has the right to do whatever. If an owner wants to demolish an
old building and construct a high-rise, that person has the right. They
should have realized back then, when they were giving away these
property rights, that something exists on that land that mustn't
be destroyed. We are always looking at things in hindsight. Perhaps
it's an Armenian characteristic. We lose something and only then do
we confront reality in the eye. We bemoan the loss after the fact
and ask, why are we destroying all this.

MP Levon Zurabyan - Armenian National Congress

We've always been on a very low level when it comes to urban planning
for Yerevan. What's taking place today can't be regarded as meeting the
basic needs of urban planning for a modern city. For example, we don't
have enough good parks in Yerevan. Go to any European city and you'll
see that parks are the most important asset. We don't have such parks
because the authorities in Armenia and Yerevan, when planning the city,
have a profit motive uppermost in mind and not the basic demands of
constructing a functioning city. These authorities sell such green
zones for construction purposes. They receive huge bribes for the
land and they are ready to violate all urban planning norms just to
get rich. This is what we see unfolding before our eyes in Yerevan.

Old buildings of cultural significance are being demolished to make
way for 15 story buildings and the sale of apartments within. Other
factors aren't taken into account. Is there enough space for parking?

What will be the impact on the surrounding neighborhood? What about
infrastructure? All these are secondary considerations. Making money
comes first.

When it comes to saving such historic buildings, the ANC has
suggested that the parliament compile a list of such buildings and
not the government, which is the case today. The government should
be stripped of such a right so that it cannot, whenever convenient,
remove this or that building from the list.

MP Naira Zohrabyan - Prosperous Armenia

One thing I can say for certain is that Yerevan today lacks any overall
architectural silhouette. It's a mish-mash of structures that have
nothing in common. The city has lost any architectural logic where
all construction norms are overlooked.

I graduated from the Theatrics Institute where we also took a course
in cultural studies. So I look at things from that perspective as
well a bit. Perhaps our touf stone has saved us and that we have a
beautiful city in parts, but overall little has been preserved from
Tamanyan's Yerevan. The city has been turned into a megapolis built on
an incomprehensible architectural logic and an attitude that anything
goes. You want to demolish, go right ahead.

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