THE COLLECTIVE GARDEN: IDENTITY AND CONVIVIAL LANDSCAPE FORM IN GEORGIAN MICRORAYON RENEWAL
MLA THESIS ADVISED BY ROSALEA MONACELLA, MAY 2020
TBILISI, Republic of Georgia - Gardens perform the cultural work of collecting and representing social relationships. They have the capacity to solidify constantly shifting social hierarchies into moments of clarity and cultural meaning. The history of urban garden-making in the Republic of Georgia reflects a patchwork of imported formal approaches intended to reinforce the social hierarchy of the various political regimes that have governed the nation. Despite these impositions, Georgians have consistently appropriated urban space to practice forms of gathering and social ritual that are distinctly Georgian. Among the housing blocks of the post-soviet Microrayon, a struggle over Georgian identity is playing out between individual autonomy, the integrity of the public realm, and an influx of international real estate investment. As Tbilisi’s Soviet-Era neighborhoods are sized up for renewal and densification, the collective values of the socialist space of the Microrayon are at risk.
The thesis draws on three Georgian modes of garden-gathering: the Safavid, the Supra, and the Soviet; to propose an open protocol for the creation of a new garden city within the Microrayon. The state-sponsored paradise of the Safavid Garden, the fleeting social hierarchy of the Supra, and the formal codes of Soviet urbanism act as models for a new urban landscape in which vegetation and topography are manipulated into gardens for Georgian rituals of gathering. The project experiments with the revival and reconfiguration of hierarchy, formal relationships, and symbolism drawn from the historical gardens of Tbilisi to imagine contemporary gardens of harvest, friendship, family, and community. Gardens of ritual toasting and dining reclaim the landscape of the Microrayon as a site for the production of collective values.