The article titled “Contrivances on Araratian Street: An Ideology or an Urban Public Space” was presented at Radical Space in Between Disciplines Conference of University of Novi Sad (Serbia) on September 2015 by Sarhat Petrosyan and Nora Topalian. 

Northern Avenue, the main pedestrian connection and axis in Yerevan, capital of Armenia, already has over 80 years’ worth of narratives imbued upon it. Bearing the name of Araratian Street when it was first proposed by master plan of Architect Alexander Tamanian in 1924, it fits into the Soviet ideology of a socialist plan presented in the shape of a Garden City. It was proposed to link the main administrative Republic Square (Lenin square at that time) to the cultural Freedom Square where National Opera was under construction. The street was named after Mount Ararat, an important biblical symbol for the Armenian people, towards which the city and the axis was oriented. The initial idea was to build a residential neighborhood but it was not realized at that time. 

Although Araratian Street never was an official name, in the Late Soviet era, the name “Northern Avenue” started to be used more often in order to designate it. There were some opinions that the vocabulary was changed first to reduce “nationalistic” risks, and also in order to please northern decision making city Moscow. 

The idea of the construction of the Northern Avenue resurfaced in the 1960’s, when several competitions and proposals were put into discussion, but again none of them was put into the plan. 

After gaining independence, when the first economical activities started in 2000, the Yerevan Municipality, under auspice of the President of the Republic, initiated an extensive real estate development at the heart of the city center. Although the proposal was initiated in 2000, the “clean-up” of the area from remaining buildings and houses, most of them with a historic value and under protection, was in progress a year later. Northern Avenue was inaugurated in 2007, when only half of the buildings were ready for operation and habitation. 

Seven years after being in use, an extensive renovation was carried out to fix construction mistakes and make the area more welcoming. A year later, it became obvious that this process is a part of another broader development which is to re-use the top underground parking floor as an underground mall. This will cut the underground parking capacities by half. The mall is to be named Tashir Street based on official announcement and is going to be parallel to the Northern Avenue above it.  

The developments of narrative of the “Avenue” oriented to national pride, Moscow and global commerce is a unique timeline of last century of urban transformation. Although it was imposed by the political elite at both city and national levels, the implementation has been quite different and has found resistance, in all periods of time, from the local population. 

The study of the space shows some spatial design errors and uncertainties; meanwhile it is also one of the main arteries for evening walks, though the buildings surrounding it are often void of people and though the shops present products priced way above the buying capacity of the local population. 

Read full article here.
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