IliaUni Students

A Garage – The Built Temporality
(Curated by Tinatin Gurgenidze and Diana Lucas-Drogan)

This work is the result of a course, “urban space research of the post-soviet micro districts” led by Tinatin Gurgenidze during the summer semester 2018 at Tbilisi’s Ilia State University. The project explores the inner-life of Gldani’s self-built garages, as well as their impact on their urban surroundings. Qualitative research methods including detailed interviews; ethnographic observations and spatial analysis were applied in order to gain information about the different uses, functions and typologies of the garages.
The exhibition gave visual and narrative insights in the everyday life of people and their garage culture, as well as their modes of spatial production.
The garages of Gldani function as a good example of how the arrangement of objects and actions in space are subjected to social power relations and negotiation processes. Their development frequently experiences alterations that reflect the social, economic and political changes that they are exposed to. As stated by a garage tenant, the garages became a symbol for the unpredictable, non-permanent conditions in which they find themselves.
“This garage is my temporary working space, just as anything in this country is temporary. You never know what awaits you tomorrow”. – Garage tenant
The garages resist being romanticised as an emancipatory mode of urban production in the Lefebvrian way, as they were not the results of a collective, democratising process, but rather reflect individual needs, individuals who obtained the resources to contribute to urban space. Therefore they became an object of conflict between those practising their ‘right to the city’ through the usage of a garage and those suffering the effects of privatisation of the formerly public space. One could argue that while the garages represent the individualised, fragmented post-communist society, with the garages as a form of privatization (and most recently commercialisation) of formerly public space, they also make their contribution to revitalizing Gldani with the stimulation of a less anonymous and more vibrant life in the urban periphery of socialist housing estates. Nevertheless, the conflictual discourse surrounding these garages highlights the fact that many people still think of the garages as a temporary object: even though they have attained legalized status, they might face demolition in the future.
The students’ research shows that recent changes have not only enhanced the visibility of garages in the neighbourhood, but that they are complicatedly embedded in the relations of public space, and are heavily charged with symbolic and emotional meanings for their tenants as well as the neighbourhood. While state planning has failed to create a community in a large-scale way, a culture of solidarity, sharing and neighbourhood identity has formed around these small boxes.