„Buildings Are Not Enough“

Tbilisi is in the midst of a construction boom. Increasingly, the city is being exploited by developers rapidly erecting high-rise residential blocks. In this process of rapid, chaotic urbanization, the significance of the human being and the living culture of the city is forgotten. It is important to understand whether these new residential developments can meet the housing and societal needs of city dwellers. To deepen our understanding of these needs, it is essential to study the ideas behind the self-made structures, informal housing and urban responses that shape the current urban landscape of Tbilisi.
Tbilisi’ self-made structures were developed as part of the chaotic architectural process that accompanied the post-Soviet transformation. These structures shape the urban landscape of Tbilisi to a great extent, and carry within them the ideas and specific content that still characterizes the city.
Tbilisi Architecture Biennial 2018 explored the informality of the built and lived spaces of residential settlements in Tbilisi and beyond. Under the name “Buildings Are Not Enough”, Tbilisi Architecture Biennial studied the transformational processes and newly reinvented living patterns of city dwellers. We would like to emphasize that the alterations and adjustment made to architecture and the built environment have been undertaken by inhabitants to suit their changing needs: buildings have been transformed as the lives of those who dwell within them have been transformed.
Our research focuses on the transformational processes taking place within Soviet modernist mass housing neighborhoods – so-called micro-districts. This opens up a whole spectrum of questions, which we addressed during the 2018 Tbilisi Biennial. As we go beyond the parochial background of “Soviet”, we discussed why “Buildings Are Not Enough” within an international context, we explored periphery, monotony, informal architecture, living forms, social practices, and housing issues.
Soviet micro-districts were designed and constructed according to Soviet rules and regulations to give form to the idealistic dream of accommodating every single family in the former Soviet Union within a single urban and architectural form. Today, these places have established themselves in a new system, which reflects Tbilisi ́s recent history.
“Buildings Are Not Enough” illustrates the outbreak of chaotic construction in Tbilisi that followed the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Today, the processes of the previous 25 years shape the cityscape of Tbilisi, as well as many other post-socialist cities. On the one hand, this phenomenon can be discussed globally: it is the response of ordinary city dweller to an absolute architecture, a solution to their constrained situation. On the other hand, “Buildings Are Not Enough” is a demonstration of the existing socio-economic disorder.