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Saakashvili’s Strange Architecture

Something in Georgia that’s impossible to miss.

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A trip to Georgia is now a delve into the abyss of strange architecture which sprung from the aesthetics of former president Mikheil Saakashvili.

You can’t come to this country without seeing the guy’s mark. He had a style to him — not only his authoritarian brand of charisma politics, which saw the country transformed from a severely corrupt ex-Soviet backwater to one of the most legit, on the level places in the region. Read about Georgia pre-Saakasvili and come to the country post-Saakasvili and they seem like two completely different places. Georgia was modernized by outright fiat, and while the hand that did this work was extremely heavy and was prone to unilateral movement, what it did seemed to work far more effectively than in many otehr post-Soviet countries.

This heavy hand also left its mark on the landscape in the form of buildings — strange ones. Saakashvili seemed to have a taste for architecture that most other people tend to find rather confusing. And in such an ancient country as Georgia these ultra-modern renditions of a future that may never come stand out even more via the contrast.

“Articles on Georgia’s architectural policy have tended to stress his personal choice of architects for large projects, and the fact that he keeps abreast of the architectural and design press,” wrote Owen Hatherley in Dezeen.

While the architecture of some other leaders of former Soviet countries — like what Nursultan Nazarbayev did in Astana or that of Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan — there is something about Saakashvili’s architecture that’s particularly obnoxious. It often just doesn’t make any sense to both locals and foreigners, and if you ask anyone in Georgia about it they are liable to say, “I have no idea, it’s something that the old president did.”

That, really, is the only acceptable explanation for the stuff.

I first noticed it while walking through Rike Park in Tbilisi. Here there is Saakashvili’s presidential palace, which looks a little like the US’s capital building with a big blue dome, which sits on a hill above an exhibition center that looks like two very appropriately place sewage pipes.

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Then when I was in Anaklia I looked over the beach and found these ultra-strange, ultra-huge sculptures. They seriously rose four or five stories above the ground, and nobody there could tell me what they were. One looked like a giant billowing fungus rising over the beach, the other was a towering white steel monstrosity that appeared to have been modeled off of those wooden dinosaur skeleton kits that you get at the natural history museum as a kid — albeit one with a possible erection.

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In Kutaisi, there is the parliament building. Saakashvili moved the nation’s parliament to Kutaisi, nearly three hundred kilometers from Tbilisi. This provided the president with the impetus to build a colossal blue glass and steel $30 million snail.

“The first time I saw it I thought it was a music center,” a local began, “but it was really the parliament building.”

Nobody gets this shit, and that is what I like about it.

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Filed under: Architecture, Russia, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3607 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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