In this article, David Kezerashvili, venture capitalist and entrepreneur, guides us through a modern architectural chronicle of Eastern Europe to Vake Plaza, one of the most recent investments in his birthplace of Tbilisi. Vake Plaza is one of the most recent business buildings to brighten the Tbilisi skyline and exemplifies the modern architecture prevalent throughout Eastern Europe today.
Eastern Europe is an enticing cupful of stunning contemporary buildings, from the alphabetical Walter Towers in Prague, Czech Republic, to the whale basks (The Bálna) in Budapest, Hungary. On this side of the globe, architects demonstrate their genius by infusing cities with an ethereal aura and telling stories with bricks and cement. Eastern Europe has a distinct architectural design identity that is second to none.
However, this was not always the case. Its current subtlety is the result of years of imagining and reimagining possibilities. Eastern European architects have adopted ideas, abandoned others, and reinvented the existing blueprints to achieve the current eccentricity.
The Onset of Eastern European Modern Day Architecture
What we see today began well over a century ago when architects began questioning the traditional Neo-classicism and Beaux-Art styles. Modern architects felt the styles had outlived their usefulness.
Some created their styles, infusing modernism into architecture. Some of the most celebrated modernist pioneers of the time included Konstantin Melnikov, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Robert Mallet-Stevens. Their strong aversion easily identified them to all forms of decoration and their emphasis on form. Eastern European architects invested heavily in experiments to support their new style. They primarily tested materials and techniques to achieve the elasticity required to develop new forms.
Fortunately, the period around 1900 was marked by a technological revolution, engineering evolution, and advancements in building materials. Cast iron, thicker high-quality glass, wallboard, and reinforced cement were all introduced during this period. The materials aided in the construction of more robust, lighter, and larger structures with extremely large glass windows. Architects’ experiments, combined with the introduction of new building materials, helped the new modernist style dominate for a long time, up until the rise of Art Deco.
Transition to Art Deco
Art Deco is a modern style that adds artistic touches to functional objects. Its origins can be traced back to France before World War I. It was visible in various functional visual arts, including interior decoration, furniture, painting, and sculpture, in addition to architecture.
The Vienna Secession architecture popularized art Deco. Josef Hoffman designed the famous Stoclet Palace in Brussels and was one of its early supporters. The architectural design of the mansion was characterized by symmetry, a large interior, and geometric volumes, establishing it as the first Art Décor archetype.
Another forerunner was Auguste Perret, the French architect who designed the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. His architectural prowess, particularly his use of reinforced concrete, influenced several other Art Deco structures. The mass production of aluminum and plate glass was also beneficial to the buildings.
The Vienna Secession and Cubism’s gold geometric shapes influenced Art Deco greatly. The modernist style was influenced by the eccentric styles of Japan and China, ancient Egypt and Maya art, as well as Persia. Other major influences included the improved carpentry of the Louis XVI and Louis Philippe I eras, as well as the appealing color palette of Fauvism and Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. They were all involved in the birth and development of Art Deco, which laid the groundwork for modern architecture.
Modern Day Architecture in Eastern Europe
Unlike traditional architecture, modern architecture is straightforward. The new architecture is distinguished by clean lines devoid of ornamentation and is influenced by the ‘less is more philosophy.
A modern architecture-inspired structure will most likely have a wide roof, aclinic planes, and windows designed to let in natural light. Modern architecture is also defined by contemporary systems, such as column-free interiors, curtain walls, and ribbon windows. Natural materials such as wood, stone, and brick are also popular, though their installation is significantly simplified.
Georgia a Striking Example of Modern Style Architecture
Georgia is located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and is a striking example of a country’s transition to modern architecture. Georgia’s architectural transformation began in 2003 when Mikheil Saakashvili began modernizing government buildings and architectural focal points. Today, Georgia has a diverse collection of modern architecture, including grandiose metal and glass structures like Batumi’s Alphabet Tower and Axis Towers in Tbilisi’s Vake neighborhood. The twisting skyscraper is one of only a few in Europe, and it is made up of two 37-story towers that mirror each other. The white tower rotates clockwise, while the black tower rotates counterclockwise.
Another modern building in the same neighborhood is Vake Plaza, one of the most recent office projects to grace the skyline of Tbilisi. The contemporary structure is a stunning 11-story business complex with a 22,000 square meter footprint. The multifunctional building was built with a modern architectural design to meet the city’s and its people’s business needs. Vake Plaza was designed to connect Georgia with the international community and attract foreign companies to Tbilisi. The complex was built with this in mind, to meet the current and future demand for adequate office space and technological infrastructure. It has a modern appeal, cutting-edge technology, high-security features, and a contemporary interior design.
The features and functionality of Vake Plaza make it the embodiment of a modern architecture that can be seen across Eastern Europe today.