Flamboyant glass-and-steel structures, the brainchildren of Italian and Spanish architects, are causing both shock and awe as they advance on Georgia under President Mikheil Saakashvili’s Grands Travaux campaign. Meant to symbolize a new, transparent Georgia, the buildings have touched off a sharp controversy over whether or not the country’s president should double as its urban-planner-in-chief.
The structures come in many shapes and forms, but the one element that unites them all is glass. A wavy, see-through Interior Ministry, a domed presidential palace, a fishnet pedestrian bridge, and a cone-shaped “Torch of Freedom” air traffic tower all share the same glass-centric, post-modern look.
As often happens in every public sphere in Georgia, the debate about these buildings goes beyond aesthetics and off into politics. Many opponents of President Saakashvili hate the structures by default. Others say that the constructions are wasteful and that the glass did not bring the transparency in government it supposedly represents.
In recent months, the fracas has centered on a “Bridge of Peace” now stretched across downtown Tbilisi’s Mtkvari River.
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Giorgi Lomsadze is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi. Temo Bardzimashvili is a freelance photojournalist also based in Tbilisi.