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Sir Timothy (Tim) Straight was born in the United States to parents of Norwegian ancestry. He moved to Norway in the 1980s and to Armenia in 2000 where he headed up the Norwegian Refugee Council and was the Norwegian Consul to Armenia until 2005. After a brief lapse, he again took the post of Norwegian Consul to Armenia, and also became Honorary Finnish Consul. In the past, Tim was a partner in the Biaini and Tulip shops on Amirian Street, the French Restaurant, and Meline's. Today he runs Homeland Handicrafts.
The architecture of Yerevan: Balance needed between old and new
21 Sep 2005
It was with interest that I read the press release regarding the construction of Amirian Plaza, a complex of shops, restaurants, and exhibition halls being built in Amirian Street in the heart of Yerevan. I walk past the row of beautiful old two story red brick buildings that are going to be demolished to build Amirian Plaza every day. Why is Yerevan so intent on destroying the few remnants of old Yerevan that are left? Can't old and new architecture co-exist?
I do agree fully that that Yerevan needs to be spruced up. New, more functional buildings need to be built. Some old buildings need to be torn down as they have no architectural value; others need to be partially or fully preserved. But let's avoid the mad rush towards modernity. Let's find a balance between the old and new. The row of red brick buildings that are being demolished to build Amirian Plaza are of particular architectural value, as they are unique with their small, intricate brick patterns in a city otherwise dominated by large, rather clumpy toof stone block buildings. Somehow, these facades should be kept and incorporated into the façade of the new complex.
Cities across Europe (Stockholm in particular) and the U.S. have already learned the hard way that tearing down all the old and building shiny new ones detracts from the atmosphere of the city, makes it less people-friendly, and thus less enjoyable and most importantly, less economically viable. A city with the flavor of the old attracts more tourists and makes more money, thus making this not only a question of taste and architecture, but also of income for the city of Yerevan and its businessmen.
This is not to say that every old building in Yerevan should be preserved as is. In many other cities abroad, the facades are kept standing, while a new building is attached to the back of it. Thus, the old flavor of the façade of the building is kept, while the function is as a new building. Indeed, in Yerevan, everyone knows that when each stone of the façade of an old building is numbered in white paint, that that building is doomed to be torn down, the façade carted away stone by stone, and perhaps built somewhere else in the city at a later date. A couple such buildings have already been built in the street behind the Prime Minister's office on Republic Square- old façade, new building behind. They look like they have always been there. I would encourage the city of Yerevan to do more such projects in the center of the city.
But getting back to those beautiful old small red brick buildings in Amirian Street... A few of them are still standing, one of them with a tattered Armenian flag waving from a frameless window. For the benefit of every citizen of Yerevan who walks by it every day (like myself), and for every Armenian from abroad who is going to visit Armenia during the next generation or two, let the facades stand as a symbol of old Yerevan.
Timothy D. Straight
CEO, TAL plc