A characteristic of the Tbilisi’s ongoing transformation is its sharply opposing styles of architecture. The old city, Abanotubani, is still in rubble, while traces of its era as a former Soviet Union republic combines the post-constructivist 18-story Bank of Georgia headquarters, while a super modern Peace Bridge pops up along those old façades. The juxtaposition between new and old in Tbilisi makes for unusual sights—no matter which style you prefer.
What today is a luxurious Marriott hotel located on Rustaveli Avenue, was a residence of Mikael Aramyants, an Armenian oil magnate, financier, industrialist, and a philanthropist. The construction of the building started in 1911, according to the plan of Russian architect Aleksander Ozerov, who used to live in Tbilisi. However, it was completed by ethnic Armenian architect Gabriel Ter-Mikelov in 1915. This Renaissance-Baroque-style building has five floors and still preserves its old architecture both outside and inside.
The history of the State Opera House spans more than 165 years. The base of the so-called Caravanserai Theatre, which accommodated 800 spectators, was laid out in 1847 by the instruction of Adjutant General, Prince Mikhail Vorontsov, the Viceroy of the Caucasus. The construction of the building lasted four years and was supervised by an Italian architect. In 1851, the first opera theater in Transcaucasia had a Grand Opening attended by the high society of Tbilisi. The interior, designed in Moorish style, is one of the most beautiful, fascinating and elegant theatrical constructions in Tbilisi. When famous French writer Alexandre Dumas traveled to Tbilisi in 1858 and visited the opera, he wrote a whole chapter about its beauty in one of his books describing how beautiful it was. Since its opening, famous opera and ballet troupes from over the world have performed here, including an Italian group led by composer Francisco Asenjo Barbieri, and St. Petersburg Ballet Company. In 1874 the opera house was destroyed by the fire, but a new one was constructed in 1896. Victor Johann Gottlieb Schröter, a leading architect of Baltic German origin, built the new opera house in neo-Moorish style. Even though the decorations and style are Oriental, its layout, the main hall, and foyers are typically European. The opera house underwent major rehabilitation works in recent years where everything was modernized with an improved structure.
What now houses Tbilisi City Assembly is a result of a thorough and gradual reconstruction of a city police building of the 19th century. The original building was built under the Russian Empire in the 1830s but was reconstructed several times, taking a different look over the last 200 years. It served as a Chancellery of Chief Policemaster and police department until 1879. A competition announced in 1878 for the remodeling the building to the City Hall was won by the architect Paul Stern’s project. Its exterior architecture reflects the then-popular Exotic style with Neo-Moorish design. A tower was added in 1910, and the building was further expanded in 1912.
The IMELI building, located on Rustaveli Avenue, is an example of Socialist Classicism style constructed between 1934 and 1938 with the design of Soviet architect Alexey Shchusev, to house a Tbilisi branch of the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute. The name is a Georgian version of the Institute’s Russian acronym name IMEL, which prevailed common Tbilisi even after the dismissal of the Soviet Union. Shchusev’s design was intricate, featuring details of Constructivism and Socialist Classicism. The exterior and interior are furnished mainly with metal and wooden works, as well as with different Georgian natural stones and marbles. In 1986 it was listed as architectural heritage. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, IMELI was home to various government institutions, including the Parliament of Georgia, Constitutional Court of Georgia, and the Central Election Commission Office. Georgia’s first post-Soviet constitution was also adopted here on August 25, 1995. Now the building is home to the five-star Biltmore Hotel.
This is one of the first very modern buildings in Tbilisi. A bow-shaped pedestrian bridge made from steel and glass connects Rike Park with Erekle II street over the Mtkvari River. Thousands of LED lights illuminate the 150-meter long bridge at night which are switched on 90 minutes before sunset. The bridge itself was designed by Italian architect Michele De Lucchi, while the lighting design is by Philippe Martinaud, a French lighting designer. The structure was built in Italy and transported to Tbilisi in 200 trucks. The lighting, though, was installed onsite.
This educational institution is housed in the former Kobulashvili mansion, which was ultimately reconstructed and refurbished by Georgian architect Simon Kldiashvili in 1902. The organization is one of the oldest educational facilities in the field, both in Georgia and the region. Considered a historic building, the State Academy of Arts is a unique monument of Georgia’s cultural heritage. The building features a mixture of European and Oriental architecture, and the main attraction of it is the so-called “the room of mirrors” done by Iranian masters in Qajar art style.
The structure of the theater was built in 1887 to house the Artist’s Society of Georgia. Russian and Polish architects Cornell Tatishchev and Aleksander Szymkiewicz, who both worked and lived in Tbilisi, created the design of it. The façade features wide windows, risalitas adorned with large pilastros and frontons, big arch row, high attic with round dormers and a porticus on the pedestrian side of the street. The design uses a lot of elements from the Rococo style. The basement of the building housed a restaurant called Kimerioni, which used to be a meeting point for many local poets and artists. The walls of it were painted by famous Georgian artists like Lado Gudiashvili and David Kakabadze. Unfortunately, those masterpieces were whitewashed during the Soviet era. The restoration process of the theater managed to restore only a small portion of those paintings.
Former Ministry of Highway Construction is now the Bank of Georgia headquarters. This 18-floor building was designed by Georgian architects George Chakhava and Zurab Jalaghania. The building is set on a steep hill, descending from west to east. Significant parts of the building are raised off the ground, and it has two entrances, both at lower and higher levels. The structure consists of a grid of solid interlocking forms, where five horizontal parts seem to be placed on top of each other. Three pieces are adapted as an east-west support at a right angle to the hill; two are located along the slope. The building holds on and hangs from three cores. The design is based on a theory named Space City method. The idea is to use less area and give the area below the building back to nature.
Often called ‘colorful baths’ due to its colorful mosaics that adorn the exterior of the Orbeliani Baths, this is one of the most impressive buildings of Abanotubani. Most of the bathhouses in Abanotubani date back to the 17th century and have a trace of Iranian architecture. Orbeliani Bath House was also transformed into ‘Eastern’ style in the 19th century.