proposed design would put a large wave of
glass atop the cascade.
For decades, the Cascade complex has been a Yerevan
landmark, with its 800 or so white stone steps
reaching from the city center up the long hill
to Victory Park.
But for much of the past two decades, the massive
structure has also been an eyesore, as its construction
was left incomplete and its very steps seeming
to stop in their tracks when money ran out. Left
in the path of interrupted development were rusting
and broken bits of construction infrastructure
that never got a chance to fulfill its place in
what would have been a proud centerpiece for the
New life is breathing again, though, at the Cascade.
Escalators now run, taking passengers who do not
wish to brave the Armenian sun with a hike up
those steep steps. All around, construction workers
are busy making cosmetic repairs. And recently
flowers have been planted where for so many years
there was nothing but trash and weeds.
Along the entryway connecting the great statue
of Yerevan's designing architect Tamanyan with
the foot of the stairs, new water pipes pump irrigation
into the grassy borders that end with the whimsical
Botero "Cat" sculpture.
It is clear that soon (certainly by Yerevan construction
standards), the Cascade will finally reach the
prominent stature it has been denied since funds
dried up after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The crowning jewel of the Cascade will be a $20-30
million art museum, intended to bring the works
of the world's greatest artists for permanent
Named for the benefactor of the Cascade reconstruction,
the Jerard L. Cafesjian Modern Art Museum will
be a multi-million dollar complex. It will include
a home for Cafejian's private glass art collection
that includes major works by renowned artists
Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova, whose
monumental sculptures have pushed the limits of
the glass medium and takes the studio movement
into the realm of fine art.
But for all its promise and good intentions, plans
for the museum are being met with criticism by
some who say none of three proposed designs are
not appropriate for a museum in Yerevan.
On July 29, members of the Creative Union (architects,
painters, writers, theatre figures and composers)
held a press conference to voice their displeasure
with designs that had earlier had been unveiled
by the Cafesjian Foundation.
Typical of how such major projects are developed,
late last year the Foundation held an international
tender for design and construction. Out of 35
entries, three bids (one each from New York, Rotterdam,
Vienna) were selected, from which one will be
view from the top of how things might look
in three years.
In a landscape vastly dominated by Soviet-style
design, either choice would bring dramatic change
to the rather square pattern that governs most
construction, even that intended for artistic
As a main feature of the museum will be the glass
collection, so it seems that its design will rely
on sculptured glass frameworks, one of which would
top off the Cascade with a giant ocean-like wave
"The proposed projects are interesting, but
not for our city," said the head of the Union
of Architects, Mkrtich Minasyan. "They can
be used in Tokyo or somewhere else but not here.
We lose the face of our city and our architectural
Minasyan further said that the architects of the
original Cascade -- Jim Torosyan, Sargis Giurzadyan
and Aslan Mkhitaryan - should be consulted.
To put up the new structure based only on the
vision of outsiders, organizers of the meeting
said, would "damage the interior of Armenian
architecture by ignoring the Armenian architects".
"It is a violation of the authors' rights,"
says head of the Union of Theatre Figures and
Art Director of the Paronyan Theatre, Yervand
Ghazanchyan. "How would, for instance, head
of the Union of Painters Karen Aghamyan accept
the fact if he paints a picture and someone comes
and starts painting a cat or I don't know what
else, sitting in the corner?"
The city's Chief Architect, Narek Sargsyan attended
the press conference, and defended the Cafesjian
project, saying that many cities in the United
States wished to have the Cafesjian collection
and that Armenians should be pleased that he chose
to place it here.
When the Foundation unveiled the three plans
on July 18 its executive director, John Waters,
emphasized that the complex will become a center
for many kinds of entertainment and will contribute
to tourism development.
Yerevan art critic Henrik Igityan said the museum
will put Armenia on the map as a site of internationally-significant
"There is no museum with such a collection
not only in the region, but also in the CIS countries,"
Igityan said. "For instance, there are works
of Picasso in Saint Petersburg. And to see modern
glass collection and works of famous artists it
is more convenient for CIS art critics to come
to Armenia, than go to the USA."
Not all architects agree that the new design would
"This new construction will make an interesting
contrast with the heavy stone buildings of Yerevan,"
said architect Armen Nahapetyan.
"While this construction will be done in
a modern style, it still will go with the general
style of Yerevan and will contain elements typical
for Armenian architecture," the executive
Responding to the question of why an Armenian
architect was not selected for the job, Waters
said: "We weren't able to find here any architectural
association known in the world, but Mr. Cafesjian
has a very high opinion regarding Armenian architects
and what they have created."
According to the Foundation, a final design will
be selected in a few months. The complex is expected
to be completed in 2006.