Project: Tbilisi Chess Palace and Alpine Club
Architect: Vladimer Aleksi-Meskhishvili; (1915-1978) Germane Ghudushauri (1939)
Location: Tbilisi, Georgia
The Tbilisi Chess Palace and the Alpine Club opened in 1973 in Kirov (today’s Vere) Park. It is one of the unique examples of late Soviet Modernist Architecture.
Mostly referred to as Tbilisi Chess Palace, building was dedicated to five-time world champion, Grand master Nona Gaprindashvili, who in 1962, in age of 21, became the world chess champion for the first time. It is believed that the building is dedicated to one type of sport – chess. However, in all official documents, it was defined as Chess and Alpine Club from the very beginning.
Architects had a very interesting task and had to solve many challenges in planning this building as a location a park with slopes was chosen. The function of the building should accommodate two types of sports; the idea and purpose of the building should have been in harmony to each other and decorative design of the building to be adequate.
The Tbilisi Chess Palace and the Alpine Club organically sits in the Vera Garden landscape. It is not distinguished by large size and does not dominate the rest of the public space. The floors layout follows the relief. Using natural materials such as stone and wood supports it’s merging with the park. Glass windows and doors on the façade of the building, on the one hand give lightness and does not aggravate the outside view, on the other hand it supports flow of natural light into the building.
On the second and third floors the building is framed with a continuous single balcony, which points to openness. Even in designing the interior, architects continue the idea of openness. The whole building is planned around the main hall, which can accommodate 520 viewers. At the third floor level, the halls are separated from side galleries with 6 mobile panels. These panels can be lifted up if needed, and it is therefore possible that more spectators will watch the game as well as provide natural light to the hall, which is in the center of the building. Special attention is paid to the selection and implementation of the material of these panels. They are done in the technique of wood encrustation, which is not very common in Georgia. But this technique resonates with the surface of the chessboard. Generally, “Sameuli” artists very consciously decided on the materials – assembling wood pieces on mobile panels, wood carving in the main lobby of the second floor, stone carving in the halls on the first and second floors – that all resonate with the chessboard as similarly chess figures are usually carved in wood, more exquisite ones in stone or some other material. Artistic performance is also noteworthy – on one hand, stylized and geometric forms of chess figures on wooden panels create an association of the geometric character of a chessboard and a rectilinear and diagonal movement of the figures. On the other hand, more allegorical and narrative motives of wood and stone carving hint to the character of chess concerning battle.
The Tbilisi Chess Palace and the Alpine Club is not only architectural planning mastery but also urban planning and design icon.
Creating spaces of public use was one of the main principles of Modernist architecture. The social function of precisely and distinctly thought architecture excluded autonomous occupants. However, the current state of the building represent the opposite situation. Spaces that are adapted to individual demand have emerged everywhere.
Author: Nini Palavandishvili
All photo © GeoAIR