My “hunt” for Soviet Bus Stops began in 2015 and covered almost all the regions of Georgia. These bus stops are both an interesting reminder of the past but, for me, also enable a fascinating glimpse into Georgian architecture when it was limited by Soviet norms. My hunt threw up much new information as I worked on this photo project and revealed much that was new and valuable. These small examples of architectural whimsy are found against various landscapes, and provide “roadside shelters “in a variety of shapes and textures. The designs come in different materials and shapes: sharp or plastic forms of concrete, metal, mosaics using different techniques and the signature “construction element” of the famous Georgian architect Giorgi Chakhava. The whole process began with a Communist party directive with funding and oversight provided by local Art Centre. The various designs are linked to specific art studios chosen by the Institute of Aesthetics and the Art Centre. As none of these institutions exist today, it is now quite difficult to discover who the designers these bus stops were.
The design of the bus stops was influenced by the place in which they were located and the need to express socialist realist themes so a stop near a collective farm would depict, happy people, sunny fields, cultivated fields, wheat fields, and so on. In the seaside town of Kobuleti, one of the bus stops has a mosaic with swimmers, while in the village of Rukhi, in Samegrelo region, the stop is decorated with a colorful mosaic of Marula, the local sport using horses.
Several of the bus stops are the work of Giorgi Chakhava, one the most noted of twentieth century Georgian architects. These are: Mosaic decorated stops in Ananuri and Natakhtari, and also the stops in Patara Kanda, Borjomi and Tezeri which are built with the “Construction Element”, he invented. These “element” bus stops have been given cultural heritage protected status because of their importance and the quality of their design. Another stop near the village of Nigoza, also made with the “construction element” was demolished in 2018 for unknown reasons.
So, these small but very functional architectural spaces, designed to provide shelter from the weather also represent a kind of freedom as Georgian architects experimented with interesting designs and decorations to produce a very Georgian take on a simple public utility that was free of Soviet restrictions and expressed their ideas and sense of style. They are heritage pieces as they provide some of the most important examples of Georgian architecture from the Soviet period. Sadly, many of the stops are in a state of disrepair and there is a danger they will simply collapse and disappear. Yet to preserve them requires very little resource. Given the role they play in our architectural heritage with their amazing diverse forms and decorations, it is important to preserve them for future generations and as a source of inspiration to today’s architects.
Author/Photo: Nanuka Zaalishvili