A wish to write about metro came to me after reading of a very interesting text written by my friend. It was dedicated to this theme, but the topic did not review it as an architecture or structure but one of most romantic places for common people to visit. So, many thanks to Konstantin.
Though my interest to subway in addition to emotional side includes a professional issue, it has to be mentioned that it’s a really amazing space. This is one of the rare things left for us by USSR which is unambiguously positive. Decision of building metro in Tbilisi was made in 1951 and first construction of tunnels has begun in 1953. The head of construction works was an engineer Shalva Danelia. The subway was officially opened to public in 1966 and it was formed by 6 stations. It used to develop quite fast in next several years and since 2000 the metro in Tbilisi includes 22 stations in itself. A future plan of subway development in Tbilisi exists, it’s known for everyone from a scheme on walls inside of trains. Unfortunately can’t say a pace of works can be felt.
“Technical University” station was opened in 1979, authors of project “Saqtransportproeqti”, architects Modzmanashvili and Iosava. Nothing has ever been changed in interior since then, but in exterior about a year ago there was added a nonfunctional wooden structure. Firstly there did not exist any volume above the ground level, if we don’t take in consideration a low parapet across entrance perimeter. The leading position in forming of space and site priority in the time when design has been made was given to Bukia Botanical Park.
This is a case when the station has two opposite entrances. In both ends of underground space, above escalator lobbies there are placed absolutely confusing mosaics. Their presence in this interior can be explained only with an actual ideology thematic of the time station has been built.
The situation with ceiling is radically different… The look of one is absolutely adequate to the process which takes place in this underground space full of dynamic. Caisson ceiling arch is illuminated with a narrow strip of light from both sides in a place of crossing with a vertical wall surface, this makes an arch look hanging above the support. Scale of caissons and partition of each segment is perfectly matches with a full interior space and is well designed for this underground void. A combination of light and shade on the ceiling creates a filling of dynamic. The design is one of the best that could be made for such a big and long space without a natural daylight.
“Isani” subway station is a radically different case. The volume above the ground is particularly innovative for the time when it has been built. The station was opened in 1971. Project authors Modzmanashvili and Lomsadze choose a plastic as a main theme. Main shape is created by its concrete roofing. Crossed hyperbolic parabolas are held by four massive supports. There was much more free space around the building, at the time of construction, therefor it was possible to see the volume from different points of view. Glazing creates the finished look of the building together with concrete. In 2006, during renovation the glazing color was changed and became glaringly blue.
You can see the shape of building from inside of the building also, interior is not complicated and reflects exterior inside itself. There would be an illusion,that concrete wave is not heavy at all and is lightly laying on the supports, if the darkness of glass blue color was not so deep. Area near by escalators is decorated with the ceramic mural, which is presented in blue and turquoise tones. The underground space is deep and has a columned structure. Both side walls’ finishing is done with marble. On the ends, coming out from the tunnels, the color of stone is darker. It becomes lighter to the middle of each wall. The variegated texture of marble brings lively mood inside the space.
In general Tbilisi Metro is a unity various styles. Rails go outside from the tunnels above the ground some places, there are some stations which are part of a bigger building, one of them has an unusually plastic shape for the time it was designed. I think there are lots of reasons for these differences and variety. The structure of subway used to develop during a long period and as time passed lots of factors that affect architecture used to change together with time. Also each station required individual project due to different location. It’s a pity, but it has to be mentioned – there were found only two units in the whole system which are interesting as an architectural creation. Some of them have been left without renovation and others are the victims of renovation.
There is one thing, which I can feel free to say – subway is one of the most interesting inventions ever.
Interesting facts about Metro:
- Tbilisi Metro tunnel total length is 53.7km, 224 traffic lights are located all over the system
- The length of all platforms is standard 102m and calculated for 5 wagon trains
- The deepest underground station is Rustaveli, 100m below ground surface
- Marjanishvili station was designed as a shelter with a 3m thick reinforced concrete roofing
- Metro uses about 65 000 000KW of electricity per year
- Daily sum of water pumped out from the tunnels is 25 000 tones. Battle with water is held every night from 01:00-05:00
- One miter of rail weighs 52kg
- For a case of power off subway has two big generators, which have enough resource to feed all the needed systems in emergency mode.
- Tbilisi metro is on 73rd place from 132 systems in the world by the number of passengers per year.
- ShotaKuprashvili is the author of original metro font, the poster for GalaktionTabidze’s first poetry evening was created by him.
- Gldani depot is the most outstanding plant in Tbilisi metro. It’ full of museum exhibits. One of this artifact is a B-4 type cab, dated with 1927. It was brought by USSR from German after II World War. This wagon works in Tbilisi metro from 1969 as a rail counter. There are only two pieces of them left in the world in an operational condition.
Author: Tata Alkhazashvili
Photo by: Salome Barbakadze
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