Saturday, June 16, 2007

Arts Revival: Plan to rebuild Shushi by returning to its roots as a center of culture

June 16, 2007, Armenia
By Arpi Harutyunyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

Proposals to turn the town of Shushi into a center for arts, crafts, education and tourism by 2020 have been drawn up by an American company, Sema Associates.
At the request of the Shushi Revival Fund, a group of the company’s architects headed by Iranian Armenian Seda Yagubyan visited the town in Nagorno Karabakh last year. They finalized the design plan after 4 months of work, which they gave free of charge.

“One of the short-term priority plans in creating the Shushi Revival Fund was to make a design plan like this: Shushi has had a very rich urban cultural tradition, which the majority of the towns in Karabakh and Armenia lack,” says Marina Grigoryan, spokeswoman for the foundation, which was created in 2006.

Revive and preserve- new Shushi, old traditions

“We were assigned to make the first steps in restoring Shushi by creating a new plan and keeping the town’s distinctive atmosphere and color.”

The foundation opened the 400-seat Yerevan Cinema in Shushi, equipped with advanced German and Japanese technology, this year on May 9, which is traditionally marked as Shushi Liberation Day.

Shushi, 11 kilometers from Stepanakert, the capital Nagorno Karabakh Republic, has a population of 3,500. Most face intense social hardships due to widespread unemployment.

Grigoryan says the restoration of Shushi will promote investment in the town, leading to an increase in jobs and population.

At present, there are two secondary schools, one musical school and two kindergartens as well as a museum, an art gallery and a drama theater – all half ruined.

The picture was quite different in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Shush was a center of culture and arts. It had the Armenian Spiritual Diocesan School, St. Mary’s Gymnasium for girls, Realakan College, and the Town Male School.

The town also had three state schools with about 200 pupils of mainly Armenian descent. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, private and two-sex parish schools were also operated by district churches.

Shushi had the only orphanage in Karabakh in the 1900s and 70 of the 100 children there were refugees from Western Armenia. Shushi also had a developed printing business, publishing about 20 newspapers.

According the new design plan, Shushi will regain its image as a cultural center. Tourist, health resort and conference districts are planned to include hotels, restaurants and specialized stores along the central avenue, which would also host festivals, fairs and parades.

“The town has to have bright illumination, premium quality places of entertainment and catering, and European style cafes, while keeping Shushi’s old style, particularly represented by its citadel. In a word, Shushi has to become a unique town in Armenia and Karabakh,” says Grigoryan.

An arts district close to Ghazanchetsots Church would be the center of establishments relating to music, dance, theater, architecture, sculpture and performance arts. The major aim of the district’s creation would be the maintenance of Ghazanchetsots and Green Churches.

The center of an educational district would be the Realakan College that would theoretically unite the Zhamharyans’ Hospital and St Mary’s Gymnasium.

Grigoryan says that the project was presented to the presidents of Armenia and Karabakh, Robert Kocharyan and Arkadi Ghukasyan, on May 9. Both expressed a readiness to support its implementation.

“We expect Shushi to be revived with the help of Armenians around the world, because neither state nor private means will suffice [for the initiative],” says Grigoryan, adding that they plan to organize a presentation of the project in Moscow, California and, probably, also Paris soon.

The Shushi Revival non-profit public fund was established in spring 2006 with the aim of restoring the ancient Armenian town and its status as a cultural, educational and spiritual center by 2020.

The Fund was created on the initiative of Yervand Zakharyan, the Mayor of Yerevan and President of the Fund’s Board of Trustees. Well-known public and religious leaders of Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora serve on the Board. The Fund also includes an Expert Group to provide advice and develop its strategies and activities.

The headquarters of the Fund’s executive body are in Yerevan, with a representative office in Shushi. The Town-Planning Council of Shushi has also been formed. Its primary goal is to create a master plan and promote its implementation.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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