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    Posted June 13, 2012 by
    TIBurton
    Location
    Tbilisi, Georgia
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Eye on Georgia

    In the Back Streets of Tbilisi, A Struggle for a City's History

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     TIBurton took these images in an attempt to capture the splendid art nouveau architecture which graces the Sololaki district of Old Tbilisi. "The government's eagerness to promote Tbilisi as a "modern" European capital is leaving some worried that the city's history is getting left behind in the struggle," she says.
    - eoghan, CNN iReport producer

    The moneyed elite in charge of renovating the bright facades of Old Tbilisi are keen to advertise a fairyland of carpet-shops, balconies, and the ubiquitous "gvino." But in the narrow alleyways and cobblestoned courtyards of Sololaki, a nineteenth-century district known for its art nouveau architecture and literary pedigree (Lermontov once had a salon here), the government's eagerness to promote Tbilisi as a "modern" European capital is leaving some worried that the city's history is getting left behind in the struggle.

    Recently, activists and government interests have clashed over the development plans for Gudiashvili Square - one of Tbilisi's most characteristic courtyards - following the victory of an Austrian architectural firm of a government-sponsored contest to "re-design" Gudiashvili square: a redesign that in this case entailed replacing traditional Georgian delicate lattice-work balconies with Europeanized facades and a branch of Prada. While the government's characteristically Byzantine approach to the issue of property rights and redevelopment - it's still unclear who owns Gudiashvili Square's buildings, and whether any permits have been granted at all - has cloaked the redevelopments in a shadow of mystery, that hasn't stopped bulldozers - or protesters - from showing up regularly in what has become the heart of this historic battleground, crystallizing tensions between Tbilisi's residents and the government that, many say, is more interested in presenting a Disneyfied facade to foreign investors than in facilitating a sustainable renovation of Tbilisi's heritage streets and squares.

    The colorful, panoramic "Meidan" may be the heart of Tbilisi's tourism efforts, but Gudiashvili Square, for many Georgians, represents the city's soul.

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