YEREVAN—The Armenian capital city has just expanded its green spaces. A park, which connects City Hall with Republic Square, reopened on Friday after almost a two-year reconstruction project and decades of neglect.
The park was a gift to the municipality from the Vardanyan brothers, the Montréal-based family behind some of Armenia’s largest conglomerates including Grand Candy and Grand Tobacco. The new park’s original inauguration was slated for last October in time for the 2800th anniversary of the Armenian capital city’s founding. However its opening was delayed following last year’s Velvet Revolution and subsequent mayoral election.
Yerevan residents have been divided over the project since the first renders of the concept were made public two years ago. The landscape architecture features a lozenge-shaped motif meant to invoke traditional Armenian carpet patterns and complement the nearby Republic Square which resembles a similar pattern.
Some have criticized the park’s design as an unnecessarily kitschy expense for a city with more pressing urban planning priorities. However, according to City Hall, none of the budget came from municipal coffers. Nevertheless the park project rekindled a vivid debate over the questionable aesthetic choices made by city planners, which critics say have transformed Yerevan’s cityscape.
Much scorn was aimed at the contractors for their removal of a large number of trees to make way for the new park. The developer, in turn, argued that the old oak trees were sickly but promised to replace them. Yerevan has long suffered from urban encroachment onto designated green spaces and the loss of trees to legally dubious construction.
Prior to this most recent facelift, the dark rundown strip of green space cordoned off by Italy and Beirut streets had become a popular meeting spot for sex workers at night. Now, the new park includes ample lighting powered by LEDs.
Despite earlier criticism, the new park was well received by residents who flocked in droves over the weekend. Many played in its colorful fountains or posed for photographs with monuments meant to invoke the city’s ancient Urartian architectural motifs, such as a lion and a bull.
Another privately-financed park renovation project was completed on the stretch between Byuzand, Mashtots and Aram streets earlier this year by the Tashir Group, while its counterpart between Nalbandian and Hanrapetutyan streets received similar treatment the previous year.
While the new park received praise from most, the internet had the last laugh. There were pictures circulating on social media of a sign depicting bans on various mundane park activities which lead some to humorously dub the green “the park where fun is a crime.”