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.”
Thank you Raffi for reporting on this positive development in Yerevan. There is a saying in French “Les goûts et les couleurs ne se discutent pas”. You have rightly reported different opinions on this new park.
I liked several aspects of this development and I got my information in this 8′ youtube video posted by “Info News”: https://youtu.be/oUNY4kg1Rxo where one can see what the park looked like before 2017 and what it looks like now.
These are some of the aspects I liked most:
1) Although this park had been conceived planned and approved under the previous regime/administration, both the new Mayor and the new PM participated in the inauguration ceremony;
2) our new PM (Nikol Pashinyan) came to the ceremony riding a bicycle !!! What a great PR coup! Setting a good example to our people…
3) The Vardanyan brothers have personally monitored the construction work and have pledged to maintain the park for the next 99 years through their charitable foundation.
This is something all our people can be proud of.
On that youtube video at 0:21, 0:25 and 0:34 and 0:45 we can see the security fence the contractors erected around most of the park AFTER it had been closed to the public and appropriated by a private “charitable foundation” – so this footage does not show what it claims to show: disrepair when it was in use. What the video does show is a sanitized urban space where nature has been banished to be replaced with blanket paving, uncomfortable benches, kitchy lights and lighting effects, bland street furniture, and embarrassingly low-grade sculpture. You can find identical parks like this throughout Turkey and Iran. Regardless of its former state of repair, we have a park with a European style and concept destroyed to make way for one with a contemporary Islamic style and concept. I do not find anything to be proud of in this park.
“Just expanded its green spaces” – are you serious! The amount of green space in this supposed “park” is a fraction of what existed before its destruction by “reconstruction”. But you don’t make money from old trees: they grow quietly by themselves. The money is made from things like concrete paving and dismal street furniture. As a park, it follows very much the current Turkish definition of parks, where overt and uncontrolled greenery is a sinful distraction to be covered over and sidewalks are classed as parks. Is this uncritical Armenian Weekly reporting due to its origin as a deposed regime’s project?
dude relax. it’s a cute little park.
From what I see in the images, the new design looks embaraasing, and if the old trees were taken out it is even sinful… Armenian architectural tradition (which includes the amazing churches in natural landscape) requires more for its capital.
I swear everyone complains here but won’t actually do anything to reach that stage in life where they can provide their own parks and give back to the community. All I see is a new park being opened up, and people finding the smallest and stupidest things to complain about.
Either do something about it or shut up.
It is not a new park, it is a redevelopment of an old park that dates from Alexander Tamanian’s 1920s urban design for Yerevan.
what random things are u guys saying when i bet most of u guys haven’t even been to the park.
On the contrary, your empty comment is the random thing. After reading an article in (I think) HETQ, I tried to photograph the park’s destruction-in-progress last June, but the contractors barred me access. Then some man comes up to me asking for money for medicine for his sick wife, an appeal with little impact since exactly the same guy had asked me exactly the same thing in exactly the same location several years earlier. I retired to sit in the soviet-era park that runs parallel with this one: fortunately it still survived intact and full of mature trees, though doubtlessly the developers have their avaricious eyes on it too. You are naive in the extreme to assume this redevelopment project is one-off perfect when it is set against a background history of dozens of other redevelopment projects in Yerevan that have variously demolished large numbers of architecturally important buildings, blighted or destroyed the city’s unique appearance, and done nothing but enrich the already overly rich.
Earlier this month, while taking a walk down Vazgen Sargsyan street, I had the opportunity to visit that new park, which is right between Children’s Park and English Park. Although it’s not my most favorite park in Yerevan, nevertheless, it’s a lovely park. It’s certainly a much prettier park than the previous one, which had totally decayed. Furthermore, the neighborhood’s residents are quite happy with this new park. Well done by the city of Yerevan in opening this new park.