“Renaissance” Monument of Aparan

Author / Authors: 
Davit Stepanyan, Architect

“Renaissance” is a unique structure that has not been repeated in the Armenian architecture and statues. Through its drawing brought up to perfection, it completes and impersonates in a common mass three great historical episodes: the “Mets Eghern” (Armenian Genocide), the Great Patriotic War and the heroic battle of Aparan.

“An Armenian is born on the stone, has lived on the stone, lay the stones upon one another, has risen among those stones, raising stones. The baby has been begotten and brought up in stones, played with stones.

Hence, for thousands of years, the Armenian has lived with the stone from his first steps taken, working with the stone, squeezing water through that stone.

He has made miracles happen through the stone, carved temples in the core of mountains, made stone statues and bridges, created palaces and cities, creating the city of all cities Ani.”

Seven centuries after the making of the city of Ani, the great Armenian architect Raphael Israyelyan speaks on Ani in that manner. During the many years of his creative life he turned into a worthy follower of the huge culture of medieval masters. His big and small architectural ways spread in Armenia, certifying that and expressing the Armenian language of stone in modern times. The black and red colour of the stone started to dominate in his works. Apparently, it is not a coincidence, as the most heroic of themes invaded his attention.

One of the brightest instances witnessing the brave past of the nation is the statue of “Renaissance” in Aparan, one of the “chef d’oeuvre”s of the last years of Israyelyan that has been completed by his son, Areg Israyelyan.

Envisaging these three episodes with absolutely different historical narratives in one common figure, thematically Israyelyan has solved an issue of architectural polyphony, which is very close to polyphony in music when different self-sufficient tunes are interlinked into one piece.

“Renaissance” is situated at the borderline of the city, next to the highway crossing the city, on a small highland. Thanks to the righteously chosen location, it can be seen from different spots of the surroundings.

Through the solutions in mass and area the statue is a surprise to the viewer from all perspectives. Two main fronts, the southern and the northern one, are made in a wholesome organic unity, but also with severely contrasting fine expressional oppositions.

Hereby, we can see parallels with some other pieces by Israyelyan, especially the massive ones, where being able to separate the interior and exterior architectural flows, so that none literally follows the other, he has preserved the close link between them. That kind of an approach demands great mastery and is considered to be one of the hardest principles in the specifics of Armenian architecture, which Israyelyan is perfect at.

Nevertheless, the Aparan architecture exposes some innovation. Here the interior design, expressed in the southern front, is factually exterior design as well.

Specific Features: 

The southern front, where various monuments are placed in three different arcades, reminds of a ruined three-dome church through the whole silhouette, exhibiting its inner beauty in the open sky. Its gracious drawing full of drama is simultaneously extremely strong and monumental thanks to the severe tempo of sporadically uprising stone surfaces reminding of ends of swords. The sword like pillar situated in the triangle socket recalling the heroic battle of Aparan puts a powerful victorious notch on all of it. The link between the ventricle and the sword is expressive both in narrative and artistic terms. In the first instance we notice a streaming and coherent combination of sharp-angled surfaces, while referring to their meaning, both are associated with force.

The ventricle in the form of a triangle has been essential to the stability of the construction through centuries, whereas here, situated in the central core part of the monument, being higher than other ventricles and containing the sword; it collects and unites the other two themes on the right and left sides. The one on the left is a unique obelisk dedicated to the Mets Eghern. The plant motif painted on it brings up an image of a shabby, sad and wavy tree of life that is created through the elements of typically Armenian sketched vines.

On the right corner the peace pigeon is sadly seated on one of the branches with its head down. Putting the monument inside the altar completes the soundness of the idea as a service to the memory of innocent victims. The right side of the monument, recalling the Aparan warriors who died during the Great Patriotic War, fills with genuine admiration due to its unrepeated solution.

Here the monumental stone is a simple quadrangle piece with a star-decorated centre. It is lower than the left side, but brings balance into the whole composition thanks to the active ventricle, rich in arcades. Constantly preserving the dialogue between the left and right wings, Israyelyan has capably used the interesting approach of bringing asymmetry to symmetry characteristic for Armenian artistic singularity. Thus, the southern front floats in the area through diverse volumes, having both clear outline and dense details. Colluding and integrating into the nature from far, it is harmoniously incorporated into the carving of the nearby mountain, while coming up nearer; it demonstrates independence, starting from constructive masses up to keenest decors, perceived form closest of distances.

The design decors by Israyelyan are very poetic, just like with the medieval masters, and manage to slow down the severity and serious look of an Armenian construction, trespassing humane warmth to it. On an immense and reserved common mass they appear to be as children’s free games, never reaching stubbornness or caprice, however. They probably pursue some other philosophy as well, accentuating the greatness of the small, the importance of the less important and the wisdom of the absurd. These two decors of the monument are carved very much to the point, getting into a common motion. On huge, solid surfaces they have a contrasting sound, like the diamond on the ring. Referring to the analysis of the northern front, we have to get back to the historical event. In the crucial days of 1918 the Turks, without facing any obstacles at all, cross Spitak and conquering the surrounding villages, enter Aparan from the left side. During the flaming battles in the directions of Aparan, Sardarapat and Vanadzor on the 25th of May, Aparan turns into a war centre. If the Turks succeeded in putting down the defense here, Sardarapat would be under immediate strike. The unbreakable spirit of Aparan heroes who won the unequal battle has found its stone expression in the front of the monument that looks to the north.

The more abstract personage of the northern front sounds with unexpected contrast to the clear melody of the decorative image of the South, being built on intonation emphasis mainly, severe and laconic, perceived as classical modern. This is fully exterior architecture and design. It reminds a crowd of heroes, united and each of them incarnated into a stone sword, rising up like stalactites, filled with strong dynamics. These masses are completely naked, deprived of decorativeness, and only a masterpiece of writing seemingly bandages them: “Eternal Glory to the Heroes who died for the Motherland.” Wrapping this all up, we can say that looking at the monument from northern observation points, we hear a contemporary rigorous symphony on the one hand, and see the manly “kochari” national dance on the other. The 20th century with its rapidly developing civilization and technological progress shook the whole world. All spheres of life were affected. The innovations deriving from the West were echoed all over the world not leaving the Soviet land indifferent either. New doors and getaways were open to the architects, helping to solve numerous problems coming through ages. Israyelyan was a contemporary architect in the best sense of the word. His working method was close to contemporaries like Mies van Der Rohe and Alvar Aalto. But being a bright individual, he never took the simple way of acquisitions. He was not into easy and repeated replication method both in modern and traditional solutions. As a result the approach chosen by him was very artistic and creative, broadcasting innovation to the extent of creation of an unimpeded national style.

The artistic images full of life and joy brought to life by Israyelyan bear a big spiritual mission. Enlightening and inspiring the viewer they bound him through invisible threads to the pure and crystal Armenian thinking and its cultural roots inherited from centuries. And reflecting that heritage every time, it is surprising and admiring how fresh and powerful the voice of stone is on a tiny land of Armenia, the favorite stone of Raphael Israyelyan, born from the local grounds, close to the area and brought to life through the talent of his magic love. In the territory of Aparan monument, on one of the stony ranges, there is a white gravestone, with three letters on it: DRO. It seems to be one of the many white stones covered by moss, turned into a white pyramid. It contains the humility of the atmosphere and the image of greatness in that humility. Here lies the tomb of the national hero, the organizer of the heroic fight at Aparan, Drastamat Kanayan. It was moved form Boston to Armenia in year 2000.

Designed by architect Ashot Kanayan, this monumental stone, recalling his own relative, through its modest sizes is the best example of harmony in the nature, respect and gratefulness towards the precious construction by Israyelyan.

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