The Dvin Hotel

Author / Authors: 
Davit Stepanyan, Architect

After World War II, the Japanese started building structures of reinforced concrete, which was very rational and of universal use although it was highly criticised as being inappropriate for the climatic conditions of the country; besides, it was considered a deviation from national traditions.
Later, when the Japanese began looking for a specific architectural style that would best suit Japanese culture and the requirements of the time, the works of Kenzo Tange, one of the most celebrated architects of the 20th century, became especially renowned as they presented traditional Japanese methods and approaches in a new light and interpretation.

Specific Features: 

In 1958 Tange built the administrative house of the Prefecture of Kagawa, which had horizontal divisions executed through reinforced concrete. This eight-floor edifice was particularly distinguished for the peculiar connection of vertical and horizontal elements, namely pillars and beams, reminiscent of the forms of the roofs, cornices and banisters of traditional Japanese buildings of wood. With this respect, it was a new and interesting interpretation of the national image.

A great number of such buildings of horizontal division were erected in different countries, although in many cases, their aesthetic features were merely of constructive nature, without any ties with cultural heritage, and often lacking meaningfulness of image.
Buildings of horizontal division being a complete innovation, their first specimens in Armenia were merely unsuccessful imitations. In one of his articles, Raphael Israelian does not even hide his irony when speaking about these failed attempts.

By means of thick bands of glass the building is divided into floors all through its height: an absolutely modern method! However, this band is achieved by painting the walls between the windows black: this is done in order to get a common band...

In those years, buildings of national Armenian architecture mainly had vertical rhythms, particularly arcades. The House of Government designed by Al. Tamanian proved an all-time encyclopedia for the future generations of architects. Indeed, some of them also created a national image applying quite new approaches and deviating from Tamanian’s methods and principles, but such cases were very rare. The hotel Dvin, which is one of these few buildings, can be considered a perfect specimen of a structure of horizontal divisions.

In the aforementioned building in Kagawa, the band-shaped banisters and platform slabs are separated through a narrow layer of air and sections of banisters of reinforced concrete. In contrast to this, in Dvin they are connected and revetted with stone, which differs from beams of reinforced concrete in colour and facture. Thick and accentuated, these bands give the building certain heaviness and plasticity of sculpture typical of Armenian architecture.

In the aforementioned building in Kagawa, the band-shaped banisters and platform slabs are separated through a narrow layer of air and sections of banisters of reinforced concrete. In contrast to this, in Dvin they are connected and revetted with stone, which differs from beams of reinforced concrete in colour and facture. Thick and accentuated, these bands give the building certain heaviness and plasticity of sculpture typical of Armenian architecture.

A rectangular stone mass on the hotel roof, on which the letters of the name Dvin are placed, the ornamental tower-shaped element resembling a royal crown as well as a beautiful relief by Ara Shiraz contribute to the creation of a purely Armenian image. It is interesting to note that even the decorations of the hotel contain a band-shaped contour: in some portions, it looks like a medieval woven pattern, and in some others, it resembles a part of a grape vine. Entering into combination with the band-shaped structure of the banisters, this contour imparts a historical aura to the edifice, in full conformity with its name (Dvin is one of the historical capitals of Armenia), clearly showing its cultural roots. It is by no means accidental that one of the walls of the hotel is embellished with a bird, with its wings outstretched: on its crest, the bird, which is adorned with pomegranates and bunches of grapes, is holding a renowned capital from a palace excavated in the city site of Dvin.

The hotel Dvin, which was co-designed by architects Edward Safarian, Felix Hakobian and Ashot Alexanian, is a State Prize winner: despite this, however, its very existence is in grave danger at present.

In 2003 the hotel was sold to Caucasian Communication Group CJSC, which committed itself to completely rebuilding it by 2016. The reconstruction project envisages unimaginable distortion of this valuable edifice: the number of floors is to remain unchanged and some conservation is to be implemented in its constructive system. However, under the plea of repairs and just artistic changes, the present-day owners of the hotel have completely robbed it of its primary architectural features. The edifice, originally erected of stone and reinforced concrete, is now being altered and revetted with various materials, through the application of random forms that are preferred by this or that private individual. The primary architectural and artistic accentuation of the monument is consigned to total neglect, in the aftermath of which, its original image is doomed to complete destruction.

The reconstruction project was unanimously rejected during a meeting of the Urban Planning Council: the hotel Dvin is such an edifice that does not require any, even slightest, artistic changes. If the owner wishes to make the hotel conform with modern criteria, he may settle all the engineering and technical problems, conserve the structural members, if required, and carry out the necessary inner alterations, indeed, by the consent of the architects. What is impermissible is the alteration of the volumetric-spatial composition of the hotel: the edifice belongs to each and every citizen of Yerevan.

We are convinced that the hotel will be much more attractive and profitable if it serves its purpose, that is to say, receives foreign guests, in its traditional Armenian “clothing.” After all, foreigners are surely more interested in seeing new architectural forms and features that cannot be found in their own countries; besides, this is a matter of national identity and dignity.

Yerevan does not boast a large number of edifices of such high architectural merits and aesthetic, educating significance: instead, unsuccessful and tasteless imitations keep constantly increasing, deviating urban planning ideology from its proper path of development.

The fountains in the hotel yard are adjoined by a sculptural composition called Mountain Dance. The heroes’ legs have been broken for already rather a long time: Armenian men and women who are depicted as dancing kochari (an Armenian folk dance) are following the illegal reconstruction activities and cultural genocide ongoing in the hotel in their crippled state.

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