In the heart of the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the tower of the Hotel Iveria rises high above the surrounding buildings. Built in 1967 for the state hotel chain Intourist, it soon became an icon of modern architecture in Georgia. When the conflict in the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia came to a head with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the building was repurposed as an emergency shelter for displaced persons. After ten years, it fell into ruin. In 2006, GRAFT Architects (Berlin) were commissioned for the hotel’s restoration and renovation, which was completed in 2008.
Now, 14 years later, and against the backdrop of the Ukraine war, which has had substantial impacts on Georgia, the building’s history takes on new relevance. The refurbished hotel symbolizes the unfinished dialogue between the state and the people, standing as a sign of both confrontation and tolerance and giving rise to speculations about various machinations. It raises questions such as: How do architecture and the city react to political crises? Under what circumstances does architecture shift from active to passive bearers of meaning? By addressing such questions, the exhibition aims to contribute to a better understanding of the period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, whose consequences still reverberate and are largely unknown in Germany.
For the interdisciplinary exhibition, curator Irina Kurtishvili gathered numerous artifacts in the spirit of a literary and architectural journey through time. These include city and building plans from the Sixties, among others, tourist maps and postcards, books and records, as well as plans for the hotel’s reconstruction by GRAFT Architects. This collection is complemented by works by Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili, Tolia Astakhishvili, Tamuna Chabashvili, Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk, Sebastian Schobbert, Koka Ramishvili, Sophia Tabatadze, Temo Javakhishvili, and Guido Zimmermann, who interpret the controversial history of the hotel artistically.
Irina Kurtishvili has lived and worked as an artist and curator in Cologne since the mid-1990s. She curated, among others, the exhibitions Dynasties (Georgia’s National Museum, Tbilisi, 2018), Hotel Orient (Museum of Literature, Tbilisi, 2014), Location: Georgia (Willy Brandt House, Berlin, 2007), Marjanishvili Quarter (TAB Architecture Biennale, Tbilisi, 2020), and most recently Tbilisi. Not Here – Not There (ZAZ Center for Architecture Zurich, 2021). In 2018, she co-curated the exhibitions Hybrid Tbilisi (DAM Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Frankfurt/Main) and Georgia in Five Stations (Ringturm, Vienna). In 2021, she founded AA Architecture Ambience as an independent platform for artistic and curatorial practice.