AN OBSESSION WITH A REFUGEE SETTLEMENT
Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia
20+ still images available in color
Created May 2019
Once lauded as an architectural achievement, the Industrial Pedagogical Technicum complex was completed in 1978 by Georgian Architect Nikoloz Lasareishvili. Upon completion, the Technicum complex included a main block, auditorium, industrial workshops and a student dormitory.
Since the collapse of the USSR, and the early and turbulent years of Georgian independence, various parts of the Technicum have been inhabited by Georgian refugees from Abkhazia. Again after the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, the Technicum became home for refugees from Samachablo. Both groups are living in the building side-by-side, with partitions and separate entrances.
As a part of the Tbilisi Architecture Biennial, Thomas Ibrahim collaborated with Artist Gio Sumbadze, Architect Givi Machavariani, and Architect Claudio Vekstein to bring life into the building. The first step was to make the Technicum Auditorium terrace accessible, by adding a staircase.
With the help of Tbilisi City Hall and funding from the Open Society Georgia Foundation, they were able to clean and illuminate the terrace for the first time in decades.
Since the inaugural exhibition, connections have been established between the urban community and the minority community in the Technicum.
The children living in the building and attending the onsite school, Abkhazia School No. 2, have new role models and teachers from the local universities.
Ibrahim's latest onsite project is to build a kid's playground on a shaded plot behind the school. He plans to have the grounds ready for an opening on World Refugee Day, 20th June, 2019.
Ibrahim walks the hallways of the settlement to rally support from the residents, he finds Giorgi, a carpenter by trade, and his son who volunteer to help.
Nino has lived in the settlement, an IDP (Internally Displaced Person) from Abkhazia since 2008, unable to return to the place of her birth now a breakaway State.