(Aspects of International Cooperation of Young Scholars of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan)
Uzbekistan has a large number of architectural monuments the creation of which goes back into a very distant past. The focus of continuous studies performed by national and foreign experts has been word-famous masterpieces of medieval architecture in Samarqand, Bukhara and Khiva. Phases of historical development of ancient cities are reflected in the architectural heritage of medieval, late medieval and new time. In the late 19th century a number of cities in Uzbekistan, such as Old Tashkent, Samarqand, Andijan, etc. started having Russian districts with European-style buildings. There were two adjoining parts in these cities – the “old” town and the “new” town. European-style buildings constructed in the new towns at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries were designed by Russian architects in different architectural styles prevalent during that time. These structures, sometimes of high artistic value, even today give special originality to the appearance of the new parts of the cities. Unfortunately, many buildings have not survived, and the architecture of that period still remains largely understudied and insufficiently covered in literature.
There has recently been a heightened interest on the part of the local public, tourists, domestic and foreign scholars towards country’s contemporary architecture, including architecture that belongs to the junction of the 19th and 20th centuries. Architects from Japan, for example, have chosen Samarqand as the most interesting site to study this heritage. Despite all the reversals of fortune, the destructive effect of time, events in the history of the soviet people when confession-related structures were demolished, and other factors, the city still preserves the original look of the largest number of architectural monuments dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
To study Samarqand architecture of the 19th-20th centuries, a tri-party cooperation agreement was signed in autumn 2004 between the Samarqand State Architecture and Construction Institute (SamGASI), the University of Tokyo and the National Institute of Art and Design named after Bekhzad (NIAD), with an engagement of professors, students and graduate students of the aforementioned schools. In keeping with the agreement, three international scientific research expeditions of Japanese and Uzbek architects were planned. The leader of the Japanese team and several students are members of modern Asia Architecture Network (mAAN) that studies architecture of the colonial period (late 19th – early 20th centuries) and contemporary architecture (20th – early 21st centuries) in Asian countries.
Before telling about the work of the expeditions, we shall briefly speak about the history of their formation and mention a number of monuments if the “new” part of Samarqand.
The plan of Samarqand’s new town was laid out about 150 years ago, after 1868 when Russian authorities took over the city. Professor V. A. Nilsen in his work titled “At the Origin of Contemporary Town-Planning in Uzbekistan” noted that the ancient city of mid 19th century consisted of two main parts fenced in by fortress walls: the citadel and the ancient part of town – shakhristan and rabad. Orchards and tillage adjoined them in the south, south-west and east. The first place in Samarqand that housed Russian military and the new administration was the old citadel of the city that was situated in the place of Amir Temur’s palace called Kok-Sarai. During their stay in the Asian fortress, Russians built new barracks, church of St. George and trading shops. Later on planning work also began outside the fortress walls.
In 1870 Kaufman, Governor-General of Turkistan, approved the plan of the future city. Already by the beginning of 1875 the plan of Samarqand consisted of two structurally different parts – the Old and the New town. Rounded plan of the old town had radial layout with curving narrow streets.
The new town, in terms of layout and architecture, was European-style town, with straight streets and sidewalks paved with stone, and with shady parks. There appeared unknown here before industrial buildings such as brewery, tea-weighing and match-producing shops, etc. Christian confessional structures were built, for example, Georgievskaya and Alekseyevskaya churches, and a Roman-Catholic church. The buildings of the library and grammar school for girls are quite remarkable. Barracks for soldiers and facilities for entertainment were also constructed.
Even today, public, industrial and civil structures built by the Russian corps of engineers provide Samarqand residents with space for their daily operations. Unfortunately, most of residential structures are unsightly and in lamentable state of repairs. Architecture of that period is part of the cultural and historical heritage of Uzbekistan’s people that has to be preserved for future generations. Moreover, today, when Samarqand, with its 2750 years of history, has become one of the important tourist centres of Uzbekistan and the city of international significance, tourists are especially attracted by the wide variety of its historical sites. Therefore, the task of restoration and conservation of the architecture that belongs to that period is one of the priorities.
In the University of Tokyo the work is done under the Century of Excellence (COE) Program aimed at optimizing modern architectural space and infrastructure in urban areas while preserving the original look. Experts working under the COE Program have a mandate to restore, reconstruct and conserve the monuments of colonial and contemporary architecture. Program participants develop various methods of restoration and functional adjustment of architectural monuments to the current needs of the city residents, taking into account every aspect of their daily life and activity. This work is based on the most recent technology, sound selection of materials and the use of modern restoration and reconstruction methods.
Since autumn 2004 and until present, specialists and students from the three schools have organized two expeditions. The expert group from the University of Tokyo headed by Professor Shin Muramatsu consisted of graduate students Ho Eriko and Tanigawa Riuichi and students Pei Chou Lee, Okamura Kentaro, Kato Haruo and Urata Tomoko. The group from Uzbekistan that consisted of about 15 people from SamGASI was led by the Vice Rector of the Institute, Professor of architecture Dr. Mukhammad Alhmedov, and included students Azamat Sharipov, Said Mannoev, Shakhida Balgaeva and others. The group of Tashkent students from the NIAD led by Professor of architecture Mavliuda Yusupova was represented by post-graduate student Abdurizo Nozilov and undergraduate students Otabek Bobokandov and Dilyara Nizametdinova.
The objective of the first expedition organized in November 2004 was to identify buildings that retained their original look and were worthy of being awarded the status of architectural monument. Attention was also given to centuries-old trees as they too, along with architectural heritage, contribute to the city environment and are the asset that belongs to the city residents.
The assessment of architectural structures was carried out on the basis of several parameters, including quality and originality of design, structure layout, the degree of preservation, etc. The architectural survey resulted in the collection of data on more than 500 structures dating to that period. By visual assay and building analysis, the professors selected 250 the most valuable objects that deserved conservation and restoration.
The next expedition that took place in November 2005 was focused on deeper study of architectural monuments: natural measurements of dimensions were taken and blueprints of the buildings layout were made.
In 2005 other students from the University of Tokyo and the SamGASI were engaged to participate in these studies. The third and final expedition to Samarqand took place in summer 2006.
Of interest is the method employed by foreign experts in surveying a structure in order to recreate the building’s historical look characteristic of the time period in question. The method is based on thorough study of historical material from various sources, where also important is sociological study of collected information, with filling out questionnaires based on interviews with building owners or people who knew or ever heard something about the history of the structures under study. Information obtained through visual examination with regard to the current state of repairs, historical and architectural value of the buildings, building and courtyard layout and their look as of today is also entered into the questionnaires. Not a single detail is overlooked, as even the most insignificant fact may eventually play an important role in recreating the original look of the building and the architecture of that time in general.
Collected material is then analyzed and comparison is drawn between archive data and information available today, thus the approximate historico-architectural picture of Samarqand in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is obtained. Due to the fact that colonial period architecture is understudied, this omission turned out to be substantial when running these research expeditions.
When expeditions of this kind are conducted, they serve to fill in the gaps in the history of architectural studies in Samarqand.
Upon completion of the research studies in Samarqand, professors and graduate students from the University of Tokyo, the SamGASI, SIAD, as well as the Institute of Art Studies that also joined the study team in 2005, will develop and propose effective methods to restore buildings and reconstruct European part of the city so that it blends harmoniously with the Asian part of town. With their help it will become feasible to bring back the former look of architectural monuments of the colonial period and strengthen the structures employing conservation techniques in order to preserve them in the future. In addition, city landscaping projects will be designed that would envisage the adjustment of old architecture to match contemporary needs. There is also a plan to open a website where this research project and its outcome will be presented. Eventually, a book telling about the project results will be published in Japan. Developed proposals on the restoration and conservation of architectural monuments of that period employing proposed methods will be submitted to different foundations that deal with matters concerning the conservation of global cultural heritage. Among them are UNESCO, mAAN, the Agakhan Foundation and others that would be able to assist in implementing projects aimed at the conservation of architectural heritage in Samarqand.