The establishment of the national architecture was declared from the second half of the XIX century. Its variations have been consistent with the world’s architecture styles – be it modernism, constructivism, classicism, modern architecture or post-modernism. Typologically architecture did evolve; traditions found their stylistic embodiment in the trends of the time, but the Soviet provinces behind the Iron Curtain were lacking the most important element – their own initiative. Disintegration of the Soviet Union and the formation of the independent Republic of Uzbekistan opened up new prospects for the development of architecture. The republic has come to administer its own resources, defined relationships with other countries and found its place in the world; new social and economic programs have changed the life in the country. Architecture has reflected social transformation as it is based on social order, new construction possibilities and new spiritual aspirations of the independent nation.
The central part of Tashkent, the capital of the Republic of Uzbekistan, was formed between the old town and the new town of the colonial period (two kilometres apart); the central square by the Ankhor canal dividing the two parts of the city was reconstructed after the 1966 earthquake. The square came alive for occasional grand parades, otherwise lying empty under the scorching sun. Before the break-up of the USSR, the square accommodated an Indian culture festival “Utsav” (after it had been held in Moscow and Leningrad). For the occasion, collapsible metal towers were assembled in the north-eastern corner of the square to display the works of Indian arts and crafts. When the square was named Mustaqillik (Independence), similar towers with cupolas rose above the amphitheatre and an outdoor stage built to celebrate the country’s independence in the last night of summer.
The first public building of independent Uzbekistan was the Turkiston Palace (1989-1992) situated north of the square at the beginning of its Parade Alley. Back in 1966 architect Y. Khaldeev designed a puppet theatre in the shape of an opening flower to stand in its place. By 1977 the flower-theatre was transformed into a squat building with giant stalactites on the fa?ade: backward construction methods turned the original lightweight modern architecture into a heavy form.
The task of improving the theatre’s style was given to the workshop of architect F. Y. Tursunov. The auditorium is covered with a blue plafond decorated with plaster carving (ganch) and gold leaf in kundal technique. Above the lobby and foyer a panel presents white Turkic palas with a relief image of Humo, the bird of happiness, and a panorama of historical cities of Turkestan. Ribbon windows on the foyer first floor offer a view upon the Parade Alley and further onto Mustaqillik Square. At the building’s opening ceremony President Islam Karimov said, “The wish of my heart is to see architectural work unfold throughout the country so that all regional centres would have the same majestic palaces as “Turkiston”. To see our country become a beautiful land of freedom and justice, and for us to leave behind some useful strictures, and free and comfortable homeland for the future generations” (1, p. 36).
The Day of Memory and Honour is the name given to May 9 – the Day of Victory in the war of 1941-1945. In 1999 the Memorial of Eternal Flame of the memory of the Unknown Soldier in Tashkent was transformed into the Grieving Mother complex. The memorial was located north of the square and added space to it with its open plane. The Grieving Mother complex is different. From the east, the Eternal Flame is confined by the sculpture of Uzbek mother (sculptor I. Jabbarov), repeating the woman’s image on a canvas by artist R. Akhmedov.
60 meters long alley leads to the Eternal Flame from the west. Architects V. Akopjanyan and M. Musaev proposed to outline the alley with low memorial walls. The country’s president suggested aivans of Uzbek traditional architecture. These aivans created solemn architectural space in the spirit of classic ritual compositions, and masters from all over the country who wrought the aivans gave the memorial the warmth of people’s engagement. The construction of the aivans was led by the Kokand wood-carving master Abdugani Abdullaev. The architecture of the complex was reproduced in the provincial centres – every time with local variations.
The 2000 restoration of the Council of Ministers building started the process of renovating the style of the Tashkent central square, where buildings began to emerge in the late XIX century, then in 1930s-1950s and 1960s-1970s. The building’s ground floor with open V-shaped pillars was covered with red granite walls; its rectangular structure now features a tall portal with the national emblem and flag; the former cladding glass ribbons with turquoise piers has been replaced with golden tinted glass (architects V. A. Akopjanyan, A. Saakyan).
Facade is segmented by half-columns with facets originating from the facade of the Palace of the Friendship of Peoples (1979-1982; E. Rozanov, F. Y. Tursunov, S. R. Adylov, et al). Specific symbolism is given preference to pure, abstract shapes of modern architecture; closure to openness; solidity to dynamism; and richly interpreted international to narrowly understood national.
Following a design developed by the Tashgiprogor design institute, a high-rise dominant of the square – a 14-storey administrative building with an 8-storey annexe on Sharaf Rashidov Avenue was reconstructed: between its two blocks architects created an atrium up to 11th floor; the upper floors house ministries, committees and joint stock companies.
In 2005 the construction of the square’s central building – the Senate of Oliy Majlis (the Upper House of the Parliament), the highest government authority in the Republic of Uzbekistan – was completed. Of the former Government House of 1930s-1950s they preserved two extreme wings of the canteen and the “Bahor” concert hall with valuable interior decoration. The Senate building has four floors; its central part accommodates a lobby, a lounge and offices; the fourth floor houses a lounge, meeting rooms and offices. The central entrance with its columned portal faces the Mustaqillik Square. The entrance to the Constitutional Court from the south and the entrance to the “Bahor” hall from the north are also highlighted with prominent portals. On the west side, the building has the traditional column aivan overlooking the Ankhor canal. The central foyer is decorated with monumental mural paintings – “Awakening Time” and “Hymn to Independence”. The main conference hall has 172 seats and a press balcony. Interiors feature traditional decoration made of light-coloured wood with plaster details and textile wallpaper.
Classicism style has become a safe solution for office buildings. For example, the Tashkent City Hall (1997, F. Y. Tursunov) and the Oliy Majlis building (1997, V.A. Akopjanyan) are surrounded by columns – the hallmark of classicism. Gold-tinted cladding glass on the facades of the Oliy Majlis has three ledges as it goes down to the floor of the aivans around the perimeter of the building. The architecture of the parliament building is detailed in expressing the national character: there is even a lantern over its turquoise dome. The City Hall building was originally intended to be built symmetrically to the Tashkent Chimes on the opposite corner of Amir Temur Street. Putting the building at its current location – the south line of the former City Garden – has solved several urban development problems. Aligned with the Chimes, the building formed an ensemble with the clock tower, as well as with the Bukhara Street: the central dome of the building has completed its perspective. The most significant change was introduced to the Garden: taking the place of a cinema, cafes and other rundown structures, the edifice had not caused any damage to the vegetation.
The City Hall plane is a T-shape: two administrative wings along the street and between them from the main entrance two blocks of public services take the building into the Garden. Behind the main entrance there is a round atrium three storeys high. Five stairways and two elevators at the entrance provide vertical connection. A three-storey wing going into the Garden is an octagon. Offices are located along its perimeter, and conference rooms are in the centre of the ground and second floors. All domes in the building are made of metal girders with meshes for stucco work in the interior. The round atrium at the entrance is completed with a gently sloping dome with a very beautiful plafond. Its white and blue gold-plated vegetable ornament is studded with light bulbs – “the stars of Samarqand”, as the architect put it. The fourth floor foyer is covered with a dome with arched light gallery of its drum. The dome is painted with beige-brown-orange vegetable designs with gold-plate. The paintings are inspired by the Samarqand monuments such as Guri Amir, Shahi Zinda, Tilla Kari, and Tash Hauli in Khiva. The City Hall architecture has taken in new stylistic features along with traditional ones.
Newly independent CIS countries entered international arena where the domain of diplomacy has its own established architectural stereotypes. Therefore, the style of presidential residences was soon associated with the classical tradition established in the XVIII century in the United States. In 1770-1771, inspired by the works of a famous Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, the third U.S. president and author of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson designed his home in Monticello estate near Charlottesville, Virginia. In 1792, influenced by the style of Jefferson’s house, Irish architect James Hoban built The White House, the official residence of the president of the United States in Washington. In Uzbekistan, along with the white colour, the presidential residence also echoes the semi-circular columned space in the centre of the main facade. The Oq Saroy (White Palace) Office of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan (1999, Tashgiprogor) has a lobby, conference rooms and offices; its central column space is completed with a hipped roof expressing the Turkic tradition as well.
In Kazakhstan, the Ak Orda (White Residence) Presidential Palace in Astana was built in 2004 with semi-circular columned space along a 5-storey facade completed with a dome and an 80 meters tall spire. Semi-circular columned space was then used in many public buildings in our country.
The Uzbek National Academic Drama Theatre (2001, U. H. Rakhimov) reconstructed on the site of Vatan cinema hall (1939) and Hamza Theatre (1969) is also designed with a semicircular colonnade along its oval facade. The new theatre has a main auditorium for 540 seats and a minor auditorium in the basement for 110 seats, an expanded lobby, and also a museum on the first and second floors. The elegant decor of the theatre features murals and wood and plaster carving performed by the masters from “Usto” association, while ceramics is the work of an experimental sculpture manufacturing unit and ceramic factory.
The design of the new State Conservatory building (1996-2002, V. L. Spivak) was selected by the President Islam Karimov based on the competition results. In the T-shaped plane, grouped around the atria are the rooms and four auditoriums: grand opera, organ, experimental and the minor auditorium. Interiors are decorated with monumental and decorative art. Architecture in the style of conservative classicism is crowned with a now common mezzanine floor; at the centre of the main facade there is a prominent semicircular colonnade. Also laconic is the composition of the President Hotel (2004, “Toshkentboshplan”) on the University Boulevard in Samarqand. 164 rooms are positioned along the perimeter of a 7-storey atrium; the hotel has lounges and conference rooms, as well as a swimming pool, sauna, bar and disco in the basement. The hotel overlooks the boulevard with the same semi-circular space, the austerity of which is sustained by the orderly system of pilasters on the red base of the building, its four main floors and the completing mezzanine.
In keeping with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov “On the construction of the “Uzbekistan” International Congress Hall in Tashkent” dated June 5, 2008 within the boundaries of Tarrakiyot, Khorezm, Mustaqillik streets and Amir Temur Square, a trapezoidal area of 2.7 ha had been appropriated. Located around it are the Uzbekistan Hotel, Radio House, the former building of Alisher Navoi library, the building of “Soglom avlod uchun” NGO, “Sharq” restaurant, Istaravshan museum and cafe and the City Hall Garden. The main entrance is aligned with the axis of the monument to Amir Temur, while the entrance from the Khorezm Street is intended for protocol and ceremonial occasions. Concert and administrative lobbies and service entrance face Mustaqillik Street. The “Uzbekistan” International Congress Hall towers over its surroundings and has a plane area of 112.40 x 86.50 m (2009, U. H. Rakhimov, V. G. Kim).
Architectural order of the facades is a colonnade of semi-column pilasters imitating the traditional wood pillars; there are also corner marble panels with glazed ceramics ornament. Entablature above the order is drawn as an arhitrave beam, a frieze and a cornice featuring European and Asian designs. Colonnade and panels interchange with grey aluminium profile and blue tinted glass windows. 48 meters high dome of white marble is completed with the sculpture of storks. Outer stairways are made of red granite, and the granite plinth is black.
Transition to market economy with foreign investment coming into the country has also transformed its architectural style of classicism. Joint ventures build medium-rise buildings, compact and similar in their functionality: offices combined with hotel rooms or apartments, as well as commercial premises. Offices and hotel rooms around the halls can be found on the floors of Austria Hotel on Sadik Azimov Street (2005, R. N. Adilov, A. A. Dadayan).
New for Tashkent, the look of this building is inspired by the fantastic Viennese classicism, while the classicism of a three-storey apartment building (1946, M. S. Bulatov) on Navoi Street inspired the architectural style of a new 4-storey building (2011, A. D. Akmalaev) constructed on its place for an Uzbek-Italian joint venture.
The worn-out building designed by M. S. Bulatov, the patriarch of our architecture, was demolished, but the motive of its loggias of three arches has been repeated with “maximum loyalty”, as the architect put it, in the new “Oriental Stalin-style palazzo”. It is “palazzo” because on his trip to Italy the architect confirmed the style of the loggia columns, which were then carved by the Uzbek masters from travertine mined in Kyrgyzstan. From a medieval Italian ceramic platter showing the signs of Arab influence the architect borrowed the contrasting ornament for the ground floor of a building that houses Ermenegildo Zegna and Zell boutiques, and the entire fa?ade is actually built as a Venetian palazzo. The charm of classicism has been achieved by multiple repetition of the arch-and-column loggia motif. Universal canons of classicism in these buildings have been redefined in a more profound, more detailed and more demanding way; this time their authors introduced fresh motifs not only from Uzbekistan, but also from distant countries where the style had originated from. Classicism of such buildings is not a copy: it pushes the boundaries of the style, giving it more liberal interpretation.
On the 19th of November 2010 V. V. Putin offered to rent the pavilions of the former Soviet republics at the Exhibition of Economic Achievements in Moscow for 50 years with a token fee of one rouble a year to the CIS countries to be used as their business representative offices. The pavilion of the Uzbek SSR (1939-1954, S. N. Polupanov) in the classicism style was recognized as a success by B. N. Zasypkin, the architectural authority of that time, for he did not see it as “Moresque” or ” an isolated solution of a nonexistent order”. That is, the harmony of the building and the viability of its architectural order had been appreciated and encouraged already then. In a true classical specimen an architectural order is constructive – as it is in a successful solution found for the Eternal Flame memorial. Yet in classicism the architectural order decoratively optimizes and streamlines the facades, it loses its constructive meaning and becomes ornamentation. In both cases the architectural order is a means of improving the established tradition, rather than an invention of something new. In the synthesis of classical and national the authors usually select local historical type of spatial composition, and the architectural order is either attached to it as in the Oliy Majlis building, or decorates the overhanging fa?ade panels as in the International Congress Hall. In this sense, classicism is conservative.
Still, prevalent in architecture is the desire to naturally express the building’s structure in its appearance. When, in very rare occasions, this structure is borrowed from the classical heritage – as was done by A. V. Shchusev for the Alisher Navoi theatre (1937-1947) – success is inevitable. More often, however, architects synthesize structure and appearance in their own manner – and this is what defines each stage in the evolution of architecture. In this evolutionary process one can appreciate the world’s classics only with the knowledge of one’s own classics. The knowledge of one’s own culture disciplines the architect from within, allowing him to appropriately take in the essence of another culture’s classics. Therefore, the sense of classics should be internalized in the architect’s character. Then, this inner knowledge coming from the heart shall make the external mechanistic methods redundant in the process of creation. This inner understanding – not the copying of planes, facades and details – can encourage a genuine synthesis of Asian and European classic. Classics must be comprehended to be rejected eventually, when one creates a style according to one’s own understanding and the situation of design. Classicism is characterized by external ornamental decor, while in classics the true meaning of the word decoro is propriety and dignity. These notions, in any stylistic variation, remain the goal of architecture.
1. Ислам Каримов. Наша цель: свободная и процветающая Родина. Т.2. Ташкент.