Design, Engineering, and Traditional Culture in the Modern Day Architecture of Uzbekistan

Issue #4 • 1637

Shukur Askarov,

21Independent since 1991, Uzbekistan reinstated the English term ‘design’ that came in currency for the first time with industrialized construction in the USSR in the mid 20th century; the term sought to replace the Russian language concept of engineering [proektirovanie], which, certainly, was different from that of design in the West. In England and continental Western Europe design artistically structured the mass production output of industry recovering after the World War II, while in the isolated Soviet empire industrialized technologies were not making much progress, and civil engineering was lagging behind. The nation lacked market economy or consumerism, which drove design in the West. Soviet artist and architect never became part of the industrial assembly line, and the ideology put design in the service of monumental propaganda known in the West as agitprop. Since 1991, the Soviet-style design concepts have blended with galvanized traditional culture represented by crafts carried on by imitation and therefore conservative; having become an alternative to design and engineering, crafts often disregard their advanced scientific foundations that evolved over decades in the global community. Therefore, it is important for a democratizing society to improve professional standards, regulations and engineering infrastructure, finding a balancing between universally applicable global standards of design and the revitalizing influence of traditional arts and crafts.
Urban development, founded in the Soviet engineering system, had for certain dealt with traditional culture, and design then rarely seen in engineering, brought about an innovative concept. Radial-circular city layout of Moscow introduced from the early 20th century in all the Soviet Union cities was designed to accommodate regular home-to-work trips by public transport, and towards the end of the century it failed under pressure of a freely moving traffic of the growing number of private cars (1, p. 90-94). This totalitarian layout channeling traffic to the city center collapsed at the turn of the XX-XXI centuries. Another disastrous outcome of the socialist urban development was density: “Moscow of the 1990s and early 2000s in much more populous than capitalist cities, even those of the North America” (2, p. 29-38). There are two lessons to be learned from a socialist city: the layout should be adapted to the regular and free movement of transport and pedestrian traffic; residential area layout needs to be rarified and made more humane.
With the introduction of private land ownership, area administration has changed. Without public budget funding the formerly systematic issuance of urban development documentation was disrupted. Soviet standards proved useless for making decisions on urban expansion or a transport mode; new guidelines and recommendations were needed. It was proposed to support urban development standards with legal norms – for the sake of legal awareness of architects making decisions at the nation-agency-municipality level (3, p. 9-10).
The developing market economy has channeled migration flows to the city. In a model new Soviet city of Zarafshan the job-seeking residents of the Tamdy District built in the suburbs along the railway, and in year 2002 their settlement called Yanghi Zarafshan (New Zarafshan) was included into the city limits. The new city of Navoi has also dealt with the contrasts of its districts once the Karmana historical settlement joined its territory. Satellites of the former soviet cities emerged not as a result of a centrifugal move, that is, away from the city, but of a centripetal one, towards the city.
In the former Soviet Union 70 percent of passenger traffic was planned to be moving by public transport, but privately-owned vehicles took over, overcrowding already densely built-up areas. Cities were made even denser by investors, too, who tended to build in central areas, according to Western design. Vegetation was cut, water pools dumped over, and parks built upon.
Street and road network used to be expanded in circumferential direction of the Soviet cities’ suburbs, while their centers’ traffic throughput capacity was at its limit. 30% of traffic transit was supposed to run through the central parts of the cities, when 50% of traffic was supposed to flow via the highways of continuous driving, which now are being routed without linkage to the adjacent areas, built-up with unplanned facilities, making new deviations and not conforming to their original designation. Post-Soviet city required professional reconstruction and innovative design. New urban concept had to be initiated by new types of public transport and new principles of planning of the district – modules of growth.
Reconstruction of historical cities. Upon disintegration of former links with international organizations, the independent Uzbekistan was not included in due time into the international program of architectural heritage conservation, which has been noted by UNESCO in 1993: “from the time of formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the declaration of Uzbekistan on its ascension (or non-ascension) to the World Heritage Convention was not received” (4, p. 122).
With adoption of the Law on Protection and Use of the Cultural Heritage Objects by the country, a number of design projects on adaptation of the historical sites for touristic purposes has increased. However, “the projects on restoration and adaptation of historical sites are not sufficiently grounded, quality of building works is low, there are facts of misuse of the modern building materials such as concrete and reinforced concrete, culture of operation of historical monuments is inadequate” (5, p.132).
22The Agha Khan Foundation and the City Khokimiyat of Samarqand in 1991-1995 have outlined a methodology of conservation of the historical town, and in 1992, the international bidding for restoration of the Registan site and the citadel has been held. International organizations like UNDP and UNESCO jointly with the architects of Samarqand have surveyed three mahallas (communities) of this area in 1995. Conservation of historical city involves reorganization of the public administration governance; self-conservation of mahalla by private sector efforts; improvement of the master plans and projects of detailed planning, overall restoration works by special building units, and finally, control and coordination of these activities.
In 2002, scholars from the University of Bochum (Germany) have made comparison of present-day Bukhara with a city map dating from the end of the XIX century. This analysis has shown that a number of remaining to date historical monuments has made 22% (6, p. 72). Starting from 2008, historical city of Bukhara is being studied by the representative office of UNESCO in Uzbekistan, Senior Scientific Department on Conservation and Use of Cultural Heritage Sites under the Ministry for Culture and Sports of Uzbekistan, and Tashkent Architecture and Civil Engineering Institute. Results of the studies provide the city with the computer-based platform for monitoring of the historical buildings sites, prevention of their destruction, and restoration.
International documents stipulate the general conservation principles, while the detailed methodology is being defined by the state. The Ministry for Culture and Sports along with the specialized institutes work in the framework of the laws of the Republic of Uzbekistan and in accordance with the changing methods of the cultural heritage conservation. The works of the architects from Bukhara – Zoirsho Klychev and Zebo Sharipova, can be used as a model of professional interaction of the architects and the craftsmen: their best creations are inspired by traditional housing and are excellently inserted into historical heart of the city. These buildings are far from the Western type of design, however they have united a post-Soviet architectural design with hunarmandchilik (craftsmanship) which is highly appreciated by artisans.
Architecture. Initially, the architecture has revealed the signs of new style as a manifesting agent of new social requirements and renewed building capacity. Later on, the architects began exchange of the innovations in style, which have resulted into the fully-fledged styles that afterwards have been replicated in stereotypes. The Western design has renovated the architectural engineering of the capital in this process, which, in its turn, has been enriched with the national architectural traditions of the different regions of Uzbekistan.
Museum of Temurids (1995, A. Turdiev), decorated by the craftsmen of “Usto” Association, has shown an example of the monumental national style, which is being usually copied by the folk chamber architecture in the provinces. The President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, I. Karimov, has proposed a design composed of two ayvans (terraces) for the Memorial to the Grieving Mother in memory of the soldiers killed during the Second World War (1999, V.A. Akopdjanian and M. Musaev). They have been created by the woodcarvers under the leadership of the craftsman Abdughani Abdullaev. An example of this Memorial has been expanded to Konya – the fifth largest city of Turkey, where the Turkish architects M. Oztoklu and H. Oztoklu in 2008 have built the Memorial to the soldiers fallen in the World Wars. Ravishing carved columns of this Memorial are performed by Mirdjalil Asadov from Samarqand, while ganch (gypsum and clay mixture) carving was done by craftsman from Tashkent – Mahmud Kasymov.
Uzbek terms kosh and jouft mean “pair” and “couple” of everything in the universe. In the historical architectural ensembles this means the facades of the buildings facing each other. After Independence, during expansion works of the capital’s Khadra Square, it was complemented with one more similar fountain, the governmental square with the aforementioned monument to the Grieving Mother was completed with the monument of Happy Mother. During construction of the Forum Palace “Uzbekiston”, the replica of the post-war Clock Tower has been built by the side of the original one. Admiration of repetition has infiltrated the kosh and jouft style, which began to replace the professional architectural principles of ensemble.
Contemporarily with classicism, corporative design of new hotels, banks, business and commercial centers has demonstrated a revelation of Uzbekistan to the world. Their design is developed by the international construction corporations to enable functioning of the financial corporations at the world scale, and it is baldly copies the achievements of modernist and post-modernist architecture. Classicism and even corporativity have revealed themselves as two screens. Concept of flatness, decorative or structural blanket, given the invariable, to the point of conservatism, compositions, is historical feature of the nomadic and settled architecture of Uzbekistan. Therefore, it is obvious that this feature is still alive in the national culture, engineering and design.
In conclusion, it is important to mention that urban development and architecture of present-day Uzbekistan are being formed by the Western design, post-Soviet engineering, and Uzbek national culture. Design brings it up to the level of the Western technology, humanizes the environment through new art of landscaping and urban improvement.

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4. Feilden B. M., Jokilehto J. Management guidelines for world cultural heritage sites. Rome: ICCROM, 1993.
5. Кадырова Т. Ф. Пути архитектурного возрождения Узбекистана за ХХ и начало ХХI в. Ташкент, 2007.
6. Gangler A., Gaube H., Petruccioli A. Bukhara – The Eastern Dome of Islam. – Stuttgart-London: Edition Axel Menges, 2004, p.72.

Explanations of 4 photographs
The Forum Palace “Uzbekiston”, 2009. Rakhimov, U.Kh., and Kim, V.G. “Projectstalkonstruktsiya” (Uzbekistan) and design firm “Ippolite” (Germany).

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