Tbilisi City Forum – towards a democratic urbanism
The Agonistic City is an attempt to redesign processes of urbanism in Tbilisi, Georgia, through proposing an architecture which facilitates city making as a collective, democratic endeavour.
Its focus is a disused power station in the centre of the city, which is transformed into an active organisation where the evolving project of the city can be revealed, defined, challenged and reimagined.
The project questions the current processes of governance in Tbilisi by providing the infrastructure for a strategic and conflictual urbanism to evolve. Conflict here is considered to be intrinsic to democratic society, yet is suppressed by the consensus encouraged in Tbilisi’s post-political context. The re-politicising of urbanism is dependent on the provision of an arena where differences can be confronted and channelled into productive outcomes - here lies the project of an agonistic architecture. Knowledge, research, discussion, debate and presentation emerge as the primary foundations of the organisation - Tbilisi City Forum. The centre facilitates the curation of ideas and knowledge for the city through workspaces for small scale urban actors, supported by a city archive and various civic functions. A range of discursive spaces allow these issues to be negotiated, debated and then acted upon, and several exhibition and gallery spaces present this to a wider public. By connecting a diverse network of stakeholders, the project aims to democratise the act of city making, and in doing so impact decisions in the interest of both the city and its citizens.
This organisation is framed and directed by architecture, and can be understood as a composition of parts, the ensemble of which becomes a figure of the city at large by representing some of its intrinsic conflict and variation. This reveals itself in the relationships between old and new, conflicting formal languages, materiality, the gradient between inside and out, public and private, defined and undefined space. A new pedestrian bridge connects the contentious Rose Revolution square directly with the disused power station, transforming its main hall into a public promenade which circulates a scale model of the city. The project also marks a symbolic reclamation of the river front, and this gradient of public spaces defines the building as a piece of urban infrastructure as much as a working organisation. A complex architectural composition embedded within a holistic urban strategy aims to unite the building with its object of concern; the city. The Agonistic City explores the extent to which the power station can become truly civic - representative of, accessible to, and acting for, a public. It does so by reviving the ruin through a reinterpretation of civic architecture, by curating agonistic political processes and through reimagining the project of the city.