Buildings are often the mute bystanders to the social, economic, and
political events taking place around them. The Industrial
Pedagogical Technicum in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi is a
Over the past four decades the building has served as an architectural monument, a place of higher learning and a makeshift home for an estimated 65 families who were displaced from Abkhazia during the 1991-1992 fighting and the Tskhinvali region during the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.
The building, located at 4 Marshal Gelovani Avenue, was designed by Georgian architect Nikoloz Lasareishvili and completed in 1978. The style of the building is rooted in Constructivism and Latin American Modernism.
“Nikoloz Lasariashvili selected a color palette that would blend in seamlessly with the terrain surrounding the Technical School,” noted architect Levan Kalandarishvili, an architect and lecturer at the Free University’s Visual Arts, Architecture & Design School.
“Architects at the time were unable to develop anything unique outside standard typology, yet with excellent proportions and symmetry, this structure stands out. The windows also accurately depict the architecture of the time; nothing is overstated.”
Initially, the Industrial Pedagogical Technicum was divided into five major sections: the main block, which included classrooms and administrative offices; an auditorium attached to the main block; a workshop and recreational facility which included a gymnasium; a bridge connecting the main block to the facilities; and a sixteen-story dormitory building behind the Industrial Technicum.
The Technicum, located on a hillside on the border of the Saburtalo
and Dighomi districts, is somehow isolated from the rest of the
city. For years, the only element visible through the dense
vegetation was a sculpture by Zurab Tsererteli that adorned the
auditorium facade until 2018.
During the Soviet Union, the building was home to a school that prepared students to become teachers at vocational schools across the former Soviet world in industrial and civil engineering, agriculture technology, metalworking and installing and maintaining industrial equipment. Five-hundred and seventy people graduated from the Technicum, according to “Party Life of the Industrial-Pedagogical Technical School,” an article published in Tbilisi magazine in 1978.
The main feature of the sculpture was a male figure with golden
bat-like wings looking out toward the passing traffic.
The bas relief's bat-like wings were known locally as "Tbilisi Batman," even though most of the passersby were unaware of the extent of the space behind.
Today, the Industrial Pedagogical Technicum serves several functions and the people using it do not communicate with each other, creating a chaotic situation inside and out.
The families living there, known as IDPs, are forced to live in perpetual uncertainty. The government allows them to live in the building, but it is not their property. Multiple efforts to privatize the building have added to their sense that this is a temporary residence, albeit one they have been stuck in for 30 years. The building’s de facto tenants struggle to rebuild, change, or improve their living conditions, due to the specificity of the space as well as their lack of ownership and influence over the building’s future and resources. The building is currently on the property of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development’s Legal Entity of Public Law (LEPL). It houses Icarus College, Abkhazia School #2 and a kindergarten.
It is obvious from the facade of the building that it serves many functions. In the section dedicated to Icarus College, the windows boast modern, insulated plastic frames. The IDP settlement, on the other hand, has original aluminum rotating windows in the front and the old wooden windows in the back. IDPs also created new, informal entrances to the building.