Members of the initiative group “Ҳара ҳақалақь” told about the goals and tasks that they face and about new projects to transform the capital of Abkhazia - Sukhum.

Said Bargandzhia

Sukhum, the capital of Abkhazia, is an ancient city with a history of 2500 years. At the same time, its modern architectural appearance, so beloved by townspeople and guests, was formed relatively recently - at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Affected by time and people

The city gradually developed and grew, but more than once it was subjected to ruining and destruction.

In particular, Sukhum suffered during the last Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878. Then the Turkish troops, leaving the city, burned it to the ground. For participating in the war on the side of Turkey, the Abkhazian population was forced to leave the coastal zone of the country, including Sukhum. It hurts to imagine what was then in the place of our beloved town.

It suffered greatly at the end of the 20th century, namely during the Patriotic War of the people of Abkhazia. Despite the fact that 27 years have passed since the end of the war, some areas still have not recovered from the shelling.

Throughout the town, there are abandoned dilapidated buildings, the facades of multi-storey buildings are destroyed. In addition, modern Sukhum is in many ways a “town of contrasts”, where ancient architectural structures coexist with new buildings that are incomprehensible in form and content.

Thus, Sukhum has not yet managed to heal from the wounds inflicted on it by time and people. The capital of Abkhazia desperately needs someone who is ready to take confident steps to return it to its former glory as the most beautiful town on the Black Sea coast.

This challenge was accepted by members of the initiative group “Ҳара ҳақалақь” (translated from Abkhaz – “Our town” - ed.).

The initiative group included designers, architects, artists, urbanists and public figures well-known in Abkhazia: Rozita German, Georgy Agrba, Kama Katsiya, Naala Mirzoyan, Eleonora Giloyan, Madina Biguaa, Astamur Maan, Inna Barchan, Madina Chkotua, Ekaterina Yenik, Bislan Barateliya, Nasta Agrba, Dana Kujba.

United by love for the homeland

“Ҳара ҳақалақь” is a community of architects, designers, artists, engineers, urbanists, lawyers and journalists who are united by love for Sukhum, who are ready and will definitely make every effort to make their hometown better.

“We have come together to develop the town together. The initiative itself is justified by the challenges that exist. We see our mission in helping to improve the urban environment with the help of professional recommendations, demonstrating how with the help of simple and budgetary actions it is possible to provide a safe and accessible environment, visual and informational attractiveness of Sukhum and its historical buildings, to preserve its natural frame”, says Nasta Agrba, PR coordinator of the “Ҳара ҳақалақь” initiative group.

A single look of the capital, where everything is harmonious, is one of the main goals of the movement. To come to this, it is necessary to develop a number of important documents. Therefore, today, unified requirements for elements of building facades are being developed. The initiative group is also working on the creation of a master plan of the town, a general “design code”, a town planning code and other documentation in the field of architecture.

The members of the initiative group share the opinion that Sukhum does not have a unified style in urban architecture, it is eclectic and requires a surgical consideration. In “Ҳара ҳақалақь” they believe that the town has a certain scale and mood that they would like to convey - this is the feeling of southern architecture, namely, it is the Sukhum flavor.

According to members of the movement, one of the serious challenges the town faces today is the poor state of the engineering infrastructure, on which all life and many issues of the town’s improvement directly depend. Water supply and sewerage networks, storm sewers, energy supply - this whole system requires large-scale renovation and large funds. It is difficult to do with local solutions, but a number of specific measures today will allow us to develop a single comprehensive plan for the rehabilitation of infrastructure, namely, to assess and survey the networks zonally and, based on this zonal approach, to carry out the reconstruction in stages.

Another main focus of the initiative group is the creation of an accessible, barrier-free and safe urban environment. There are also first victories in this direction. Together with the Association “Inva-Sodeystvie”, several parking lots for people with disabilities were built and installation of a safe pedestrian crossing near secondary school No. 10 was agreed.

Important details

“Ҳара ҳақалақь” not only develops large projects, but also pays considerable attention to various details.

Participants of the movement are looking for different visual and conceptual solutions that correspond to modern ideas about the aesthetics of the town. They started with simple concepts of clearing out ordinary facades of debris in order to illustrate how the perception of an object changes, and that important architectural elements such as windows, railings or canopies, which cannot be neglected in terms of simple architecture.

Today many concerned townspeople and philanthropists are happy to help with what they can. As for private mansions, people are often willing to invest in aesthetics themselves, but ideally, of course, such events should be supported by the state.

Since today there is no such state support, members of the movement see crowdfunding as a source of funds (collective cooperation of people who voluntarily pool their money or other resources together to achieve certain goals - ed.).

Saving the legendary “Brekhalovka”

The “Ҳара ҳақалақь” initiative group was formed about a year ago, and not by accident. Many people remember that it was then that the Sukhum public was literally “washed away with a wave of indignation” the illegal construction in the famous street cafe “Brekhalovka”. The residents of Sukhum noted that the building does not fit into the general concept of the Makhajirs Embankment space. Such a reaction is not surprising, because it is the “Brekhalovka” that is called the heart of the Abkhaz capital.

In case if - quite by accident - someone did not hear about it: “Brekhalovka” on the embankment is famous for the fact that the residents of Sukhum love to run here for a cup of coffee, and at the same time (or even first of all) discuss the latest news with friends, have some rest ...

Until the mid-1960s, the modern “Brekhalovka” was called “At Akop”, however, the people still called it “Brekhalovka”. Already after the Patriotic War of the people of Abkhazia, when the “At Akop” café stopped working, a new cafe appeared which secured the popular name.

Even the presidents of Abkhazia loved to come to “Brekhalovka” to drink coffee and talk to local regulars. More recently, the incumbent head of state, Aslan Bzhaniya, presented the residents of “Brekhalovka” with handmade backgammon. This place has become popular outside Abkhazia as well. Not a single high-ranking guest passed by the legendary cafe. For example, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been here.

There is a pier adjoining “Brekhalovka”, which is closed due to an emergency condition, but it is by no means empty: hundreds of seagulls fly here, and their presence makes the place truly amazing. In short, “Brekhalovka” has its own, incomparable atmosphere.

Returning to “Ҳара ҳақалақь”: the future members of the initiative group were at the head of the movement against that inorganic building in the “Brekhalovka” area. The guys managed to convey to the Sukhum administration and to the initiators of the construction of its irrelevance. “Brekhalovka” was saved, and at the same time, it became clear that a group of professionals should be created, which could prevent similar mistakes in the future and offer architectural and design solutions. Therefore, the movement was born.

Fill with new meanings

As for “Brekhalovka”, the members of the group did not stop there, having decided to continue working with the cafe, revealing its uniqueness.

“The incredible aesthetic potential of this place has opened up as the logical dominant of one of the main streets of the town. This place requires a very careful approach, since the environment has already been formed and is saturated with a certain atmosphere, which should not be disturbed,” explains the participant of the movement, architect Kama Katsiya.

In “Ҳара ҳақалақь” they believe that earlier this place “had much more functions and meanings”, but over time “Brekhalovka's” idea has changed.

“There was a concert venue here, but now there is only a coffee shop, and the main audience is men who like to play board games. With the help of a little reconstruction, we want to make this place more relevant for different generations and a new public,” says Kama Katsiya.

The architect notes that “Brekhalovka” is “the main architectural ensemble on the main avenue of Sukhum”, so any additions and transformations should not dissonance the colonnade and the seascape.

“Artistic imagery and modernity can be added with interesting flooring, simple objects, light canvas awnings that “rhyme” with the idea of the sea. Reconstruction of the pier is possible, but only if it does not cover the seascape. So, with the help of small changes, we could revive the space, fill it with new meanings and make it more popular for both citizens and guests,” says the architect.

The square is like a blooming oasis

In parallel, “Ҳара ҳақалақь” is working on the concept of a square named after the second President of Abkhazia, Sergey Bagapsh. Previously, this square was called the Constitution Square of the USSR. One of the central squares in the town, it is an integral part of the Sukhum port, commissioned in December 1930. Then the famous Abkhaz politician Nestor Lakoba took part in the celebrations on the opening of the facility. Almost 90 years later, a reinforced concrete pier 300 meters long with two berths was built here. It is this pier that today “flows” to Bagapsh Square, making up a single ensemble with it.

The initiative group already has a vision of how Bagapsh Square should look today in order to include it in the promenade of the embankment.

According to the group's plan, the square should become a multifunctional space in which various leisure options are thought out. Multilevel benches will be conducive to communication. On a large space without sidewalks and curbs, you can walk, run, ride bicycles. That is, it is available to all categories of citizens – the elderly, cyclists, people with disabilities, and parents with children. A fountain should be located in the center of the square. This area is also multifunctional - the space under the fountain can be turned off and used for cultural events.

“The project provides for green areas. They reduce the heating of the area, which is important for our hot climate, make the space shady and attractive, so that people would like to spend their leisure here,” notes the participant of the movement, urbanist Inna Barchan.

We need more “points of attraction” of people

Another interesting project the movement is working on is the Sukhum Mountain.

The Sukhum Mountain or, in other words, the two-headed mountain “Samata”, is 201 meters high. Once upon a time there were mansions of wealthy Muscovites and Petersburgers who came to Sukhum on vacation. On the slopes of the mountain there is a pantheon (burial place and memorials - ed.) of writers and public figures of Abkhazia. In 1949-1951, an extensive park was laid out on the mountain, about 100 thousand ornamental plants were planted.

A century earlier, in the middle of the 19th century, it was absolutely “bald”, without a single large tree: all the trees were then cut down for the construction of the town. In 1872, the local historian Vladimir Chernyavsky built a dacha here - it has survived to this day - and since then, for more than a hundred years, the people called this area “Chernyavsky Mountain” In 1914, a private sanatorium “Azra” was erected on its slope, which now houses the Akhmad Kujba Scientific Research Center of Balneology and Alternative Medicine. A beautiful panorama of the town and the sea opens from the top of the Sukhum Mountain.

The “Ҳара ҳақалақь” group is now looking for solutions that will help revitalize this area, give it relevant meanings, while preserving the historical value of the ensemble.

The designer, member of the movement Madina Chkotua, complains that in Sukhum today there is an acute shortage of public spaces and recreation places for adults and children. She adds that the main pastime now is the Makhajirs Embankment. According to Chkotua, it is necessary to disperse recreational areas throughout the town and thereby create new “points of attraction” that will relieve the center of Sukhum and diversify the everyday life of the townspeople.

“One of these points of attraction should again be the Sukhum Mountain. Due to the long desolation, the mountain is overgrown; observation platforms and fountains have lost their function. Our team is now working on a project for the development of the Samata Mountain, we want to transform everyone's favorite place, to combine the beauty of old architecture with modern trends. This place has great potential, but its desolation has led to a negative image that needs to be improved. Samata can become a new place for recreation, sports, and a venue for cultural events,” the designer believes.

Evergreen and naturally beautiful

Favorite Sukhum for many of its fans is a town buried in flowers and greenery. Assistance in the development of more thoughtful and modern approaches to landscaping, in the reformatting of existing parks is another area of work of “Ҳара ҳақалақь”.

Naala Mirzoyan, a landscape designer, a member of “Ҳара ҳақалақь”, says that the concept of city greening should include, first of all, preserving the existing plantings and saturating the existing background with beautifully flowering forms, ornamental plant species characteristic of the climatic zone.

“All this is impossible without increasing the number of employees serving the green spaces of the town, such as landscape gardening engineers, agronomists, gardeners. It is very important to emphasize that the interaction between municipal authorities and scientific institutions should be regular. A complete inventory of the plants growing in the town is required, engineering surveys are required for further planning of a comfortable and evergreen environment, enchanting with its biodiversity,” notes Naala Mirzoyan.

When preparing this material, the WAC information portal interviewees especially noted that in its work, the “Ҳара ҳақалақь” movement enjoys great support from the people of Sukhum, which becomes a fulcrum for the group, which makes you want to work and create, gradually transforming your native and beloved town.