Georgian-Danish partnership to preserve traditional architecture
Recently, the director of our Regional Office in Tbilisi, Mads Østergaard, visited one of our projects in Georgia. Here he got to experience what happens when young architects and carpenters from Georgia and Denmark join forces.
New Cooperation Fund has granted The Oni Hub-in Project, aiming at bringing Danish and Georgian architect students and carpenters together to develop and promote the unique, traditional building style in the rural district of Racha.
Beautifully located in the mountains of Georgia, the area is rich in natural resources and culture. Unfortunately, it is at the same time one of the poorest areas of Georgia, threatened by urbanization and deforestation.
The project wants to change the current trajectory. By promoting sustainability and the traditional building style, the project aims to contribute to the development of the area and increase the appreciation of the area’s cultural heritage and regional pride.
The Oni Hub-in Project is a people-to-people collaboration between the Institute of Architecture and Culture at the Royal Danish Academy of Architecture, Dinesen, Oni Carpentry School, VAADS -Visual Arts, Architecture & Design School, Oni Municipality, and Fair Trees Fund.
Leading the project is Peter Møller Rasmussen, from the Institute of Architecture and Culture at the Royal Danish Academy. He explains how it has been to bring together different cultures and disciplines for the project, which consists of a spring and autumn school in Georgia and a summer school in Denmark.
“It has been amazing visiting Georgia, both because of the country itself and because in meeting the unknown, you realize the many similarities and how much we can learn from one another.”
The Oni houses are built using specific traditional technics, and without using nails in the construction. This way of building has been an interesting task for the students, that differs from their daily work methods.
“I am proud that we have been able to bring together different humans and cultures as well as approaches and attitudes to craft and architecture.”
The results of the Oni Hub-in project will later in 2022 be exhibited at VAADS, the Cultural House (Ambrolauri), the Dinesen Showroom (Copenhagen) and Royal Danish Academy.
The aim of sustainability
A large aspect of the project is the sustainability task. By visiting Georgia, Peter Møller Rasmussen has been made aware of the things we can learn from each other, also in terms of sustainability.
“One of the things that have inspired me the most is the awareness of resources, which can be expressed on many levels. In this local environment, resource awareness is expressed, not only through the appreciation of the natural surroundings but also on a micro-level. For instance, it is common to repair even cheap products, to turn off the engine of the car, when driving downhill and there is a whole other tradition of self-sufficiency in Georgia than in Denmark.”
The village of Oni has in the last two weeks been buzzing with life
For the Danish students, it has been interesting to get to learn the Georgian craftsmanship and building culture. One of the major differences they have experienced is the working methods: While the Danes are schooled in always reflecting and thinking through every detail before solving a task, the Georgian students would get started right away. This difference in working methods has been interesting and inspiring for both parts of the students, and in collaborating, the students have created strong bonds.
“It has been an amazing experience. We have got a lot of new friends and are astonished by the friendliness and hospitality of the Georgians.” – Rune Secher, Dante Lövgren, My Louise von Christierson, Students, Institute of Architecture and Culture (IAC), Royal Danish Academy, Copenhagen.
They now feel connected to Georgia and the culture and look forward to visiting again in the future. Also, they hope, that the Georgian students will experience the same feeling of connection to Denmark, after their visit this summer.
An unexpected journey
Mariam Shekelashvili, Student at VAADS – Visual Arts, Architecture & Design School at the Free University Tbilisi, expresses the last two weeks as an unexpected journey.
“It was quite new to me to meet so many new people and people from different cultures. It was very easy to work with the Danes, although communication was the hardest part. Also, it was very interesting because we had different approaches. They wanted to test and speculate before getting started.”
“I think the Danes have learnt many things about our culture – they were so amazed about our nature and our woodwork style and the ornaments, which I think they were most fascinated about. This was somehow unexpected for me.
Also, Mariam is looking forward to visiting Denmark in the summer, and hopefully experiencing the same fascination with Denmark, as the Danish students were experiencing in Georgia.
Connected across nationalities and disciplines
“For me, it was a privilege to see how young people with different backgrounds worked together and learned from each other. The project combines rural development, education, preserving cultural heritage, craftsmanship, labour market, environmental awareness, youth engagement and collaboration with a variety of partners and this is maybe the biggest strength of the project as it means that all involved can actively contribute no matter your background. One local man mentioned to me during my visit that ‘the project has brought life to the village” – Mads Østergaard, Director of Office for Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
At the New Democracy Fund, we believe that democratic development is created through cross-cultural and international partnerships, we, therefore, thank the Oni Hub-in project for their application to the New Cooperation Fund, and we are looking forward to following the next stage of this project.