An environment of coexistence
Yerevan is one of the oldest cities in the world. Like a broad amphitheater it is stretched at the base of the legendary Mount Ararat, and a variety of epochs are closely interwoven in the city’s architecture and urban planning. Specimens of ancient architecture peacefully exist here alongside 20th century administrative and residential buildings, and the precise features of neoclassical architecture get along with the quite chaotic residential buildings. It is the latter that became the subject of Dmitry Chebanenko’s explorations. The extent of "vernacular architecture" in Yerevan is indeed so massive, that it defines the face of entire regions, if not the entire city. The patios and verandas, practically free of "layers" in the form of additional balconies and additions, are the only sites of heritage in the city, whereas the residential complexes, not having a conservation status, have been almost entirely modified subject to the current needs of the residents. For all their visual randomness such areas are completely self-contained and have their own infrastructure. In the labyrinth of narrow streets you can find shops, car washes, laundries and other places of basic needs. All household tasks are performed within the self-proclaimed commune. The incriminating term "improvised construction" in this context seems not very relevant — rather, it is "an architecture of coexistence", architecture that is without an architect, which develops in its own way, but is organically integrated into the urban planning fabric of Yerevan.
In documenting this rather fragile and constantly changing architectural layer, Dmitry Chebanenko is simultaneously exploring the possibilities of modifying existing types of residential housing. The adjacent territory to almost any panel house in today's Yerevan is a network of individually arranged courtyards, while its silhouette has been changed beyond recognition by the considerable size of balconies and the rooftop additions. Due to the wide variety of these constructions, standard buildings acquire unique, often phantasmagoric appearances. In the view of professional architects working within the strict framework of building regulations, all of these layers unlikely have the right to exist, but the photographer looks at the situation from a wider perspective, observing the vitality and charm of a contemporary urban realization of vernacular.
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