ARMENIAN CITY OF GYUMRI AS A PHENOMENON OF LIVING VERNACULAR URBAN ENVIRONMENT
Architectural and environmental peculiarities of Gyumri (former Alexandropol, Leninakan) located in the Republic of Armenia lie in the vernacular: a significant layer of historic “architecture without architects” (Bernard Rudofsky) built by local skilled stonemasons from the local material called black tuff. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Gyumri was the largest city in Eastern Armenia (Armenia within the borders of the Russian Empire) and its economic and cultural centre. The historic part of the city is a regular grid filled with one- or two-storey stone vernacular buildings (under the unwritten principle “freedom within the grid”). Until now, despite the devastating earthquakes of 1926 and 1988, it remains practically authentic and serves as a living multifunctional city core. This article introduces new theoretical concepts of the living vernacular city and the vernacular ensemble, developed by the author, and examines the peculiarities of vernacular architecture emergence at different stages of urban formation. The author also investigates the phenomenon of the almost incessant vernacular development of the city, which took place not only during the city’s heyday, but also in the Soviet times when private architectural activity was officially forbidden, and today when we see the revival of spontaneous vernacular construction – in excessively decorated forms, but with the same traditional methods and the masters’ love for their works. Methods of detailed visual analysis of the built environment and in-depth interviewing of vernacular actors were used in the preparation of the study.