Conversation pieces was a collaborative project of the cultural centre SKLAD in Sukhum/i with the architecture collective raumlabor from Berlin in 2016. Since its foundation in October 2015, SKLAD hosted several exhibitions, regular film screenings and diverse lectures and discussions (see also project Curator's initiative). With Conversation pieces, the curators of the cultural centre SKLAD decided together with artasfoundation to focus in their next collaborative project on the public space.
The urban public space in Sukhum/i shows many traces of the war. There are abandoned, unused and underestimated places in central locations, but there are also architects, activists and artists, who want to shape their city. A collaboration with raumlabor promised to provide the necessary impulses for the local enthusiasts. raumlabor has worked in different cities around the world and has often focused on the urban space between buildings and constructions as well as the habits and interests of the inhabitants of these cities.
The collaboration between SKLAD and raumlabor started with an online exchange about the everyday life in the two very different cities Sukhum/i and Berlin (see blogs). In a second phase, the raumlabor architect Marius Busch together with artasfoundation travelled for a week-long research to Sukhum/i. Architects and activists of SKLAD organised tours through the cities and visits of serveral manufacturing sites in order to get an idea of the topics of the city and the material available. Together, we developed ideas for the redesign or conversion of interesting places in the city. Several weeks later, Marius Busch came back with his two colleagues Benjamin Förster-Baldenius and Claire Mothais for ten days of practical and intense construction work.
The construction phase evolved around visions for the city of Sukhum/i of the future. A group of between ten and twenty young people built symbolic constructions and equipment for the „Institute of the visionaries“. The institute opened its doors for a couple of days in the beginning of October 2016 on the site of the abandoned Guma railway station (ex. Baratashvili) and invited a broad audience to reflect about visions. The institute consisted of a symbolic inscription, the rocket „SKLAD 2020“, which were both installed on the roof of the station building, and a large city map on a bill board, on which the raumlabor architects had drawn the visions of passers-by in the first days of their stay in Sukhum/i. In addition, wooden furniture, a mobile kitchen and a pingpong table were built, which all invited the visitors to be together and exchange at this central and beautiful, but abandoned and unused railway station.
The project Conversation pieces did justice to its title. It led to discussions and helped to develop visions among participants and visitors alike. And it showed to all people involved, how much a group of people can build by hand collectively and in a short time frame. In order to leave a more sustainable imprint in the city centre of Sukhum/i, more initiatives need to follow. The architecture group in SKLAD pursues their ideas further, continues organising lectures, discussions and film screenings on the topic and continues to exchange with the Berlin architects from raumlabor.
* Sukhum/i is the capital city of the internationally by most states not recognised Abkhazia. artasfoundation would like to underline that its use of names and titles particularly with regard to the conflict regions should not be construed as implying any form of recognition or non-recognition by the foundation or as having any other political connotation whatsoever.
Cultural centre SKLAD
Asida Butba, Tatyana Ergunova
Nasta Agrba, Bislan Bagateliya, Astamur Butba, Amra Chichibaya, Kama Katsiya, Sabina Kharjelia, Alkhaz Kvaratskelya, Saida Lakrba, Astamur Maan, Nadeer Saeed, Omar Shaguch
Marius Busch, Claire Mothais, Benjamin Förster-Baldenius
Heinrich Böll Foundation South Caucasus
Human Security Division of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs