Arsenal Oasis, constructed for the 2020 Tbilisi Architecture Biennial, is an evolving test garden made from the city's surplus land and water. The project initiates a new landscape from a leaking water main that once served the Soviet army base.
Tbilisi's urban congestion and poor air quality result from unregulated, post-Soviet urbanization. The municipality sold urban edges and open spaces that Soviet planners reserved for public use, hazard mitigation, and climate regulation. The city has no plan to compensate the citizens for this generational loss of open space. The Oasis is a "test site" to imagine methods and mechanisms to redress the loss of public open space over the past 20 years.
Arsenal is a 70-hectare former military garrison between Svanetis Ubani and Avlabari neighborhoods in Tbilisi. Privatized by the Ministry of Defense, its current ownership is unclear. This landscape of rubbled terraces, grasslands, cypress, and trash-filled ravines is a rare and significant open space in the city. The site's open borders provide a free space for residents of the densely populated neighborhoods surrounding Arsenal. Neighbors channeled the flow from the broken water line into several small basins. This accidental surplus of water irrigated the terraces of the former building pads and created an emergent wetland on the dry wasteland.
Landscape architects often refer to their works as interventions to avoid the strict associations with static typologies such as park or square. Intervention means working with systems rather than bounded geometries and implies an active engagement of verbs such as building, diverting, removing, and amplifying.
Engaging with the water was like pulling a loose thread that unraveled the urban fabric and opened new sites of improvisation, adding a third “writing” of a garden onto the site. We removed concrete slabs to open more soil, fabricated steel mesh panels to guide visitors through the wetland, and laid concrete pavers that emphasize remnant structures and guide exploration.
Link to the article about Building the Diagram at Arsenal Oasis
Link to the updates on evolution of Arsenal Oasis: Spring 2021, Fall 2022
Link to the article about Diversity of Plant Species at the Arsenal site