abandoned (re)creation

C20: Guide to the architecture of Tskaltubo

The booklet you are holding in your hand is a guide for exploring the 20th century architecture of the largest and, after the famous Borjomi, the most known spa town in Georgia – Tskaltubo. A century of economic development, changing lifestyles and unprecedented population growth have brought with them new demands for urban development and, in the case of Tskaltubo, the development of spa recreation and relaxation. A century of trials in which new forms and contents of architecture were born and successfully, but also unsuccessfully, tried in the style we call Modernism. In the case of Tskaltubo, modernist concepts of scale, new typologies and technical building methods were widely discussed in a stylistic variation of socialist realism. This guide to the architecture of the spa town of Tskaltubo helps visitors and residents alike to get to know these two distinctive styles, spanning the period from 1930 to 1990. The C20 guide aims to give any curious visitor to Tskaltubo an experience of the unique local architecture, which in many ways represents the best of what was built in Georgia in the 20th century in terms of its artistic and historical value. The guide presents buildings that should not go unnoticed. We hope that with this guide you will discover new places and bring you new insights. The guide contains basic information on 46 buildings, which are identified by a serial number assigned to them according to the time of their planning and construction, from the oldest to the newest. Looking at the map, you can see the chronology of the development of the spa town. A descriptive text is also attached to selected major buildings. The photographs show the current state of Tskaltubo’s architecture at the time of the publication research, provided between 2018-2022. Remember that a walk through the spa town is a form of recreation in which time does not play a role. Take your time to let the architecture impress you.

The spa town of Tskaltubo is located in the western part of Georgia in the Imereti region, near the city of Kutaisi. The healing spas were established only in 1926. The famous spa, with its capacity of approximately 8000 beds and 125 000 guests a year, was the largest resort in the country and in the past even one of the biggest in the USSR. The spa is located in a very humid and warm climate zone, which gives it an almost tropical atmosphere that is very unique compared to other thermal spas, whether in Georgia or elsewhere in Europe. At an altitude of 100 m above sea level and due to the specific climatic environment, the spa season was reversed, thus the spa was closed in the months of July-August and, on the contrary, in operation during the winter.  

Radon – carbonate thermal water sources with a temperature of 33 to 35 degrees are an ideal source for quality spa care. Such water is suitable for balneotherapy applications directly from the source, most often in the form of bath therapies or joint baths in thermal pools, without the need for cooling or reheating. The captured thermal fluid should be made available for therapy within the shortest possible time and distance from the source. This fundamental factor is key to the urban design of the spa in Tskaltubo. The center of the spa is the surroundings of the mineral spring outlet – the central spa zone or spa park with an area of 70-80 hectares. Therefore, all the objects of balneological operations are located in this place. The largest building is Bathroom No. 6, and the oldest is Bathroom No. 3. The central zone in places resembles a dry lake or a wetland. At its edges, it is flanked on the east and west by branches of the regulated river Tskaltuboskali. The river flows from the ‚Cold Lake‘ in the northern part of the town and is gradually warmed by the inflow of spring water as it flows around the central spa area.  

Georgian society is and has always been in the past centuries linked to the European cultural context. In 1921, Georgia and the rest of South Caucasus became part of the Soviet Union. Other political, cultural as well as architectural tendencies went under the direction of Moscow. In the 1920’s and 1930’s several attempts were made to direct architecture forward with progressive modern movements, especially Constructivist avant-garde, but compared to the situation in the Central European countries, the rise up of modern movement had no time to develop properly. In the late 1920’s, the country was forced to introduce official art and an architectural style of socialist realism. This style is significant to most of the buildings in the Tskaltubo spa zone. 

Khrushchev’s de – Stalinization of the USSR in the late 50’s and early 60’s had a strong impact on Soviet architecture. In the need for a cheaper and more efficient building process, the term ‚housing industrialization‘ was introduced. There was no more need for the aesthetics of Socialist realism and its inefficiency, which officially declared open way ‚back‘ to the roots of the international modern style. Due to this, the late 60’s and 70’s represent the most successful era of Soviet architectural design, as well as Georgian architecture. Representatives of such style in Tskaltubo are Aia, Sinatle and Bath no. 8. 

Utopia of collective recreation

This aim was developed within the framework of postwar social welfare state policy on both sides of the Iron Curtain. In the Soviet Union, the idea of collective recreation or recreation for the masses was implemented right after the establishment of Bolshevik power. Recreation became one of the central aspects of Soviet health and social policy. Recreation served the wellbeing and productivity of workers, but at the same time was not inclusive and was used as a tool of political power.

While in Western Europe, this utopia was already abandoned in the early 1980’s, in the countries of Eastern Europe this idea continued to develop till the fall of the communist utopia. Today these buildings are abandoned both physically and mentally. Even though in the region of Central Europe spa resorts built during the Socialist era are still in operation, the key idea behind them – their social/healthcare/reproductive purpose – is disappearing under the pressure of the Neo-Liberal economics and monetization of health. 

​​Kurort Project and its monuments of Collective recreation 

In 1928, the Scientific research Institute of Health resort science and Physiotherapy of the Republican association Sakkurorti under the Council of Ministers of the Georgian SSR was founded. Since its establishment, this institute was responsible for scientific research of the balneological potential of Georgian mineral resources. It was also the institutional decision-making body for the future development of the spas in Georgia, especially Tskaltubo. 

In the 1960’s, many socialist countries excluded specialized projection for the healthcare and healing spas resorts. In the USSR, such a design institute was founded in 1967. The Central Design and Research Institute Kurortproject, based in Moscow, was established by the Federal Central Council of Professional Unions.  Under the Moscow Kurortprojekt, there were three other institutes based in Kiev, Sochi and the city of Piatigorsk in Stavropol Krai and another 9 branch offices in other Soviet cities, including one in Tbilisi. Most designs in Tskaltubo for the objects built after 1967 were designed in Kurortproject Tbilisi. Tskaltubo spa resort had 22 sanatoriums in operation before the fall of the USSR. Sanatorium complexes in Tskaltubo were designed usually with a capacity of 250 – 600 beds. Accommodation, food preparation, dining rooms, social and cultural facilities like cinema theaters and optional healthcare departments were organized in one monoblock.    

From healthcare to social care (and back to cash flow)  

In 1992, the sanatoriums were owned by state organization Janmrteloba, which was the central state health insurance company based in Tbilisi. In the autumn of 1992, the directors of sanatoriums and state-owned facilities with accommodation capacity like hotels were ordered to open their doors to refugees seeking shelter. 

From 1992 to 1994, hotels and sanatoriums used to take temporary care of all their new ‚clients‘- Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). A standard double room in a healing spa sanatorium has an average of 16 square meters. This place was given to each family not counting the number of people in one room. Over time, people started to fend for themselves and customize their new homes. They started gardening outside and refurbishing the rooms with an additional kitchen, usually set in the loggia. 

Most of the sanatoriums are currently in a condition that does not allow their reconstruction to their original form or use. In Georgia’s largest sanatorium, Saqartvelo in Tskaltubo alone, up to 1 000 people were living in uncomfortable conditions at some point.

Today, hundreds of IDPs still live in former sanatoriums in Tskaltubo and are only slowly being resettled into new standard housing. In Tskaltubo, out of the 22 original sanatoriums and one Intourist hotel, only one sanatorium is still functioning in its original form till today. This former Army Sanatorium is now privatized as a spa resort. Over the last two decades, the faith in this architecture has thus undergone various trajectories of transformation. In Georgia, the state of the deconstruction of this utopia is becoming dystopian. It opens the question of value, significance and function of the architectural heritage of the modern movement when confronted by political and social conflicts. In Tskaltubo, we can observe a wide range of modern sanatoriums not in their original use or design, but in a socially rebuilt environment for the benefit of involuntary permanent recreants. This has remained on the fringe of the interest of both tourists and architectural research. 

We visited the spa town of Tskaltubo for the first time in the summer of 2014. At that time, we were conducting research on spa architecture in Slovakia, a small country in Central Europe, similar in many ways to Georgia – in terms of size, population and the presence of mineral and thermal waters. Thus, during our summer visit to Georgia, we were closely observing the occurrence of springs and baths at every turn. We visited Borjomi, Likani, Abastumani and we could not bypass the largest spa Tskaltubo. Unaware of the social context, we were naturally taken aback by the transformation of the spa complex into involuntary permanent housing. In 2015, we were given the opportunity to spend an artist residency in Tbilisi. In GeoAIR, we were thus given the opportunity to further explore Georgian architecture of the 20th century and learn about its transformations due to social pressures. Naturally, our attention remained on the baths. 

In the following years, we regularly visited Georgian baths for the purpose of researching 20th century spa architecture. We became friends with architectural theorist Nano Zazanashvili and together we accessed the personal archives of architect Merab Chkhenkeli and the archival remains of architect Ioseb Zaalishvili. Similar to other countries of the Soviet Union or Central Europe, the architecture for the baths in Tskaltubo was developed in the specialized state project institute Kurortprojek. We presented our archival material as well as a rich photographic record at the exhibition Permanent recreation in 2018 in our home town Bratislava and later in January 2020 in Tbilisi. We have therefore decided to record our relationship with the city of Tskaltubo with the C20 booklet, as we believe that the architecture that has been created in this city deserves our attention. The content of the book would not have been created without the help of the local historian of Tskaltubo, Anzor Babunashvili, and the architect Nano Zazanashvili. We are also grateful to our friends at GeoAIR, Nini Palavandishvili and Data Chigholashvili. We believe that better tomorrows await the city of Tskaltubo. See you in the spa! 

Martin Zaiček & Andrea Kalinová

C20: Architecture guide to Tskaltubo

Concept: Martin Zaiček, Andrea Kalinová
Text © Martin Zaiček, Nano Zazanashvili
Photo © Andrea Kalinová, Martin Zaiček
Translation: David Chigholashvili
Graphic Design: Magdaléna Scheryová
First edition 
All rights reserved 
No parts of this publication may be transmitted without the prior written permission of the authors.
Published by: Archimera, Bratislava
Copyright © Abandoned (re)creation, 2022

This publication has been supported using public funds provided by Slovak Arts Council and the support by i-Portunus funded by the European Commission

01 Bathhouse no. 3

address: Central Park architect: unknown construction: 1927 (built on the fundamentals of an older wooden bathhouse) current state: in original use

02 Bathhouse no. 1

address: Central Park architect: M.V. Buzoghli project: 1927 construction: 1927-1931 reconstruction: 1951 (new frontal facade) current state: in original use

03 Tsiskari Sanatorium

address: Rustaveli Street 18 architect: unknown project and construction: 1928 reconstruction: 1952 capacity: 75 current state: ruined

04 Tskaltubo Sanatorium

address: Tskaltubo - Khoni road architect: M.V. Buzoghli construction: 1936 addition of 2nd and 3th wings: 1967-1971 (Vladimer Giorgadze) capacity: 80 current state: since 1992-1993 living site for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP)

05 Megobroba Sanatorium

address: Tskaltubo - Khoni road architect: S.M. Lentovskij project: 1937 construction: 1940 capacity: 620 current state: abandoned

06 Tskaltubo Branch of Kurortological Institute Named After Koniashvili

address: Chavchavadze Street 1 architect: I. Kolchin construction: 1939 capacity: 75 current state: abandoned

07 Bathhouse no. 5

address: Central Park architect: Nikolai Severeov project and construction: 1939 current state: ruined

08 Tskaltubo Sanatorium - KGB department (Stalin's Cottage)

address: Samakashvili Street architect: Nikolai Severov project: 1940 construction: 1940 reconstruction: 1970 capacity: 112 current state: ruined

09 Savane Sanatorium

address: Rustaveli Street 19 architects: Aleksandre Intskirveli, Toma Potskhishvili project: 1947 construction: 1947 reconstruction: 1974 capacity: 150 current state: since 1992-1993 living site for IDP - currently abandoned

10 Tskaltubo Sanatorium - Army department (Tskaltubo Spa Resort)

address: Rustaveli Street 23 architects: Aleksandre Intskirveli, Valida Chantladze, Co-author Vladimer Nasaridze, cooperation: M.V. Buzoghli (old.) art cooperation: T. Sikharulidze project: 1947 construction: 1947-1957 capacity: 500 current state: in original use

11 Tbilisi Sanatorium

address: Baratashvili Street, 2 architects: V.K. Oltarzhevcki, B.A. Sobolevski project: 1950 construction: 1951 reconstruction: 1981-1983 capacity: 303 current state: since 1992 -1993 living site for IDP, currently abandoned

12 Bathhouse no. 6

address: Central Park architects: M.V.Tarasov, G.M.Khimshiashvili project: 1950 construction: 1951 current state: in original use

13 Rkinigzeli Sanatorium

address: Rustaveli Street 51 / Tskaltubo - Khoni road 1 architects: Valeria Vekilova, N. Pocheptsova project: 1948 construction: 1954 capacity: 350 current state: since 1992 - 1993 living site for IDP

14 Metalurg Sanatorium

address: Baratashvili Street, 7 architects: Valerian Kedia, Natalia Soloviova, with participation of Rusudan Toroshelidze project: since 1949 construction: 1957 reconstruction: 1990 (started) capacity: 276 current state: since 1992-1993 living site for IDP

15 Meshakhte Sanatorium

address: Rustaveli Street 13 architects: G.M. Khimshiashvili, G.M. Melegi project: 1952 construction: 1952 reconstruction: 1987-1989 capacity: 350 current state: abandoned

16 Imereti Sanatorium

address: Sulkhan-Saba Street architects: Vladimer (Lado) Alexi-Meskhishvili, Levan Janelidze, with participation of Tinatin Paniashvili project: 1950 construction: 1961 capacity: 450 current state: abandoned

17 Iveria Sanatorium

address: 26th of May Street architect: M.M. Buzoghli project: 1952 construction: 1962 current state: abandoned

18 Gelati Sanatorium

address: Baratashvili Street, 8 architects: N.S. Poliudov, A.P. Abramov project: 1953 construction: 1964 capacity: 239 current state: since 1992-1993 living site for IDP

19 Medea Sanatorium

address: Gurieli Street 1 architects: Aleksandre Intskirveli, Toma Potskhishvili project: 1954 construction: 1962 capacity: 326 current state: since 1992-1993 living site for Internally Displaced Persons, currently abandoned

20 Railway station

address: Rustaveli Street architect: N.Pocheptsova construction: 1955 current state: restored 2016

21 Delicatessen - Shopping arcade

address: Rustaveli Street 4 architect: unknown construction: 1956 current state: privatized, known as “Violino center”

22 Domestic service

address: Tsereteli Street (at present Lortkipanidze Street) architect: unknown construction: 1959 current state: the building houses various commercial institutions

23 Bathhouse no. 4

address: Central Park architect: Ioseb Zaalishvili project: 1958 construction: 1959 current state: abandoned

24 Bathhouse no. 8

address: Central Park architect: Ioseb Zaalishvili, constructors: Davit Kajaia, N. Meskhi project: 1958 construction: 1959 current state: abandoned

25 General regulation plan

architects: Ioseb Zaalishvili, Valerian Kedia project: 1953

26 Bathhouse no. 9

address: Central Park architects: Ioseb Zaalishvili, Valerian Kedia, Rusudan Toroshelidze project: 1957 construction: 1965 current state: not existing / demolished

27 Sinatle Sanatorium

address: Sulkhan-Saba Street architect: Valerian Kedia project: approximately 1960 construction: 1963-1971 capacity: 80 current state: since 1992-1993 living site for IDP

28 Geolog Sanatorium

address: Baratashvili Street, 4 architects: Ludmila Stepanova, Parnaoz Quparashvili, Valerian Kedia,Giorgi Avsajanishvili project: 1966 construction: 1977 reconstruction: 1988-1991 capacity: 355 current state: abandoned

29 Tskaltubo Sanatorium - 4th department

address: Tskaltubo - Khoni road architect:Vladimer Giorgadze project: 1967 construction: 1967-1971 capacity: 225 current state: since 1992 - 1993 living site for Internally Displaced Persons

30 Former museum and the central library of the health resort (Till 1988 used by District Committee of Tskaltubo of the Communist Party of Georgia)

address: Rustaveli Street 31 architects: Givi Eristavi, Givi Todaze construction: 1969 current state: in use as District Court

31 Intourist Hotel

address: Tamar Mepe Street architect: R. Lortkipanidze project: 1968 construction: 1976 Current state: since 1992 - 1993 living site for Internally Displaced Persons, currently abandoned

32 Sakartvelo Sanatorium

address: Samakashvili Street 3 architects: Merab Chkhenkeli, Revaz Janashia project: approximately 1973 construction: 1983 capacity: 500 current state: since 1992 - 1993 living site for Internally Displaced Persons, currently abandoned

33 Tskaltubo Local History Museum named after Giorgi Akhvlediani

address: Tskaltubo - Khoni road 1 architect: Giorgi Eristavi construction: 1972 current state: in original use

34 Aia Sanatorium

address: Guramishvili Street 2 architects: Parnaoz Quparashvili, co-authors: R. Kakhashvili, M. Chutkerashvili, Ts. Quparashvili project: 1970 construction: 1985 capacity: 250 current state: since 1992 - 1993 living site for Internally Displaced Persons

35 Collective Farmers' Market - Bazaar

address: Imereti Square, 9 Avaliani Street. architect: unknown construction: 1973 current state: in original use

36 Komsomolets Cinema, after reconstruction in 1987 Museum of Fine Arts

address: Tsereteli Street 11. architect: Givi Todadze project: unknown construction: 1958 renovation and enlargement: 1982-1987 current state: at present the building houses the Art School, a warehouse/construction materials shop and various

37 Telecommunications building and post office

address: Rustaveli Street 7 architects-constructors: Iakobashvili, Kilasonia, Kechkhuashvili, Jaoshvili construction: 1981 current state: abandoned

38 Samgurali Sanatorium

address: Deda Ena Street architect: Merab Liparteliani project: 1977 construction: 1987 capacity: 306 current state: since 1992 - 1993 living site for Internally Displaced Persons

39 Concert Hall "Iveria" for 1000 seats

address: 1 Paliashvili Street architect: Nodar Pitiurishvili, co-author: Temur Gobeishvili, sculptor: Zurab Kajaia construction: 1982-1987 renovation 2016 current state: in original use

40 Mercantile Center “Mertskhali”

address: Tsereteli Street 4 architect: unknown construction: 1983-1988 current state: partially abandoned and used by various private organizations

41 Former Winter Theatre - Tskaltubo Sports Palace

address: Rustaveli Street architects: original building Buzoghli M. (son), reconstruction authors: Nodar Vadachkoria, Bondo Kharabadze construction: 1948 renovation: 1983 transformation: 2010 current state: The building was constructed in 1948 as a Winter Theater with 500 seats. In 1983, the old building was reconstructed into a 640-seat Cultural Centre. In 2010 transformed into Sports Palace

42 Univermag Sataplia

address: Avaliani Street 1 architect: unknown construction: 1985 current state: abandoned

43 name: Music school

address: Rustaveli Street 35 architect: Zurab Vashakidze construction: 1986 - 1989 current state: reconstructed in 2020 as Civil Service Hall

44 The building of the Tskaltubo City Committee of the Communist Party of Georgia, after the Sakrebulo (Board) of Tskaltubo Municipality

address: 2 Shanidze Street architect: David Natsvlishvili construction: 1988 current state: currently empty and undergoing privatization

45 South gate to the park

architect: Temur Gobejishvili construction: 1987

46 Northern gate to the park

architect: Temur Gobejishvili construction: 1987