Where past meets modernity: Historic amphitheater of The Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi
22 May, 2017
“Great buildings that move the spirit have always been rare. In every case they are unique, poetic, products of the heart,” prominent Canadian architect Arthur Erickson once said.

The luxurious Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi that was inaugurated in Georgian capital last year, is indeed one of those buildings. Style, glamour and hospitality meet when it comes to talking about The Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi. As it was assessed after the Grand Opening, this hotel was an iconic addition to the skyline, which
marked the debut of global hotel group Millennium & Copthorne in Georgia.

With an unrivalled location on the capital’s famous Rustaveli Avenue, beloved place for Georgia’s visitors and significant place from the historic point of view, The Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi is situated in the very heart of the capital city. It is obvious to everyone that surrounded by chic designer boutiques, art galleries and a wealth of historical and cultural attractions as well as commercial and governmental buildings, the hotel is perfectly positioned for discerning travelers.

However, more than its current face, it is the history beyond the building that makes it particularly interesting and invaluably important.

Occupying a landmark historic building known as the former Institute of Marxism and Leninism (IMEL), with the addition of a striking glass skyscraper, the hotel’s distinctive design cleverly marries Georgian history and modernism.

It may be quite unexpected for many that one of the most impressive halls of the hotel, the main amphitheater, the Guild, as it is called today, is the exact place where Georgian Parliament sessions were held in the beginning of the 1990s and where one of the most important documents of our country, the first constitution of Georgia was adopted in 1995.

But everything began much earlier:

In 1933, the closed competition was announced for the construction of Stalin Institute in Tbilisi. Some of the best architects from Tbilisi and Moscow participated in it and the jury eventually chose an acclaimed Russian architect Alexey Shchusev. The construction of the building began on Rustaveli Avenue in 1934.

During the course of the construction works, the name of the eventual institute was changed from Stalin Institute to The Institute of Marx, Engels and Lenin. That was the time when the Russian abbreviation ИМЭЛ (IMEL – Institut Marksa, Engelsa i Lenina) was established. It should also be mentioned that several construction novelties were used at the time. One of them was that it was the first public building in the South Caucasus built with a new construction material – pumice concrete. That was done because it was a lot cheaper than using bricks and cement.

The construction works lasted 4 years and IMEL was inaugurated in 1938.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1991, the name of the building was changed to The Independent Institute of National Problems and in 1992-95 the Parliament of Georgia held sessions in its main amphitheater. On August 25, 1995, the Parliament adopted one of the most important documents in the history of the country – the first constitution of Independent Georgia.

This historic hall, the Guild, is completely restored today and very characteristic ceiling and floor are preserved. The interior is really very impressive and upon entering the building you will have a feeling of stepping into the history. This is one of those cases when modern style and historical architecture are mixed together, when the past is respected and merged with the modernity.

Consequently, this place never loses its significance. After decades this pompous hall remains the place where important meetings, lectures, classical music concerts and various other events are still held. This mix is indeed a kind of art. And as Arthur Erickson said, “Whenever we witness art in a building, we are aware of an energy contained by it.”
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