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Tbilisi reinvented: planning, development and the unfinished project of democracy in Georgia

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In this paper, we highlight the changing developmental patterns and planning strategies for the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, from late communism till the present day. Drawing on extensive fieldwork, interviews, analysis of documents and plans, we reconstruct the change of course from Soviet planning to fragmentation of plans and policies. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow, Moscow actors and Moscow knowledge disappeared behind the horizon. New actors and new knowledge were introduced in the planning and design system. Most notably, architects-turned-developers introduced Western architectural forms and development practices. Foreign advisors and Western-educated Georgians gave weight to Western economic visions of transition. With the Georgian leadership, as well as with the audience at large, attitudes towards planning are very ambiguous, disputing the relevance of government intervention in spatial development, at the same time cherishing certain results of Soviet planning or planning as such. We argue that the developer-led renaissance of urban design ought to be embedded in a reinvented planning system, and that such system in turn can only function in an improved institutional frame. This should include a more clearer separation of powers and unambiguously enforced property rights. Whatever system of spatial governance the Georgian people and its government prefer in the end, choices will have to be made and the coupling of political institutions, law and planning has to be reflected upon, for developers and their creations to contribute sustainably to spatial quality and economic development.
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Keywords: Georgia; development; institutions; knowledge; planning

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Minnnesota State Universities – St Cloud State, 720 4th Avenue South, 56301-4498St Cloud,MN, USA 2: Department of Human Geography, Faculty of Social and Political Studies,Tbilisi State University, 14, Chavchavadze AvenueTbilisi,128, Georgia

Publication date: 2012-01-01

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