Benjamin Hackenberger


The Collective Garden: Identity and Convivial Landscape Form in Georgian Microrayon Renewal 

Advised by Rosalea Monacella 

Gardens perform the cultural work of collecting and representing social relationships. They have the capacity to solidify shifting social hierarchies into moments of clarity and cultural meaning. The history of garden-making in the Republic of Georgia reflects a patchwork of imported formal approaches intended to reinforce the social hierarchy of the various political regimes that have governed the nation. Despite these impositions, Georgians have consistently appropriated urban space to practice distinct forms of gathering and social ritual. Among the housing blocks of the post-Soviet microrayon, this theme of identity creation plays out in the struggle between individual autonomy, the integrity of the public realm, and an influx of international real estate investment. As Tbilisi’s Soviet-era neighborhoods are sized up for renewal and densification, the collective values of the socialist space are at risk. 

This thesis draws on three Georgian modes of garden-gathering—the Safavid, the Supra, and the Soviet—to propose the creation of a new garden city. The state-sponsored paradise of the Safavid Garden, the fleeting social hierarchy of the Supra, and the formal codes of Soviet urbanism act as models for a new urban landscape in which vegetation and topography are manipulated into gardens for Georgian rituals of gathering. The project experiments with the revival and reconfiguration of hierarchy, formal relationships, and symbolism drawn from the historical gardens of Tbilisi to imagine contemporary gardens of harvest, friendship, family, and community. Gardens of ritual toasting and dining reclaim the microrayon as a site for the production of collective values.

Benjamin Hackenberger, MLA I. Gray bird's eye view plan with black line diagram juxtaposed on top.