2009 - 2017

the Sky
has vanished
the City

Urban Collapse

During the last 5 years on 26 million square meter land new buildings have been built in Tbilisi. Most of the buildings appeared in the central parts of the city, where population density was already very high. Chaotic urban expansion destroyed Tbilisi’s parks and recreation areas.

One of the first targets of the aggressive urbanization was Dighomi Park, 72% of the land is now a new district and a highway. Land plots in Vake Park, Turtle Lake, Botanic Garden and other parks are slowly being filled with buildings – these are the territories where construction was forbidden. In total, more than 10 million 200 thousand square meter public space vanished in the city over the course of 9 years – public spaces as well as courtyards for children have been lost, sidewalks turned into narrow pathways.

While in other countries gardens are being built on top of skyscrapers, our city looks like a landfill for the space junk – a real scene from a sci-fi movie. After the collapse of the Soviet Union Tbilisi is growing metastatically.

Most of the buildings appeared in the central parts of the city.

More than 10 million 200 thousand square meter public space vanished in the city.

Money and greed rules the city.

Exceptions for Developers

Permits for constructing high-rise residential buildings have been issued

Tbilisi city Hall didn’t have any strategic vision during the construction boom. Only a handful of new laws and normative acts served as the city development strategy. The document that regulated urban process in Tbilisi was a Soviet-era City Land Use General Plan, updated back in 1972. New General Plan was formally adopted in 2009, just because the Soviet one had long ago lost its legitimacy.

A new bureaucratic structure called Zoning Council was formed in Tbilisi City Hall in 2009. The Council had reviewed more than 25 thousand applications in 9 years. Applicants had three kinds of requests: Permission to build a higher and/or wider buildings than allowed. And they asked to change the status of the land where construction was forbidden.

Council’s decisions were optional for the City Hall. However, our study revealed that the City Hall didn’t suspend any of the decisions made by the Council. Council would issue permits as one-time exceptions. These permits were not free and in total, more than 50 million GEL was paid by (mainly) investors to the city government for those exclusive permissions.

The Zoning Council existed for 9 years. The council’s experience illustrated that city has been transformed by developers. They were the ones, who dictated Tbilisi on what to build and where and how to construct. “When I was the Chairperson we had an economic crisis, developers went bankrupt,” – former member of the Zoning Council Mikheil Avaliani says, “That is why, we had to take firstly their interests into consideration.”

City’s Metastasis


Trees in the city

Surprisingly, Georgia is No. 1 among the countries that have the deadliest air pollution

- says the report by International Energy Agency.
IEA, World Energy Outlook 2016

Anonymous Officials

Arisi Bochoidze
Bidzina გიორგობიანი
David Makharoblishvili
David Narmania
David Ninidze
Dimitri Kumsishvili
Dimitri Mosulishvili
Giorgi Gogolashvili
Giorgi Tkemaladze
Gocha Babunashvili
Guranda Romanadze
Ioseb Kartsivadze
Irakli Abesadze
Kakhaber Niauri
Lasha Abashidze
Levan Dzagnidze
Maia Shavishvili
Malkhaz Champuridze
Mamuka Akhvlediani
Mikheil Avaliani
Nestan Advadze
Nino Gventsadze
Nino Khatiskatsi
Otar Nemsadze
Temur Zedelashvili
Zakaria Kurdiani
Zurab Tsiklauri
ნატო Kitiashvili
Aleksandre Jobava
David Abuladze
David Gogichaishvili
Giorgi Abuladze
Giorgi Chachanidze
Giorgi Makharashvili
Giorgi Sulaberidze
Giuli Gegelia
Irakli Chiradze
Irakli Murghulia
Malkhaz Mchedlishvili
Manuchar Makhatadze
Merab Gagnidze
Merab Gujejiani
Nikoloz Chkhaidze
Nikoloz Sebiskveradze
Nino Partskhaladze
Nugzar Khvedeliani
Vaja Orbeladze

City Hall

As a member of the Council was at the same time an employee, or a founder of an architectural company, which demanded to increase the coefficients of the buildings and exclusive zone changes.


Council Regulations obligated its members to justify any of their decisions. Public Defender demanded from the City Hall to annul all the decisions which lacked argumentation. Initiative for Public Space appealed against unjustified permits in court 5 times. The organization lost 3 cases, 2 are still going on.

“Council’s main disadvantage was that its members didn’t get salaries” – former Chairperson of Zoning Council Mikheil Avaliani says, - “Of course you get suspicious, there is the risk of conflict of interest and corruption, because people come, work for the whole day, but nobody pays them anything for their work.”

Transparency International Georgia’s research explored conflict of interest in Zoning Council. The researchers found that some high-ranking officials of Tbilisi City Hall were members of the Council and at the same time owned shares in construction companies.

Council members often reviewed their business partners’ applications and issued recommendations to increase the buildings’ sizes or allow construction where it had been previously forbidden.

In total the Council has issued 70 permits for the projects implemented by its members or their business partners.

“Architecture Service always made compromises and it will have to continue doing so in future as well”, - Mikheil Avaliani says, - “Of course one mustn’t commit a crime and modify the statuses of historic landscapes/spaces. However, the Council did make such mistakes too.” These mistakes will leave their trace in the city for decades to come. The hardest thing right now is to find people responsible for them, because the traces have been erased – all decisions made after 2010 are anonymous, names of the Council members are not shown in any of the reports since that year.

Zoning Council served as a sort of mask for Tbilisi City Hall and it justified Architecture Service’s unreasonable desicions. Council members could easily ignore their responsibilities, while knowing that they would never be identified. That’s how the Council turned into a union of nameless bureaucrats. Nobody knows now who issued recommendations when particular decisions were being made.

“Zoning Council had no priorities” – Lado Vardosanidze says, - “Only fiscal and private interests were important for them. Just ask Council member architects whether they like what’s happening in Saburtalo, Khiliani, Vera, Irakli Abashidze Street? Let them answer either yes, or no and you’ll see – nobody likes what has happened to the city.”


2000' years

60% of the area is concrete blocks

As of 2016 more than 12 thousand people live in that area. 48% of those residents own vehicles. Streets are always jammed. Sidewalks are either too narrow or they don’t exist at all. If a fire breaks out fire trucks wouldn’t even be able to get near some buildings.

Starting from 2009 Zoning Council further increased city-building parameters for 34 out of 46 residential houses, as a result, the buildings increased in size and height.

All distance and ventilation standards are broken, WHO principles are ignored there, too (15 minutes to green area and 9 square meter green area per person). There are only two courtyards in the 50 hectare area, while there are 46 buildings and up to 10 thousand cars move there every day; according to research, 77% of local residents have parking problems.

Academcity has become an example of urban collapse of the city. Despite this fact, the constructions are still ongoing, moreover, people are still buying apartments in the area, where living for the local residents already seems to be impossible.

“We’re living in a consumerism era, where everybody has a consumerist attitude toward the city” – Architect and urban specialist Lado Vardosanidze says, - “For public the city is just an area to pursue their fiscal, personal or group interests. The last 10 years of this city’s history reveals our inability and consumerism. Let’s take for example Biltmore hotel; how dared they building it? It’s a cultural heritage area. Who issued a permit? Who sold this area?

Who removed the status from the Imeli building? Or let’s look at Academcity, Zemo Vera and Khiliani (Chikovani) Street. That’s because government tries to please the business. Smart urban management is to balance the interests of the citizens and business people, it’s the balance where nobody can be harmed or abused.”

60% of the area scientific institutions

1970' years

Panorama Tbilisi

Gigantic glass structure of Panorama Tbilisi will be built right in the cultural center of Tbilisi. This is a historic area that has a special protected zone; though, investors were not discouraged by this fact. The landscape around the historic square will soon be completely distorted.

The idea of the project Panorama Tbilisi belongs to Georgian Co-Investment Fund, founded by Bidzina Ivanishvili. The Fund presented the project to Zoning Council back when Gigi Ugulava was still a Mayor of Tbilisi several times; however, the request of the project authors was rejected.

At the end of 2014 Tbilisi residents elected a new Mayor David Narmania and the Zoning Council’s members were also replaced. In a few months, the Council radically changed the decision and issued all the permits to the Panorama project: changed the status of the area, which allowed the construction works on the land plots of about 440 thousand square meters. Besides, the Council allowed increasing the size of projected hotel on Freedom Square and raised coefficient from 4.6 to 7.8.

On October 10, 2017 Tbilisi Sakrebulo, despite the resistance from activists and politicians, handed over a 1,900-square meter land plot at the center of Tbilisi to Bidzina Ivanishvili’s company for 1 GEL. Average market price of 1 square meter for real estate in the area is 2,100 GEL. The plot will be used as a parking area under the Panorama Tbilisi project.

“Dramatic results of increasing coefficients is most visible in Tbilisi’s historic district” – Architect-restorer Nato Tsintsabadze says, - “That district is a cultural heritage zone, where conservation means preserving the authentic street network. Expanding the buildings in the historic districts is a deliberate violation of cultural heritage protection principles. This behavior also disrupts the city’s social infrastructure, because expansion is happening only at the expense of historic monuments and public spaces.”

Based on the Zoning Council’s recommendation the zone status of a part of Mirza Shaf Street was modified and the cliff was shaved off. That decision made by Tbilisi City Hall changed the ecosystem of the whole district. Landscape-recreational status in 10 Tamarashvili Street was specifically modified for Millennium and Panorama Tbilisi projects, as a result, the public garden was transformed into a concrete maze.

“Tbilisi experiences dehumanization. Nowadays it’s a territory full of concrete structures, which can only bring an immediate economic profit; however, in the long run, the city experience is lost.” – says Nato Tsintsabadze, architect and restorer.

About Us


  • Nino Lomadze

  • Nino Bakradze

  • Nino Japiashvili

Project Director:

  • Nino Bakradze

Researcher Journalists:

  • Nino Bakradze

  • Nino Abdaladze

  • Mariam Ugrekhelidze

  • Nanuka Bregadze


  • Nino Japiashvili

  • Nino Lomadze

Art Director:

  • Ani Asatiani


  • David Makaridze


  • Tamar Mshvenieradze

  • Mariam Jachvadze


  • Vano Andiashvili

Video Editor:

  • Giorgi Dekanoidze


  • Levan Maisuradze

Sound Design:

  • Mariam Abesadze

Special thanks to:

  • Nato Tsintsabadze

  • Lado Vardosanidze

  • Anano Tsintsabadze

  • Nano Zazanashvili

  • Zurab Bakradze

The project was implemented with the support of the
Open Society Foundation.

The point of view of the author / author's
may not express the position of the foundation.
Therefore, the foundation is not responsible for the content.

The End

ქართული | English