Sarah Cowles travels to the Republic of Georgia to present MLA student work

Sarah Cowles presented "Caucasus Cultural Condenser" at Europe House in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. The presentation included work produced by students in the MLA program and was broadcast on Rustavi 2 and Imedi television networks. Sarah and Bureau for Open Culture are partnering with Tbilisi-based architect Lasha Mamaladze and the Foundation for Revival and Development of Cultural Heritage of Shida Kartli to develop a concept  plan for Art Villa Garikula, an artist residency located in Akhalkalaki, 50 miles southwest of Tbilisi. The focus of the plan is both revival and innovation. This plan involves an expansion and enrichment of educational programs, arts and crafts production facilities, lodging, exhibition spaces and events at Art Villa Garikula.

Considered a center of gravity in the South Caucasus, Garikula draws together artists, designers, students and educators from around the world to build community--locally. It fosters a unique environment through being-in-common, sharing ideas, skills, living habits, chores, harvests and celebrations. It is a central place for education, culture, agro- and eco-tourism and a model for future sustainable development in the South Caucasus region. As a learning site, Garikula will host multidisciplinary studies of and engagement with the arts on a multigenerational level. It will do so in dialogue with the expansive realm of contemporary art and cultural production.

Development objectives for these goals are preservation and re-interpretation of the rural landscape and architectural character around Art Villa Garikula employing low-energy construction techniques and sustainable, cost-efficient materials. Basic operational systems of the site--water, power, food and waste management--will be integrated into one another and serve to structure and define the landscape, simultaneously providing an educational platform and ultimately a way of life at Garikula. Organically-nurtured orchards, vineyards and vegetable gardens will provide food for visitors and residents. Subtle interventions of the landscape will deploy local and recycled materials while ensuring the revival of traditional building and craft skills. The project will provide opportunities and training for regional workers, integrating traditional construction knowledge alongside modern, sustainable practices to form a collective knowledge-base of materials and building.