The mental image of the Northern Avenue in the context of the full image of Yerevan

The aim of this work is to present a project included in the General Plan of Yerevan as far back as in 1924 – Northern avenue, its ideological and practical birth. This theme is actual as Northern avenue was built and is being built nowadays in the center of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. The purpose of the research is to study the mental image of Northern avenue in the context of complete image of the city of Yerevan, its significance in the life of the population and their conception of Yerevan, and what social consequences it has had.


Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, with its historical and cultural values and unique architectural solutions has its special places among other world’s capitals. Its image is a complete system with its harmony of elements; in the process of development of this system changes and innovations are becoming unavoidable. These innovations are made by means of conceptual architectural solutions as a result of implementation of which the whole image of the city changes and the perception of image changes as well. One of the most important problems while making these changes is to preserve the love of townspeople for their city, so that the city could gradually become the one they dream of. The role and significance of people’s love for their city can’t be overestimated, it is the basis for patriotism, national identity, everyday good mood not only for individuals but for the whole population of the city which in its turn creates positive energetic atmosphere which strengthen the responsibility for the city in communities and in general. Urban culture feeds, brings up and dignify people. As a result the love for the city promotes changing of the citizens’ conscience which is expressed in their caring attitude to everything that takes place in the city (keeping the city clean, landscaping, fight against negative phenomena, law-abidingness and so on). The citizens’ welfare largely depends on the influence of the urban environment. In this regard  we attach importance to the following issue: what essential /conceptual/ changes were made in Yerevan in the post-Soviet period and how these changes were perceived by the population of the city.

Within the last decade such an innovation was a whole avenue, Northern avenue which was built in the heart of the capital. Being initially designed by A. Tamanyan Northern avenue got other architectural and building solutions.
The carried out sociological research which is based on the methodological principles of the eminent representatives of the sociology of the city K.Linch and I. Grevs, made it possible to find out the real and ideal images of Northern avenue among the residents of Yerevan, the special features of the images as well as the peculiarities of the mutual influence of the mental image of Northern avenue.

The history of creation and the real image of Northern avenue

On April 3, 1924 the People’s Council of Armenia confirmed the General Plan of Yerevan suggested by architect Al. Tamanyan. According to that plan the city was to be divided into some zones-administrative, cultural establishments, higher educational, museum, industrial, living and recreation zones. The zones were connected with one another and the shortest way connected them with the administrative center which occupied the central area of the city. The General Plan of Yerevan provided the center organization by the system of three squares (presently, Azatutyan (Freedom), Republic and Shahumyan squares). The main role in that system of squares played Lenin square (now Republic square) which was located at the junction of the main directions of the plan. It was connected to the square after S. Shahumyan by the park and two streets. And the Theater (Azatutyan) square was connected with Lenin square by Northern avenue and was the most important circle between the city center and its northern segments.

In 1929 Tamanyan worked out the plan of Yerevan based on the displacement and topographic data, and in 1932 he presented the improved version of the plan. In 1934 the eminent architect started working out the project “Big Yerevan” but he could create only the draft. It’s outstanding that in all the versions of the draft there is a link connecting the administrative and cultural centers to one another-Northern avenue, however the draft hadn’t been  put into life for more than 80 years. The reason of it was not only enormous financial investment but also the presence of the House of Culture (the History Museum of Armenia and the National Gallery). The matter is that Tamanyan provided not to destroy the  House of Culture which was an obstacle on the road connecting the avenue with the House of Government, but to replace it a little to the north and it was not a less difficult task.
In 2000 the necessity of building Northern avenue and the ray appeared again. On March 26, 2002 a new version of Northern avenue was suggested by Narek Sargsyan. According to this draft Northern avenue consisted of commercial objects, business centers, blocks of flats, hotel complexes of three, four and five stars. Totally, Northern avenue covers the area of 320 thousand sq m, the length of the avenue is 450 m, the width is 27 m; it has four squares, the number of the buildings is 11, the average number of storeys  is 9. Basalt, granite, travertine, several sorts of tufa were used in the exterior of the buildings. The analysis of the documentation showed that with its present parameters Northern avenue significantly differs from the avenue provided by Tamanyan in his plan of Yerevan: the number of storeys, colour harmony, its width, volumes of green areas and so on.

The mental image of Northern avenue

The analysis of the carried out research (the surveys were carried out among various age groups) make it possible to conclude that the real image of Northern avenue was built not as  logical development of Tamanyan’s Yerevan but by means of new solutions which are neither modern nor national, and the mental image formed on the basis of that image is characterized by the townspeople as “a dead city”, “a model of a small city”, “an ice shard”, “a rural environment”, “a precious item of no use”. From the visual point of view, according to the townspeople’s characterization, the avenue has its positive features such as its beauty, novelty, cleanness. Negative features are considered to be the height of the buildings, their structure, absence of green areas as well as the circumstance that the Opera House is left in the shadow and sees oppressed.
The mental image of the city has not only visional but also emotional, sound, colour perception. In Northern avenue, besides feelings of oppression, loneliness, fear, aloofness, inaccessibility people have positive feelings as well-aesthetic satisfaction, sense of innovation.
As regards innovations the results of the research make it possible to state that the townspeople, irrespectively of their age and sex mainly consider the changes carried out in the city as positive. However, the attitute to Northern avenue is somewhat different as:
•    It is located in the “heart” of Yerevan
•    It is more than one or some buildings
•    The old and the new were mixed
•    Several functions have been combined /housing, walking, recreation/.
The new architectural solutions don’t correspond with the architecture of Yerevan. As an innovation Northern avenue is perceived differently by different age groups: the younger they are (up to 35) the more acceptable it is; in the perception of the representatives of older group (36 and more) there is a conflict between old and new. It seems as if the young people identify themselves with Northern avenue. They don’t have the problem of identifying with the old city as it do the representatives of older generation.
The audio image is identified with noise caused by people’s talks, building activities, music coming from the cafes and musical instruments played here and there. The noise isn’t caused by cars but just stayed «locked» inside «the hive of Northern avenue» and the height of the buildings doesn’t allow it to go out. The palette of Northern avenue is perceived differently by different age groups. Teenagers perceive the avenue as the harmony of yellow, brown and orange, young people find the colours of the avenue negative, representatives of middle age find disharmony in different parts of the avenue. However, the common opinion is that the colour image of Northern avenue is in harmony with the colours of Yerevan. But the same point of view can’t be observed concerning other elements of the mental image of the city.
The results of the research showed that the prevalence of the negative attitude over positive one is explained with the consequence of the avenue being not inhabited and the unavailability of the services offered there which caused such social phenomena as alienation towards the area in general as the quarter of the wealthy, hidden oppression of the residents of the area towards the authorities. The latter express their attitude with dislike and sceptisism.
Northern avenue is perceived by townspeople as a model of a small town where living buildings, shops, hotels and entertainment places are mixed creating «a chaos environment». Nevertheless, being so called «separate unit» it is considered to meet the function of the shortest way to connect two junctions in the city of Yerevan. It means that the effectiveness of the real image of the avenue is expressed in its mental image.

Ideal image

As a result of the research it has become clear that the negative attitude of the townspeople to the avenue is mainly based on the failure of preserving the peculiarities of the old city and the absence of green areas. In accordance with the opinions of the townspeople, the ideal image of the avenue doesn’t have the mentioned disadvantages. It has low buildings, green areas, museum complexes or business centers, but it is not a living area: «There is no need to build a city within a city» (an opinion sounded  during the observations of the focus-groups).


Thus, we can state that the mental image of Northern avenue emerged from the conflict the real and ideal images. It has both positive and negative peculiarities. Various age groups express different attitudes: the younger they are the more positive features they find though the opinions are not equally definite concerning thevisual, audio and sensitive images. Only the colour image is in harmony with the common look of the city, but in other aspects the avenue still has a problem of integration in the whole image of Yerevan.

The list of used literature

1. A set of materials and documents «On the event of the 120th anniversary of Alexander Tamanyan», Yerevan,2000.
2.V. Vagin. Sociology of a city, M.2000.
3.I. M. Grevs. «Monumental city and historical excursions». Excursion affair. Under the edition of Professor I.I.Polyanski and Academician Shimkevich. Petrograd.
4. K. Linch The image of the city, M.1982.

M. Simonyan, A. Babaryan, H. Dayan, N. Avetikyan
Scientific leader- Candidate of Sociology, docent Z. Tolmajyan

Read the archive version