Boiler is positioned in the very centre of Tbilisi, just off the luxurious Rustaveli Avenue. It is the unofficial central Tbilisi headquarters of the first Tbilisi Biennale of Architecture, the core of which is located in the periphery of the city – primarily in the suburb of Gldani, as well as in the former Tbilisi Technical University, which is now inhabited by the internally displaced from the Russian-occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It is a private house, inhabited by architect David Brodsky and his sister Kura. They moved into this haphazard, half-finished pile of building materials a little over a year ago, and have been slowly, laboriously turning it into a habitable residence since then. David insulated the house with XPS and glass wool, he built a kitchen from scratch – an old Soviet kitchen, which was thrown out by the owners of one of the houses Brodsky worked on as an interior designer, his day job, and filled the house with randomly acquired furniture. The outside is an extraordinary jumble of old Tbilisi brick, dating back to the 19th century, jumbo-sized modern breezeblocks and unsightly PVC window frames, still covered in bits of plastic and stickers. The whole, both inside and outside, is stunningly chaotic, but it is strikingly non-fetishistic. There is very little here aspiring to some sort of Bohemian purity or romanticism.
Boiler is a private house, but Brodsky has proposed to build a staircase leading straight from the street to one of the windows in the main room, so that both random passersby and guests of the Tbilisi Biennale are invited to walk directly through the facade of the building into the inside. This is Brodsky’s house, but he has invented an architectural solution, which physically consolidates the gesture of self-expropriation, which he us proposing to perform, the gesture of turning a private home into a public building, a social condenser – a house of culture, workers’ club, a palace of culture. A BOILER where relations between human beings can reach a new level of heat and intensity, just as a condenser changes the intensity of the electric current. Brodsky’s intervention seems, at first, to be directly descended from the late Soviet and late Socialist tradition of apart-art and apartment salons, which existed everywhere throughout the former socialist world; and still thrives today in the bohemian milieux of Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities. But it is different, because bohemian salons are always elitist and secretive, separated from the world outside and requiring various kinds of social and cultural capital to secure participation. Brodsky’s experiment is radical and quite unsettling. It makes you worry about the safety of the homeowners and of their personal possessions – it is hard to imagine how they will negotiate the radical violation of privacy, suspending their possession of their own house will involve.
What happens to Boiler during and after the Tbilisi Biennale of Architecture will tell us a lot about the limits and possibilities of publicness and collectivity, both in architecture and inter-human relations.
Text credit: Michał Murawski