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Accepted Paper:

By Air, Land, and Sea: The Concerning Growth of Parallel Infrastructures and Bypass Urbanism in Georgia  
David Gogishvili (University of Lausanne)


Infrastructure projects in the global neoliberal order often fracture cities instead of providing residents equitable access. Marvin and Graham describe this process as “splintering urbanism”, where privileged individuals enjoy enhanced mobility while those with fewer resources are bypassed. This is achieved through the creation of parallel infrastructures, including raised walkways, tunnels, or cable cars to selectively connect. Using the splintering urbanism paradigm as a point of departure, our work discusses large-scale projects initiated in the Republic of Georgia since the 2000s relying on parallel infrastructure to be realised. The first is the multi-site real-estate development, initiated in 2014, Panorama Tbilisi interconnected with ropeways. The second is an iconic business centre, that started in the early 2000s, overlooking Tbilisi that required the construction of a bypass-tunnel over the city’s public road network. And, the third is the Dendrological Park located on the shores of Black Sea and opened in 2020, the creation of which relied on extensive augmentations to road, rail, and electrical infrastructures to relocate its collection of old-growth trees.

These projects are all the initiative of Cartu Group, one of Georgia’s largest holding companies, owned by ex-prime minister and ruling party leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili. Cartu Group is a proxy for Ivanishvili’s development interests in the country and the group has now created sizable networks of premium real estate through the mass transformation of the existing landscape, realized through restricted access to public infrastructure for the many to increase comfort for the few. These projects have disrupted daily routines and deteriorated living environments while relying on parallel infrastructures in its realisation. We argue that such practices of splintering urbanism exist not only in these projects’ built forms but also in their planning and construction. In Georgia, parallel infrastructures have catalysed the realization of Cartu Group’s projects while masking their bypass strategies with universal access discourse. These approaches are particularly hazardous in the context of a young democracy like Georgia, where powerful private actors have strong connections to the ruling party. Their splintering urbanism practices erode democracy and fracture the urban environment.

Panel GEO01
Changing Landscapes in Contemporary Eurasia
  Session 1 Thursday 6 June, 2024, -