Arch-shaped doors: From Ancient Rome to modern-day Gyumri
Eritasard.am has focused on the arch-shaped, ornamented doors that form a part of the rich architecture of Gyumri, which is a city of arts and crafts.
According to Gayane Nazlukhanyan, who is the restorer architect and an Assistant Professor of the Faculty of Architecture at Yerevan State University of Architecture and Construction, the doors were used in the 19th century and bore the influence of Kars and other territories of Western Armenia. What are the features of the doors in Kumayri? How are the doors of the citizens of Gyumri different from others’ doors and how did the clever citizens of Gyumri find the way of preserving them? Our interlocutor Gayane Nazlukhanyan gave the answers to all these questions during our interview. Eritasard.am: Mrs. Nazlukhanyan, what is the significance of arch-shaped doors in architecture in general? Gayane Nazlukhanyan: The arch was created in Ancient Rome. If we take a look at Greek architecture, we won’t see an arch at all. Everything was built by the principle of “column-timber, column-timber”. When the Romans faced the problem with bringing water from afar, they started building arches for efficiency. For the straight path, they used two columns for one timber, but the flight was longer in the case of the arch and the columns were thicker. Some call it the “Armenian arch”, but there is no such thing. Eritasard.am: In that case, how can we call the arches used as doors, gates or windows in the architecture of Gyumri? G. N.: The interior patio was a mandatory part in the plan for residences in Gyumri. The patio was closed with wooden doors, and the wood was a very interesting type of wood. They were boards attached with horizontal hammocks so that the wood wouldn’t “escape”. The hammock was made from tight metal, which was very expensive at the time. The masters of Gyumri gave very interesting solutions. There are also slanted hammocks. The psychology of the citizens of Gyumri was such that they did everything for a reason. That’s why a typical binder could turn into a decoration, and they didn’t turn into crafts, but works of art. Eritasard.am: Is that only characteristic of the architecture in Gyumri? G. N.: Arch-shaped doors have been used in Artsakh as well. There are gammas there too, but they are very ordinary. Whereas the people in Gyumri consider the tightening metal a décor on the frontal of a building, the people in Shushi consider it a constructive solution from the inside so that it doesn’t appear from the outside. The people in Gyumri prepare a big, round and wonderful valve that functions as a hammer to knock on the door. Eritasard.am: Armenians attach great importance to the frontal of doors. G. N.: There is a stone-built construction on the top of the arch, and the stones are table-shaped so that they ensure the curve. The major item is called the stone of the valve, which provides for the arch’s firmness. If it is removed, the arch will collapse. It can keep the arch standing, even if mortar is used. Here you can see how the people of Gyumri think. They have attached special importance to the most important stone, have decorated it and have inscribed dates or their names on it. Sometimes they have even made that stone larger than the others. Eritasard.am: The patterns have been preserved on many of those doors to this day. What were the peculiarities of those doors? G. N.: The ornaments on the doors were mainly images of the fauna. They come from the images on Armenian cross-stones. There are also merely geometric images like angles in a square, or curves that can turn into a leaf. One can see a great rhythm as he repeats the element several times. Eritasard.am: It seems as though there was only one color in ancient Gyumri. What color were the doors and how were they taken care of? G. N.: First, black was the color in Gyumri because the mine for black tuff was very near the city. However, there are also buildings that have been painted. For instance, the building made with red tuff has been painted black. The doors were painted in any color. I have even seen red and green doors. Eritasard.am: What type of wood were they made from? After all, wood decays. How were the doors preserved? G. N.: The doors had two openings. The first one was large and it was for animals to enter and exit. The other was a small one for people to enter and exit. There were also main and secondary entrances. It’s obvious that the main entrances were more refined and more ornamented than the secondary doors. The wooden doors were mainly made from oak wood, which is more solid and lasts longer. However, we found a solution. Whereas now we spread varnish on the doors to protect them from cracking, back then people would use oil. For doors that hadn’t been painted, people would first give the doors a new look and then protect them from natural disasters. But that was very expensive. So, they started painting with oils, which makes the doors last longer and helps people save resources. Interview by Tsovinar Karapetyan