Plastic Surgery for the Old Lady
I love Baku. I like the dress uniform of the oil city - skyscrapers that spring up in various parts of the city, the Heydar Aliyev Centre designed by the outstanding architect Zaha Hadid, the vast boulevards, parks, the old part of the city called inner city Icheri Sheher, and the modern good looking residential buildings, which do not resemble each other like clones. But this is not what the story is about.
If a city could be compared to a lady, then this lady would be quite an elderly one (the year of foundation of Baku is unclear; some guess that it may have happened some time between the first and fourth century AD), and its face is not exactly as smooth as silk. However, it is a face that is distinguishable with all of its centuries old wrinkles - the old, low-risers and deep courtyards, with shade-giving trees, where neighbours can feel like a part of one big family, where in almost artistic flurry of colours washing is drying on lines, and, as you pass by, you really want to take a peek at their lives.
Boys playing ball games right on the street, elderly men play the game of nardi while sipping tea, cars move along very slowly, and everyone knows everyone. If someone's time has come to leave this world, then a big white tent is set up and the road is closed to traffic. It is an interesting area to go on a walk, you can always spot something to marvel at. There's no room for boredom.
Not all structures are architectural monuments, but just simple houses with style and even adornments. Among them, there are also true architectural wonders, which still stand upright against all odds, however the whole neighbourhood has certain charm and something altogether unique.
And now all that will be levelled to the ground. Apparently, new multi-apartment buildings will be constructed instead. The residents tell that two years later they will have a new apartment here. Some of them are happy of this prospect, while others, especially the elderly ones, are sad.
This surgery will, of course, remove the wrinkles in the face of the old city. It will also change it beyond recognition. It will be a different face. It is not particularly rational, of course, to leave those houses. But instead of simply dismantling them and sweeping a whole cultural layer into the dump, perhaps some improvements or restorations could be considered instead?
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