The architectural heritage of Uzbekistan is highly distinctive, enriched by the confluence of cultures and traditions that made up the ancient trade route of the Silk Road. In the Soviet era, a Modernist architectural language proposed a typology of forms and materials that aimed to communicate ideas of progress and renewal — seemingly applicable across geographies and cultural contexts.

Designed by architect Wael Al-Awar, “Tashkent: Appropriating Modernism” focuses on three Modernist buildings in Tashkent: The State Museum of Arts, Chaikhana [Teahouse] Samarkand, and Restaurant Zarafshan. Built between 1974 and 1976, these structures underwent extensive transformations in the following decades. What stood behind these transformations — and who implemented them? What can we see in the gap between the Soviet concept of what buildings in Tashkent should have looked like and how they have been adapted?

The interventions that have taken place over this period narrate the complex story of Modernism and architectural tradition in Uzbekistan. These three buildings illustrate the possibility of looking through modernism to find a future vernacular unique to the Uzbek context. The exhibition is a spatial, tactile experience, allowing one to sense the tension between the original construction and subsequent modifications. Visitors are invited to explore a multifaceted slice of Uzbekistan’s social, cultural, and urban history, broadening their understanding of heritage, conservation, and the lifespan of an architectural project.

The project is part of Tashkent Modernism XX/XXI, a research project initiated and commissioned by the Art and Culture Development Foundation of Uzbekistan, and coordinated by Grace, a Milan-based architecture studio founded by architect Ekaterina Golovatyuk.

Tashkent: Appropriating Modernism