The Cascade Complex
The building that now houses the Cafesjian Center for the Arts is well known to the Armenian people, especially those living in its capital city of Yerevan. Known as “The Cascade,” the complex was originally conceived by the architect Alexander Tamanyan (1878–1936). Tamanyan desired to connect the northern and central parts of the city—the historic residential and cultural centers of the city—with a vast green area of waterfalls and gardens, cascading down one of the city’s highest promontories. Unfortunately, the plan remained largely forgotten until the late 1970s, when it was revived by Yerevan’s Chief Architect, Jim Torosyan. Torosyan’s conception of the Cascade included Tamanyan’s original plan but incorporated new ideas that included a monumental exterior stairway, a long indoor shaft containing a series of escalators, and an intricate network of halls, courtyards, and outdoor gardens embellished with numerous works of sculpture bearing references to Armenia’s rich history and cultural heritage.
Construction of Torosyan’s design of the Cascade was launched by the Soviets in the 1980s but abandoned after the Armenian earthquake of 1988 and the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. With independent rule and the transition to democracy, Armenia entered a period of severe economic hardship, and the Cascade remained a neglected relic of the Soviet era for more than a decade. Mr. Cafesjian, working with the City of Yerevan and the government of the Republic of Armenia, initiated its recent revitalization in 2002. Over the next seven years, virtually every aspect of the monument was renovated, and much of it completely reconstituted into a Center for the Arts bearing the name of its principal benefactor.
ENCOUNTERS WITH ART: Robert Elibekian