The main owner of a building in central Yerevan who received a permit to construct a hotel in its place says its recent controversial demolition by way of a controlled implosion was carried out by a licensed organization hired by the construction company, implying that he bore no responsibility for its consequences.
The apocalyptic scene of a building collapsing amid a cloud of dust and smoke shocked many residents of nearby houses and passers-by last Thursday as the company was accused of not properly notifying citizens about the planned activity.
The video of the demolition went viral on the internet causing angry reactions from many who watched it.
Prime Minister Karen Karapetian addressed the issue as he hosted working consultations with government officials, including Minister of Emergency Situations Armen Yeritsian, on Monday.
“It’s not a testing area, is it? Nor is it a military ordnance yard. The impression is that anyone can do whatever they want in this city,” Karapetian reproached the minister and other officials, ordering that the individuals and entities found responsible for the failure to notify citizens and corresponding authorities about the planned building implosion should be held accountable for that.
Genik Karapetian (no relation to the prime minister), who is a majority stakeholder at Astoria Invest CJSC, the company that owns the building, acknowledged no responsibility for the matter, saying that his company that got a permit for the work back in July hired a demolition squad for the purpose. According to him, seeing risks of a collapse after a six-week effort the demolishers in their turn hired a licensed organization for the controlled implosion.
The demolished building historically housed the first printing house in Yerevan, which also angered many architects and architectural conservationists in Armenia concerned about the historical and cultural heritage of the city.
Some of them assumed that no proper notification of residents was provided before the demolition because the owner feared protests from activists that would complicate his work.
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am), Karapetian dismissed the criticism, saying that he had checked with the Ministry of Culture in advance that the building was not listed as a historical-cultural monument.
Karapetian further argued that under his design the two wings of the former printing house that are of some architectural value will be preserved, while a nine-storey building will appear on the site of the demolished part of the building. He stressed that as an owner of the site he realizes his responsibility.
“The owner has no right to do whatever he wants, because what he owns belongs to the whole city, especially if the matter concerns the city center. The owner must do what is in line with the surroundings and does not interfere with the overall original design of the city,” Karapetian said.
“Memory is people’s greatest wealth, and I put it above all,” he added.
Astoria Invest’s construction design for the site is expected to be discussed and approved by the Union of Architects of Armenia before it can finally get off the drawing board.