Located in Gyumri, Armenia’s second-largest city, lies the Tumo Center. This is an innovative digital media learning hub whose flagship location in Yerevan opened back in 2011. We had the privilege of visiting the more recently developed Gyumri branch on our travels, which is located inside the city’s historic first movie theatre. Lebanese architect Bernard Khoury is the designer behind the venue’s transformation from ancient architecture to today’s modern tech haven. Here’s a look at the innovative design and restoration work of the Tumo Center’s latest expansion.
Evolution of History to the Present Day
The building that houses the Gyumri Tumo Center holds vast cultural significance. It is the city’s first-ever movie theatre, and the original architecture dates back to the 1850s. In addition, Gyumri has faced two significant earthquakes throughout history, so any surviving structures here hold even greater historical importance.
Therefore, one of the biggest challenges for designer Bernard Khoury was to find a way to preserve history while creating a modern space. Khoury wanted to show the evolution of history to the present day and symbolize the advancements in our world. This works perfectly with what will be happening inside the center. Teens will be learning new skills and the ongoing evolution of technology to take with them into the future.
Perfectly Blended Architectural Canopy
The original building was preserved and reconstructed through several stages to showcase the juxtaposition between old and new. Khoury then added a red architectural canopy above. This vibrant color is a stark contrast from the monochromatic old building and surrounding city of Gyumri. The tall roof also extends up through the trees in the surrounding park, a genuinely eye-catching addition.
Khoury has cleverly suspended the canopy overhead on pillars. This ensures it blends perfectly with the historic theatre refreshingly and invitingly, rather than looking like a clunky modern addition.
Mirrored Underside Reflecting the Past
Khoury has intelligently chosen for the underside of the grand architectural canopy to be mirrored. This creates an extraordinarily modern and futuristic feel while being particularly aesthetically pleasing. From the ground below, you can gaze upward and see the reflection of the vibrant happenings around you. Being atop the original building, the old historic theatre is also reflected in the mirrored panels. This further pulls on the idea that history has evolved into the present day and that everything in the world as we know it has ties to the past.
Modern and Innovative Interior
The large roof under the architectural canopy serves as the connection between the eye-catching exterior and the interior. And, while the outside of the building is striking, the inside is just as impressive. Stepping inside the Tumo Center, you immediately notice that the designer has used the same bold red as the primary color throughout. This shade is together with monochromatic tones for a sleek and contemporary look.
Khoury has made every inch of space this vibrant red tone in the former opera house, including the ceiling, walls, and flooring. However, he has kept the original tiered flooring of the theatre and transformed it into a stepped collective workspace. This not only preserves some of the building’s history but also serves as a multi-functional space. The room can easily be converted back to its previous 200-seat theatre for any screenings, lectures, or performances.
Connected Design for Communal Use
The Tumo Center is an educational technology and design space open to students. It provides opportunities to talented young people in Armenia and helps them fulfill their true potential. The creative young minds bustling around inside further create a lively and vibrant atmosphere. However, the Tumo Center rooftop is also open to the public. In this way, the striking restoration work is more than a design project. It has also provided an opportunity for the public to reconnect with the building and the city’s rich history.