MULTIDISCIPLINARY ANALYSIS OF THE VERNACULAR SETTLEMENTS IN USHGULI (UPPER SVANETI, GEORGIA)
Keywords: Upper Svaneti, Urban Morphology, Vernacular Architecture, History, Geomorphology
Abstract. Ushguli, located in the Upper Svaneti region (Georgia), represents the highest point of human occupation before the permanent snowed highlands that separate Georgia from Russia. The local inhabitants (Svan) are described as an aggressive community with warrior habits. Their history is one of permanent conflict. Most of the major empires of the ancient world (Persia, Greece, Rome and Byzantium) disputed this territory. In the Middle Ages, when natural conditions secured their isolation, the established feudal system preserved, until recent times, the warrior culture of the Svan through a judicial system based on blood feuds. The necessity to defend their territory from invaders, as well as the violent conflicts between families, influenced their settlement morphology, as well as their vernacular architecture. Four small settlements (Chvibiani, Zhibiani, Chazhashi and Murkmeli) constitute the Ushguli province, inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 1996. This paper aims to study the Ushgulli traditional urban morphology, which does not correspond to any classical urban element. The overlapping between private and public spaces and the inexistence of a standard concept of street or square are some of their peculiar features; some of which have an important influence on the organization of vernacular buildings. These buildings do not present a dominating facade or any other type of hierarchical composition towards the exterior. Under the scope of the Project 3D Past a multidisciplinary approach (Architecture, Urban Morphology and History) is used to better understand the original features of these peculiar settlements.