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Authored articles | Maksat Alikperov Print version
Reinforced concrete classics

The building of the National Library named after Azadi (formerly after Karl Marx) can be called the second architectural masterpiece in Turkmenistan’s capital. Ernst Neizvestny also took part in this project: his bass-reliefs decorate the walls of the inner yard with the fountain and a ceiling of one of the halls.


However, the main credit in the creation of this truly unique building goes to the architects A. Akhmedov, B. Shpak and V. Alexeyev.
Cast in concrete, the library has become an invaluable model of architecture not only aesthetically but also financially. Bezmeinsky cement was the major construction material used, so the grandiose construction project was very inexpensive for the state budget.
The extreme climate of the country was carefully considered at the design stage, so the library halls keep cool even without air conditioners when it is +50C outside. Particular attention was paid to seismic resistance: a monolith concrete construction is designed to stand earthquake shocks up to a magnitude of 10.
In 1977 the project was awarded a State Prize and in 1978 at the 14th Congress of the International Architects Union in Warsaw the building of K. Marx Library in Ashgabat was included in the list of the most prominent achievements of world architecture in the 20th century.
20 years later, in 1997 Turkmenistan`s President Saparmurat Niyazov decided to demolish the masterpiece of neoclassic architecture, since it stood in the way of the building of the Arch of Neutrality and extension of the square to be used for the conduct of parades. In general, the angular stumpiness and concrete grey of the library did not match the 75 meter tall golden monument of Turkmenbashi and the snow whiteness of the president’s podium.
However, the conclusions of the experts, reported to Niyazov, were rather disappointing: it was impossible to demolish the construction, which was, in fact, a gigantic reinforced concrete pillbox, using engineered features. It was possible only to blow it up. And blasting works had to be so large-scale that most likely all nearby buildings would be damaged.
Hence, Saparmurat Atayevich could only order to coat the façade of the library with white marble and hang colorful banners above the entrance. Thus, due to the talent of Soviet architects and the quality of Bezmeinsky cement, people were not deprived of the outstanding work of world architecture, which could have disappeared and replaced by a marching ground for the guards of the President’s battalion.
Now we have a chance to admire the beauty of this «poetry, manifested in concrete» and enjoy the frescos, created by E. Neizvestny, under the calming murmur of the fountains in the inner yard.
This will be possible until the library gets in the way of the present President of Turkmenistan’s plans to possibly erect something «grandiose and epoch-making» instead of the Arch of Neutrality, thus raising his «golden» statue some 20 meters higher than was done by his predecessor.
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