Exploring a City’s Layers, One Brick at a Time

Yerevan is a city of stone ⁠— from its pink, beige and brown shades of tuff to the concrete, brutalist Soviet-era apartment blocks that dot its streets, making it the perfect landscape for Swedish designer Sanna Völker to experiment with.

“What if these stones could talk?” asked Sanna, recounting exploratory walks during her stay in Yerevan. In an atelier with the Barcelona-based product designer, students designed three vases inspired by the undulating curves of Hraparak, the intricate facade adornments on Abovyan Street and the brutalism of the Yeritasardakan metro station. A balancing act between rawness and refinement, harmony and intrigue. After close examination of the formal expression of these prominent architectural standouts, the monuments were translated into contemporary design pieces, thanks to the efforts of local stonemasons.

“Human intervention in nature and society is one of the themes that tends to draw me in when I’m looking for inspiration,” explained Sanna. “I’ve always been intrigued by craft and by how traditional materials and techniques can be transformed into contemporary pieces. So I was glad to be able to draw the students’ attention towards some of these buildings and monuments that they stroll past everyday, perhaps shifting their perspective and seeing them not for what they are but for what they could be.”

As student and graphic designer Lilit Malkhasyan described it, “The atelier with Sanna really highlighted the role that architecture plays in our city, our society… how it’s not just functional… it’s visual art. And by mentally deconstructing some of these monuments, our creative thinking allowed us to make something that could be used for everyday use.”

The vases ultimately come together as an abstract version of Yerevan —the Pink City— and as a flickering glimpse into the social, political and religious layers of the city. An exercise in minimalism where the rich history of the capital is told through close analysis of its multifaceted architecture.