My remarkable Guga

This year we lost dear family members. Both were very ill, Guga, a father (77yo) and his only daughter Nune (43yo).  May they rest in peace and never be forgotten!  It’s been very sad but we have to think that they are now together in heaven and no longer suffering.  I lost my youngest grandfather Guga, who was my grandmother’s brother and want to share with you some memories of him.  Why is this important?  Because he left something beautiful for all to enjoy in Yerevan, Armenia!  He was an architect!  Please read on…

ГургенСтепановичМнацаканянGuga always said that he is my “cousin grandfather” and I am his “niece-granddaughter”.  He had a very beautiful and powerful voice- bass and when I was little I was scared of him because of his voice.  Guga was always making funny faces and entertaining me and my sisters with games such as dancing while standing on his shoes, playing football inside the apartment (one day he broke the chandelier and his sister, my grandmother, was not happy to say the least!).  I knew very little about what Guga did for work.  It is now that I realise that I belonged to a very talented, creative, unique and capable family, where everyone went to work and reached remarkable goals.  They just never boasted about anything and always showered me with love and attention.  I thought that I was the center of their universe as the first-born grandchild!

In 2003, after 10 years away in Australia, I visited my country Armenia and saw Guga.  He came to the airport to get me and we hugged and kissed and he carried my heavy suitcases to the apartment and looked after me for a whole month!  It was a wonderful time!  We walked around the capital city Yerevan, a wonderful city, which my family has a special connection with.  My great-grandfather, Alexander Tamanian (Tamanyan), who is a renowned Armenian architect, created it for the generations to come in 1918-1936.  Guga was telling me about every building that we saw, about every street and monument, about Mt Ararat and life in general.  One day we went together to the National Gallery of Armenia.  Guga was explaining to me about every painting and the museum worker asked him if he is an art historian!  He replied modestly that he is an architect.  I felt so proud of him at that moment!  I was so impressed with the depth of his knowledge and that he impressed a museum worker as well!

Guga was very kind and gentle with me and I was no longer afraid of his loud voice!  We went to The Etchmiadzin Cathedral together, which is the Mother Church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, located in the city of Vagharshapat in Armenia. We went by bus and both enjoyed that day very much!  Guga cooked for me and gave me space and respected my wishes!  Guga was funny, so unique and original!

When I visited Yerevan in 2012 with my mum, we lived with Guga again and he was our tour guide!  We went to Garni and Geghard historical places together and looking back on all our photos we can see Guga pointing up to the ceilings of churches, pointing down to the floors, looking at the mountains.  He was like a walking encyclopedia, wise and humble!

Guga was an architect and he told me only a few times that he designed the Sundukyan Theatre in Yerevan!  He told me this when we were walking past that beautiful building.  I saw his drafts at home and he told me a little more.  I photographed his drafts and gave him some photos later.  I think it made him happy and reminded him of what he had achieved in his working life.  He told me also that he was awarded the State Prize!   I was speechless and very proud.

Below are some of the postcards that Guga had of the Theatre!  I hope to go there in the near future.

театрСундукяна“The theatre building in Yerevan is justly regarded as one of the achievements of Soviet architecture of 60’s, a compelling lesson for theorists and practitioners of architecture.”

театрСундукяна2“The architecture of the Theatre is monumental, modern and humane.”

Biography of Gurgen Mnatsakanyan- Architect Gurgen S. Mnatsakanyan was born in Tbilisi in an Armenian family in 1936 and spent his childhood there but all his life in Yerevan.  He graduated from the Architectural Department of Yerevan Polytechnic institute and became a talented architect, working in “Armpromproekt ” (Promyshlenny Design Institute ), Yerevan.

· Was one of the designers of the State National Academic Sundukyan Theatre in Yerevan, Armenia.
· Laureate of the State Prize of the Council of Ministers of the Armenian SSR for the high quality of construction of the Sundukyan TheatreГоспремия_АрмССР
· Member of the Union of Architects of Armenia

· Represented Armenian section of the Soviet pavilion at the International Fair in New Delhi, India in 1982; in Barcelona, Spain in 1984, in Paris, France in 1986.

Architect Gurgen Mnatsakanyan and artist Henry Siravyan are preparing to represent Armenia at the Barcelona Fair in 1984:

МнацаканянБарселонаAfter mum and I left to go back to Australia in 2012, we left Guga behind but kept in touch on the telephone.  I would call him a few times a month and we would always talk about the same things but it was so wonderful!  I miss him terribly and miss hearing his voice on from the other side of the world!  What I want to share here is what he has achieved and what a life he had lived.  He lived an honest and simple life and loved going to the mountains and forests to pick mushrooms.  He taught me the names of the mushrooms, which I know only because of him. Guga was my special last grandpa and I cannot believe he is no longer there.  I am so proud of Guga and will remember him always!


My Grandfather and the Armenian Architecture

Armenian architect Julius (Yuliy) Tamanian (1922-1993) was my grandfather.  I would like to pay tribute to him and tell you about his life and legacy.  I remember him as a wonderful, gentle, loving, modest man, who read to me books in Russian and Armenian, sliced delicious Swiss cheese for my lunch, picked me up from school, danced with me standing on top of his shoes and whistled arias from well-known operas.

YulikZaraSmMy grandfather and I at two years of age

My grandfather was wonderful.  He was well-read, loved music, the arts, nature, traveling, drinking tea…  His laugh was almost silent but his body shook all over!  He loved photography and developed his own black and white pictures.  I think I have inherited his love of photography!  Recently I found a picture of my then newlywed grandparents, young, slim and beautiful, sitting next to each other and I noticed a camera in the hands of Julius.  As early as 1952 he took a selfie!  That’s remarkable!

My grandfather loved his country Armenia with its beautiful countryside, cold and tasty tap water, magnificent Mount Ararat, lake Sevan, apricot and pomegranate trees and of course its beautiful churches and architecture.  When I was little, I didn’t realise what he was doing while drafting at his large table at home.  Only recently I read his books and felt very proud!

ZaraYulikSmMy grandfather and I at 10 years of age and feeling very tall!

Julius Tamanian (Юлий Александрович Таманян) was an architect and the youngest son of the renowned Armenian architect, Alexander Tamanian (1878-1936) and his English wife, beautiful Camilla Edwards (1885-1964), the grand-daughter of a famous Russian architect Nikolai Leontievich Benois.

My great-grandfather, Alexander Tamanian (Александр Иванович Таманян) was a remarkable person, who transformed the Armenian capital city of Yerevan from a dusty, provincial place into one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  He created the City Plan and designed many beautiful buildings, including the Opera House and the Government House.  Alexander Tamanian was also very passionate about preserving historic architectural heritage of the country.

ATamPicRenowned Armenian Architect, Alexander Tamanian, photo from a family archive

Alexander Tamanian and his wife had four children, two girls and two boys.  Unfortunately both girls died early, while both sons also became architects.  George Tamanian (Таманян Георгий Александрович) was older than Julius and worked as an architect with his father and later continued his work.

Julius Tamanian was only 13 years old when his father passed away.  Straight after school, he was conscripted (compulsory drafting) to serve in the Soviet Army in 1939 and served until August 1945.  During the World War II, he was in the artillery in Manchuria, in Northeast Asia.  Julius was a Veteran of the Great Patriotic War (Вели́кая Оте́чественная война́).  As many other war soldiers and survivors, he almost never talked about that time of his life.  He came back to Yerevan and graduated as an architect from the Polytechnic Institute in 1953.  He married a lovely woman, Knarik, and they had two sons, the oldest is my father, and five granddaughters.

Julius worked at Yerevanproject, one of the largest Soviet drafting organisations and served as the vice-chairman of the Armenian Society for Protecting Historic Monuments and as a Director of that Society’s restoration workshop.  Julius in fact, committed his whole life to continuing his father’s legacy in the task of historic architectural conservation and restoration.

Ю.А.ТаманянJulius Tamanian among the ancient monuments of Armenia

Julius and his team restored over 40 historical ancient monuments around Armenia, without making any changes or improvements to their original historic appearance.  Many monuments were in an awful state because of neglect, damage from earthquakes and their antiquity.  My grandfather’s work involved travelling to remote places, studying each monastery, church, bridge and other building carefully and holistically, taking photographs, doing the measurements, sketching, creating architectural plans for building restorations, overseeing the restoration work and protecting the monument in the future.

Julius was a member of the Architects of Armenia Union and published books in Armenian and Russian languages about the restored Armenian monuments.  More information about the books is provided below in Russian.

КнигиЮ.А.Таманян1The following information and images are from Yuliy Tamanian’s books.

Restoration of Amberd Church, Armenia

Images of the monument Before and After restoration

Амберд1Amberd fortress built in the X century on the slopes of Mount Aragats played a major role in the fight against foreign invaders. To the south-east of the palace, on the territory of the fortress, a Church was built in 1026 and it reached us in a highly dilapidated condition.  Restoration project of Julius Tamanian in 1970 provided for a partial relaying of the facade with addition of new stones and masonry of caved stones and restoration of the dome without disassembling.

Restoration of Artavazdik Church, Armenia

Images of the monument Before, During and After restoration

Артаваздик1Artavazdik Church of VII-VIII centuries is located in the Ashtarak region in the village of Byurakan. Restoration of this church began in 1958 and was completed in 1959.

Restoration of St Sarkis Church, Armenia

Images of the monument Before and After restoration

Бжни1St Sarkis Church is located on a rocky eminence to the east of Bjni fortress.  It was built in VII century and reached us in a neglected condition.  The restoration plan was drawn up by Julius Tamanian and S. Azatyan in 1969, based on the measurements of 1956.  The restoration work began in 1969 and was completed in 1970.

Restoration of Gndevank Monastery, Armenia

Images of the monument Before and After restoration

Гндеванк1Gndevank monastery built in 936 occupies one of the most picturesque gorges of Arpa River near the resort of Jermuk. Monument reached us as a ruin.  The restoration work began in 1963.

I am so proud of my grandfather!  He firmly believed in the importance of conservation and restoration of architectural monuments as a legacy for the Armenian people.  In 1964 the Armenian Society for Protecting Historic Monuments launched its work in all corners of the country with the involvement of students and young people.

The books of my grandfather contain many more restoration projects and I am very proud to list a few more here:

·    Measurements and excavation plans of prehistoric man (5000-3000c BC) in Yerevan.
·    Astvatsatsin Church in Areni built in 1321 by architect Momik on the edge of the canyon of the river Arpa.
·    Bath in the Amberd Fortress, work commenced in 1972.
·    St Karapet Church and Voyskovaya Church in Alayaz,  XIII century.
·    Jukhtak Vank monastery in Dilijan with two churches- St. Gregory (XII century) and Astvatsatsin, built in 1201 by master Sargis.
·    Church Astvatsatsin in Vahanavank built in 1086 is a two-storey church.
·    Astvatsatsin Church in Voskepar is a cruciform-plan building, dating VII century.
·    Monastery Ayrivank (IV-XIII centuries, in Kamo district), built on a rocky shore of Lake Sevan.
·    Church in Christopher Monastery (VII century, Talin district).
·    Church in Ddmashen village (VII century, Sevan district).
·    Makravank Monastery (XIII century, Hrazdan district).
·    Temple Targmanchats in Aygeshat village, Echmiadzin region.
·    Marine Church, XIII century in Ashtarak.
·    Haghartsin Monastery, X-XIII century, near Dilijan; Holy Virgin Church (1281);  St Grigory Church, X-XI centuries, restored in 1981-1982.

1Ю.А.Таманян1957ТегеянцВанкJulius Tamanian at Tegeyans Vank, 1957

Julius Tamanian’s hard work, dedication, talent and love for his country is an inspiration to us all.  By ‘breathing new life’ into old ancient monuments, my grandfather and people like him, have preserved them for us and future generations to enjoy and made a valuable contribution to our society.  The memories of my dear grandfather live on in my heart and in the restored architecture that I know is still standing in Armenia today.


If you are interested to read more, please enjoy the following websites:

About the process of Building Restoration

In English about Alexander Tamanian or  Tamanyan

In Russian language about Alexander Tamanian

In Russian language also about Alexander Tamanian and family

In Russian about Julius Tamanian, please go to and search for his name  Таманян Юлий Александрович

In Russian about George Tamanian please go to and search for his name Таманян Георгий Александрович

In English about the Armenian Opera Theater, designed by Alexander Tamanian

In Russian about a wonderful architect  Gurgen Mnatsakanyan, brother-in -law of Julius Tamanian. He designed a wonderful Sundukyan Drama Theatre in Yerevan and was awarded the Armenian State Award.   Please go to and search for Мнацаканян Гурген Степанович.

Film in Armenian about Alexander Tamanyan,com_afm/pid,124/vfile,1166/

In Russian about Бенуа, Николай Леонтьевич, Nikolai Leontievich Benois dynasty


Восстановительные работы- Информация взята из книги Ю.А. Таманян, “Восстановление каменной летописи”, Издательство ‘Айастан’,  Ереван, 1981.  Подробнее в самой книге.

Монастырь Гндеванк построен в 936г и занимает один из живописных уголков ущелья реки Арпа, недалеко от курорта Джермук.  Памятник дошел до нас в руинном состоянии.  Реставрационные работы были начаты в 1963г. (стр. 55)

Церкoвь св Саркиса- На востоке от крепости Бджни, на скалистом возвышении, сохранилась построенная в VII веке церкoвь.  Церковь до нас дошла в полуразрушенном состоянии.  Проект реставрации был составлен в 1969г Ю. Таманяном, Ш. Азатяном на основании обмеров 1956г.  Реставрационные работы были начаты в 1969г и завершены в 1970г. (стр.56)

Церкoвь Аствацацин в Арени выстроена в 1321 году архитектором Момиком… на бровке каньона реки Арпа.  От церкви остались только руины.  Проект реставрации был составлен на основании обмеров, выполненных архитекторами Ш. Азатяном и Ю. Таманяном.  Восстановительные работы были начаты в 1967г и закончены в 1972г. (стр.56)

Церкoвь в крепости Амберд.  Крепость Амберд выстроенная в X веке на склонах горы Арагац…сыграла большую роль в борьбе с иноземными захватчиками.  К юго-востоку от дворца, на территории крепости, в 1026г была построена церковь.  Церковь в Амберде дошла до нас в сильно разрушенном состоянии.  Проект реставрации (Ю. Таманян, 1970г) предусматривал  частичную перекладку облицовки с добавлением новых камней, а также кладку обвалившихся камней …и реставрацию купола без его разборки. (стр.57)

Церковь в Амберде не подвергалась каким-либо промежуточным реставрациям и обновлениям.  И мы предпочли сохранить подлинность, не внося своих каких-либо ‘улучшений’ даже в конструкцию кровельных плит, хотя это было возможно сделать и без ущерба художественно-исторической значимости памятника. (стр.58)

Баня в крепости Амберд.  Работы по восстановлению были начаты в 1972г. (стр.58-59)

Войсковая церковь в Алаязе.  До реставрации здание было полуразршенным, обвалились камни трехарочнoго портала на западном фасаде, оторваны облицовочные камни с других фасадов, отсутствовали кровельные плиты.  Реставрационные работы были начаты в 1971г. Для производства реставрационных работ камень-базальт добывался из Сисианских карьеров и частично в окресностях памятника. (стр.59-60)

Церкoвь св. Карапета.  Это небольшое купольное сооружение, построенное недалеко от Войсковой церкви, по всей вероятности, в конце XIII века.  В результте сильного подземного толчка барабан получил вращательный сдвиг, и облицовка, примыкающая к окнам барабана, местами сильно обвалилась и разъединилась от бетонной сердцевины. Проект реставрации был составлен в 1972 г. (стр. 60)

Джухтак ванк- две рядом построенные церкви, св Григория (XIIв) и Аствацацин (построена в 1201г мастером Саргисом).  Оба памятника были выстроены из базальта и были сильно разрушены. (стр. 60-61)

Церкoвь Аствацацин в Ваганаванке, построенная в 1086г, относится к типу двух-этажных церквей. Первый этаж служил усыпальницей, а второй-церковью.  Разрушилась церковь от сильного землетрясенияВ результате раскопок были обнаружены значительные обломы, которые помогли ввести некоторую корректуру в первоначальный проект реставрации. (стр. 61)

Церкoвь Аствацацин в Воскепаре. Это крестообразное в плане сооружение датируется VIIв.  Памятник дошел до нас в полуразрушенном виде. Реставрация была начата в 1975г и завершена в 1977г. (стр. 61)

Монастырь Айриванк (IV-XIIIвв, район им. Камо), построен на скалистом берегу озера Севан.  Он состоит из церкви с крестообразным планом и притвора.  По сохранившимся остаткам штукатурки мoжно предположить, что в древности церковь была внутри оштукатурена. Проект реставрации был составлен архитектором С. Аланакяном на основе обмерных чертежей Ш. Азатяна и Ю. Таманяна, выполненных в 1956г.  В 1977-1978гг. была полностью реставрирована кровля притвора. (стр. 61-62)

Церкoвь в монастыре Христофора (VIIв, Талинский район).  Памятник сильно пострадал от землетрясения- разрушены все крылья креста и купол,  уцелели только подкупольные арки с пилонами и часть барабана.  Большого опыта и труда требовaло определение места для каждого камня. (стр. 62)

Церковь в селе Ддмашен (VIIв., Севанский район).  Первоначальный вид памятника сильно искажен несколькими значительными перестройками, последняя была в начале XXв.  Работы вновь были начаты весной 1977г. (стр. 62)

Монастырь Макраванк (XIIIв., Разданский район).  Комплекс памятников Макраванка находится на расстоянии 1,5км от центра г. Раздан.  Он состоит из главной церкви, притвора и малой однонефной церкви.  Притвор дошел до нас в разрушенном состоянии.  У малой церкви отсутствовали все кровельные плиты и в своде зиял большой пролом.  Сравнительно лучше сохранилась большая церковь, которая еще в 30-е годы была покрыта металлической кровлей. (стр. 63)

Церкoвь Артаваздик, VII-VIIIвв, область Аштарак, село Бюракан.  Реставрация была начата в 1958г и завершена в 1959г.

Двухэтажная церковь-усыпальница монастыря Нораванк, в Ехегнадзоре

Гошаванк, на протяжении почти десяти лет на крупном средневековом ансамбле в Гоше производились реставрационные работы.

Монастырь Агарцин, (X-XIIIвв) около города Дилижан, церкoвь св. Григора (X-XIвв) была реставрирована в 1981-1982 гг, церкoвь Св. Богородицы (1281г).

Церкoвь св. Саркиса (VIIв) в Бжни, располагается в долине реки Раздан.  Строение церкви крестообразной формы. Реставрация проводилась в 1970 году.

Books written by my grandfather in Armenian and Russian:

1. Ю. А. Таманян, “Восстановление каменной летописи”, Издательство ‘Айастан’, Ереван, 1981.  <Посвящаю памяти моего отца Академика Александра Таманяна>,  Армянское Общество по Охране Исторических Памятников.  (На армянском и русском яз.)

2. Ю. А. Таманян, “Памятникам- Новую Жизнь”, (На армянском и русском яз.), Издательство ‘Айастан’, Ереван, 1988

3. А.Л.Якобсон, Ю. А. Таманян, “Армянская Архитектура в Крыму”, Издательство ‘Айастан’, Ереван, 1992. Армянское Общество по Охране Исторических Памятников. (На русском яз.)


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