Cascade Complex in Yerevan
The Cascade is a truly magnificent part of the city, where art, urban life, a huge architectural complex, an idyllic green spaces merge beautifully to form an exciting, and quintessentially Yerevanian atmosphere.
Locals call this whole area the "Cascade''. Some spectacular works of contemporary art are on display here in the open air. The windows of some of the priciest apartments in Yerevan overlook the sculptures that many cities would dream to have adorning their streets. The Cascade starts at Moskovyan Street, just behind the basalt statue of Alexander Tamanyan, the most prominent Yerevan architect (by sculptor Artush Hovsepyan, 1974). The first thing to catch your eye in the Cafesjian "sculpture garden" is a human figure made of the letters of the Latin alphabet. This sculpture, called “The Shadows’’ is by Spanish artist Jaume Plenza. If you peer through the letters, you'll see a few sculptures of faceless geometric human figures, by the British artist Lynn Chadwick. Two of these figures (called "Stairs’’) stand on the stairs to the right of the Tamanyan statue, and opposite them another couple (“Sitting Figures’’) sit with their arms around each. "The Shadows' " is not the only one of Jaume Plenza's creations that graces the Cascade. "Sitting Tattoo" is on the last level of the hill, at the base of the slope of the Cafesjian Center for the Arts. You can examine all the rivers of the world on this sculpture. There is another category of sculptures inhabiting this park, those belonging to the hare species: "Hare on a Bell'', "Boxing Hare on Anvil," and "Acrobat Hares" by Barry Flanagan.
When it's warm out, the park benches and open-air cafes are rarely empty.
"Roman Warrior" by Ferna Botero, the most prominent Latin American sculptor. As they pass, girls modestly look away, and boys smirk because the robust build warrior is naked.
You will be greeted by an elephant's trunk peeping out of a circus tent. This fun piece is by Jim Unsworth. Here you will see Lynn Chadwick’s “Observers", who, though eyeless, see everything.
On the right, there is a color-coded billboard that is regularly updated by the curators of the Art Center. The orange panel, for example, advertises jazz concerts, the blue o is for classical music concerts, the red one is about the "Meetings with a series, and the yellow one is for tours of the park and gallery.
Just behind the billboard, you'll find the entrance to the Museum of Russian Art. This two-story building used to be a fashion house, but nowadays, it is home to a collection of pieces by the greatest masters of Russian painting. They were collected by Aram Abrahamyan. A physician and professor who lived in Moscow, he gave the pieces as a gift to his motherland.
To get to the Cafesjian Center for the Arts, pass by "The Antelope" by Sarraj Gukh which is leaping over the lawn, grotesque bronze "Cat" by Botero and the nimble, little metallic horse Martin Lowe. The beautifully laid out open-air exhibit comes to an end at the foot of the complex, straight at the complex itself.
The entrance to the Center for the Arts is on the left. It works the following days and hours:
Tue, Wed, Thu (10 am-6 pm)
Fri, Sat, Sun (10 am-8 pm)
There are 15 small fountains here. Designed to look like medieval sundials, they are carved on every open terrace of the Cascade.
One of the elements of the design is richly ornamented: it symbolizes Van, where head architect Jim Torosyan is from. Every square of the Cascade is unique. All along the massive complex you’ll never find two identical bas-reliefs.
The only thing that unites them is their national symbols: figures of doves, grapes, and pomegranates.
If you look through the glass galleries on the first floor, you'll catch a glimpse of some of the priceless exhibitions within this complex, under the stone stairs of the Cascade, which have gained the status of “national treasures" since 2009. And in fact, you can visit the glass exhibit, situated just behind the museum shop, for free. On the right wall, there is a sculpture by famous American glass artist Dale Chihuli from his “Persian Series". His works adorn the doorway and ceiling in the Special Events Auditorium on the last floor. Visitors to the Cascade who have been to Las Vegas may recognize the handwriting of the master who has designed the Bellagio Casino. There is another hall that is open to the general public on the second floor of the Center, where everyone can enjoy Grigor Khanjyan's monumental triptych-mural “The Creation of the Armenian Alphabet" (5.8 m to 5.7 m), "The Battle of Avarayr'' (5.8 m to 6.7 m) and “The Revival" (5.8m to 4.7m). Gerard Cafeisjian has decided that all pieces in his center that are treasures of the Armenian national heritage should be open to everybody. The large Khanjyan Hall is quiet and cool. Thick blinds secure the panorama windows to prevent sunshine from destroying the works of art. It is unbelievable that the third part of the triptych was painted by Khanjyan at the beginning of the 1990s when the newly independent Republic had so many issues to deal with besides fine art. Inspired by Siqueiros' monumental paintings, the artist would come to the abandoned site area day after day, humbly correct the fragments of the mural that were damaged by vandals, and create pieces of art.
You can cross the terrace to the park hall, where the works of Czech sculptor and animalist Ivana Shramkova are displayed, to take part in free educational workshops called “Creation and Imagination’’.
You can take the elevator to get from the fourth floor to the hall where the monumental glass sculptures by the Czech duo Libensky and Brychtova are displayed. There are two inclined, flame-colored thrones that are intentionally hard to sit on. They were created at the end of the 1980s when the socialist countries were caught in turmoil. A green pyramid influenced by the art of the ancient Aztecs, a T-formed hollow space and the imprints of an angel can be seen at the back of a sculpture. At the escalator exit vou can check out the first deluxe model Subaru, covered in silver and created by the genius of design, Giugiaro.
Then you can go out to the terrace and enter the "collector's inner world" The first thing you'll notice is a 1904 Ford, a perfectly preserved retro car with gas lights and a horn that must have frightened inattentive pedestrians at the beginning of the last century. The hall also displays a model of “The Corsar," the ship on which Gerard Cafesjian served during World War II and where the future billionaire and philanthropist lost his left eye. A portico that was used to decorate one of the pavilions at the World Expo of 1889 in Paris, is among other treasures of the collection.
In the Eagle Hall on the sixth floor, unlike the other galleries of the Center, the exhibitions are not permanent. When it first opened, the works of Arshile Gorky (Vostanik Adoyan, the Armenian-American founder of abstract expressionism) from Cafesjian's collection were displayed here. The open terrace of the seventh floor has a sculpture of a group of three divers by British artist Mark Voller. Snow-white khachkars (cross stones) are located a little lower. There are two halls on the last floor of the complex: the elegant Swarovski Gallery, which sparkles with brilliant decorative items from the New York architectural studio, Diller Scofidio & Renfro; and a comfortable Special Events Auditorium where every evening, you can enjoy the breathtaking view of Yerevan.
A 56-meter tall obelisk, built in 1971, crowns the white stairs of the Cascade. It was constructed to honor the 50th anniversary of Soviet rule in Armenia and was called “The Revived Armenia." It symbolizes the statehood that the Armenians have obtained after being deprived of it for many centuries. This Soviet monument is decorated with Urartu symbols, and the bottom of the obelisk bears a sun disk, an ancient Armenian eternity symbol. You can climb to the top of the hill via the steps stairs or by the underground escalators free of charge. Generally, it is better to walk down the Cascade which has a 15 degree inclination, and an absolute height of 127 meters.
The open terraces let you enjoy an awesome panorama of the city especially in the morning and a postcard view of majestic Mount Ararat as a backdrop to the brown, grey, and red roofs of old Yerevan and the modern skyscrapers built in the last decade.
The Backstory of the Cascade
Though Alexander Tamanyan thought of creating the Cascade in 1924, a group of architects- Jim Torosyan, Sargis Gurzadyan, and Aslan Mkhitaryan – commenced its construction in the 1970s. In 1991, construction was stopped due to difficult circumstances with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the shaky establishment of Armenia's independence. Construction recommenced in 2002. The Armenian- American benefactor, Gerald Cafesjian, who was eager to donate his collection of works of modern art to his motherland, decided to take care of the place where these priceless exhibits would be kept and displayed. This is why the Center of the Arts bears his name.