Kobayr Monastery.

There’s something about a ruin in the woods, with trees growing in it. But such a place cannot last forever: if it’s left like that, the trees will eventually demolish it completely. The other options are to remove the trees and maintain the building in its existing ruined state – a common choice in the UK – or to restore it to how it used to be before it was ruined.

They’re restoring Kobayr Monastery. Many old monasteries in Armenia are being, or have been, restored – mostly by professionals, under schemes supported by American charities, organized by rich Americans of Armenian origin. The people of Kobayr didn’t want that. They didn’t want all the attached strings, and they wanted to use the traditional building techniques. They know that the traditional construction is good for a few hundred years, even through earthquakes. They’re suspicious of reinforced concrete with thin stone cladding, which looks good when it’s new but looks dreadful after a few decades, when the cladding starts to fall off and the concrete spalls off in chunks, showing the rusting reinforcement. Even when it’s new you can see it’s just cladding if you look at the corners.

It’s a wide-angle shot – it’s not really curved like that.

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©Clive K Semmens 2011