In The Footsteps Of The Head Of The Urban Development Committee

Karine Ghazaryan

Journalist, semiotician-to-be

At a government meeting on October 24, Vahagn Vermishyan, chairman of the Urban Development Committee, announced, “We must ask the question: What country are we? Who do we want this country to be for? Indians, Pakistanis or for intellectuals?”

Nikol Pashinyan interrupted Vermishyan, noting, “You are making an incorrect statement.” Vermishyan corrected herself, “That is to say, for people with low education or intellectuals.” The same day, after a wave of criticism, Vermishyan apologized for these statements.

The incident prompted discussions about Vermishyan’s work on social media.

Media.am also recalled Vermishyan’s announcement at another cabinet meeting that he had “built more than 5 million buildings.”

We examined Vermishyan’s allegations and found that the head of the Urban Development Committee had attributed untrustworthy achievements, and resigned as the chief architect of the Russian Oriole district after a wave of discontent and protest.

Misleading biography

A few months ago, when the government was discussing Vermishyan’s nomination as head of the Urban Development Committee, the Prime Minister asked him to present himself. Vermishyan declared, “I have designed and built more than 5 million buildings in various countries, including the Domodedovo Airport, the Sochi Sea Port, large facilities, cities in Sudan, Eritrea.”

A shorter version of this biography is available on the government’s website.

Vermishyan’s autobiography contains several misleading statements:

⛔ Vermishyan could not design more than 5 million buildings. This is an exaggerated number and far too much. By dividing this number over his 55 years of life, he has taken on about 249 buildings a day since the day of his birth.

It is possible that the architect was referring to buildings occupying an area of 5 million square meters, which he had spoken about earlier. But this is also a strange number. 5 million square meters is 5 square kilometers. But Vermishyan had stated that he had designed cities in Sudan and Eritrea, and for that reason, 5 square kilometers was too small an area; For comparison, the area of Yerevan is 223 square kilometers.

⛔ Saying that he designed cities in Sudan and Eritrea, Vermishyan does not explain that those cities were never built. They were a design variant that can be found on the user page of David Andreasyan’s Behance social network page.

⛔ The reconstruction of Domodedovo airport began in 2004 and lasted for several years. During that time, many large and small companies worked at the airport. However, in addition to Vermishyan’s open-source interviews, there is hardly any information on his participation in the rebuilding of the first and second terminals at Domodedovo Airport. Media.am only managed to find a single reference

According to Business Aviation Portal’s website, the developer of the second terminal was the company “Skoproekt-Plaz.” Sia.ru also reports the same information.

The wave of discontent with the chief architect

Prior to assuming public office in Armenia, Vermishyan had also worked as a chief architect of Russia’s Oriol district.

Upon assuming this position, Vermishyan had announced that he had given up his social benefits to help those in need. However, “Orlovski Novosti” magazine notes that Vermishyan did not receive any benefits.

During his tenure, he authored a plan to rebuild one of the oldest streets in the city of Oriental. Vermishyan had stated that this street should become “one of the most beautiful streets in the world.”

But the rebuilding was intended to dismantle the historic pavement, which the citizens held in protest, the next day another protest was held by local politicians. A petition demanding Vermishyan’s resignation was filed at Change.org.

As a result, it was decided that the old pavement was to be preserved, but the reconstruction was not in line with the original design, causing a wave of protest and criticism. Here is the story of a blogger living in the city about the street repair process.

After two years in office, in 2017 Vermishyan resigned.

In Armenia, Vermishyan had a conflict with incumbent officials

After his resignation, Vermishyan returned to Armenia and was appointed Adviser to Mayor Taron Margaryan. Then, in 2019, On March 21, he was appointed the head of the Urban Development Committee.

Shortly after, Vermishyan had a conflict with the director of the Tamanyan Museum at the time, Ruben Arevshatyan. “[…] from the first meeting it became clear that the chairman of the committee opposed the development policy of the museum proposed by me,” said Arevshatyan.

According to the latter, Vermishyan offered him a choice between him and the Chairman of the Cadastre Committee Sarhat Petrosyan, “Knowing about my friendship with Sarhat Petrosyan, with whom he initially had strained relations, he suggested that I choose which side I am on. To which he received a very sharp answer, that he should not ask me such questions again.”

On October 18, Sarhat Petrosyan announced his resignation. Avoiding direct accusations, he noted, “In the field of urban planning, we have a regress on the part of current and former heads of the Urban Development Committee.”

Petrosyan repeated the qualification given by Ruben Arevshatyan to the work of the Urban Development Committee, “Being an architect-urbanist by profession, I can no longer tolerate the dilettantism and corruption that ensues.”

Karine Ghazaryan

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