Located in the Kentron administrative district of Yerevan, at Moskovyan 22, there is a building known as the “Scientist’s House.” This building is situated next to other historically and culturally significant buildings. Despite its historical and cultural significance, little information about the structure has survived in the archives. However, many urban legends and plenty of unverified information about the building can be found on the internet.
The building has a rich history and exceptional architecture, it is not considered an immovable monument of the history and culture of Yerevan and, therefore, does not have the status of a monument. Currently, the building is not in use and is in a state of disrepair.
Media.am’s fact-checking team, “Verified”, researched open-source information concerning the building and attempted to contact the current owner to uncover the history of this mysterious monument.
The urban legends
There is an urban legend surrounding the “Scientist’s House,” which claims that the underground cells of the building contain radioactive materials that pose a threat to society. It is also said that the big tree in the courtyard of the building has parched for this reason. According to the students of the Media School (2013/14 class) at the Armenian-Russian (Slavonic) University and the PanArmenian Media Group, the building was previously a secret chemical research institute where studies related to heavy metals and biochemistry were conducted.
The students’ report mentions that in 1953-1954, an explosion occurred after Stalin’s death, which caused radiation. On ecological grounds, all the underground floors of the building were filled with concrete, making it impossible to determine the number of underground floors.
Although no original source exists, the Armenian media was flooded with this information.
What we know
In 2016, the “Ankakh” news station quoted Ara Gulnazaryan, the Scientific Secretary of the Scientific and Technological Center of Organic and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, stating that the “Scientist’s House” was owned by the National Academy of Sciences. According to Gulnazaryan, academician Armenak Mnjoyan founded the pharmaceutical laboratory in 1955-56, which later became the Institute of Fine Organic Chemistry.
“Ankakh” spoke with academician Adolf Mantashyan, who worked at Moskovyan 22 for 20 years. According to the academician the Laboratory of Chemical Physics operated in that building since 1965, and since 1975, it became the Institute of Chemical Physics.
In 1981, a separate building was constructed for the Institute of Chemical Physics, and they relocated to the new building. The old building was then given to the Department of Applied Physics of the National Academy of Sciences, which later became an institute. Some of the institute’s departments moved out of the building in 1982-83, while others remained there. An experimental factory was established next to the institute, which operated in that building until 1992. According to Mantashyan, Academician Mergelyan had plans to convert the building into a scientist’s house. The “Scientist’s House” sign was put up on the building in 1981, as reported by “Ankakh.”
In 1995, the Greek Embassy in Armenia was given control of the building through an expropriation decree. However, the territory was never utilized. In 2016, the Hellenic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) announced an international tender to sell the building. Two years later, in January 2018, “Haykakan Zhamanak” reported that the founder and chief producer of “Comedy Club Production” Artur Janibekyan, had become the new owner of the building known as “Scientist’s House.” Janibekyan expressed his belief that the “Scientist’s House” should serve as an example for preserving other old buildings that contribute to the image of Yerevan. He confirmed that he had acquired the building to save it from further deterioration and destruction, as it had been neglected for years and was in a deplorable state.
Five years later, the building remains in a deplorable state with closed doors and no signs of renovation.
What we uncovered
According to the Cadastre Committee of Armenia, the building was constructed in 1955 based on the design by architect Mark Grigoryan. The current owner is Otari Janibeki Hakobyan, the father of Arthur Janibekyan.
Otari Hakobyan acquired the “Scientist’s House” building in October 2019. The following month, he leased the space to “Gitnakani Tun” LLC, registered in August of the same year. The company’s owner is Artur Janibekyan, and its activity is listed as “Construction preparatory works” in the State Register of Legal Entities. According to the Cadastre, the building has 0 level of damage, three floors, and a basement. The Yerevan Municipality has classified the “Scientist’s House” as a high-risk facility (category 3). The Cadastre estimates the approximate market value of the building at 834,835,752 AMD. However, we could not obtain the purchase contract, as this information is unavailable in open sources.
In February 2018, during the tenure of Taron Margaryan, Yerevan Municipality granted permission to demolish three auxiliary buildings in the yard area of “Scientist’s House.” In April 2021, during the tenure of Hayk Marutyan, planning permission was granted for the reconstruction of the building and the construction of a new annexed building. The project is set to be implemented over two years, with one of the design requirements being the improvement of the surrounding area.
The comment of the director of “Gitnakani Tun” LLC
“Verified” spoke with Avag Simonyan, the director of “Gitnakani Tun” LLC, to gain insight on why the building is still closed when they plan to restore and reopen it, and what activities the LLC is involved in.
Simonyan stated that the LLC is solely responsible for renovating the “Scientist’s House” building and has no other functions or office space.
“We are currently dealing with the renovation and ongoing works in the building. Several architects have created and are continuing to work on the projects. The progress of the projects is not readily available, so we cannot share much about it. However, large groups are involved in the project, and we are working towards preserving the building both for the city and as a business venture,” explained Avag Simonyan.
Simonyan further stated that the building is in a deteriorated state and is not usable in its current condition.
“The site is currently not under construction and will be cleaned up in the upcoming days. Our team cleans the area every 5-6 months, but there is no construction work happening in the building at the moment. We are still designing architectural plans that will be presented to the Yerevan Municipality.”
Avag Simonyan was unable to provide a clear timeline for the renovation of the building.
He mentioned that although they had received several proposals for the opening and use of the building, it was not yet suitable for occupancy due to some structural issues that needed to be addressed. While the building was not in an emergency state, it required some repairs before it could be operational.
Simonyan further added that they had conducted a chemical radiation study before purchasing the building, and the results were within the normal limits, with no significant risks identified.
“The building is located in the city’s center, so it cannot be a charity project. It has to be a commercial project, but it should still maintain its significance. If it were up to other people, they would have likely demolished the building and built a multi-story building in its place. However, the building has stood for many years despite the increase in real estate prices.” Simonyan concluded.
National Academy of Sciences senior researcher Armen Sarkissian about the “Scientist’s House”
To uncover the earlier history of the building located at Moskovyan Street 22, we visited the National Archives. However, we could not find any relevant information in the available documents despite our efforts. As a next step, we sent a written request to the National Academy of Sciences inquiring whether the building was included in their archive. Unfortunately, we did not receive a response to our request. However, we were able to arrange an interview with Armen Sargsyan, a senior researcher at the National Academy of Sciences, during which we hoped to obtain the information we sought.
He confirmed that the “Scientist’s House” was once enlisted on the National Academy of Sciences, but could not say the precise duration.
The Academy’s task of creating infrastructure was set rapidly during its establishment, which took only a few years. They located the “Scientist’s House” there because they couldn’t find another suitable location. For example, the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry operated on Abovyan Street, while the Institute of Chemical Physics or Physical Chemistry, founded by Aram Nalbandian, was located at Moskovyan 22. This institute was established in 1975.
Armen Sarkissian mentioned that a decision was made to choose a small academic sector, and numerous academic institutes were relocated to Zeytun. One of them was the Institute of Chemical Physics, located in the territory of the “Scientist’s House.”
“After it was relocated, the building remained under the ownership of the Academy for some time. Eventually, along with other property, it was transferred to the state for other purposes. The institute has been located in Zeytun for over 40 years. However, it’s unclear what purposes it can serve since it falls under the authority of different structures. Since the 90s, it has been provided free of charge to the Greek Embassy,” said Sargsyan.