Just over four months ago, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia announced a plan to build a new city named Lazika in the Anaklia Region of northwest Georgia. The news was driven by the desire to propel Georgia into a world market with an identity for the economic trade hub that its geographic location warrants. Aside from a promotional video and a few scattered images on various Georgian websites, little has been exposed about the master plan that will give birth to the economic engine on the coast of the Black Sea, which leaves many wondering if this new city will in fact be built to solve Georgia’s economic and social problems.
According to a New York Times article by Ellen Barry, On Black Sea Swamp, Big Plans for Instant City, interviews with Georgian citizens indicate a variety of opinions about the viability of this “Instant City”. While some are excited about the prospect of a city strewn with skyscrapers, advanced infrastructure, and glitzy hotels, others warn of the design challenges and flaws associated with building in the Anaklia Region, which Barry describes as “a stretch of marshy land”. But looking at the city from the perspective of urban design, many critics, from Lewis Mumford to Jane Jacobs will agree that the complex social, economic and political characteristics of a city develop over time, and most effectively when they occur organically after a series of trials and errors as a city develops its identity. Historically successful cities have acquired their identities not by spontaneous rapid growth but by the personalities of its citizens, planners, economists and politicians over many years. What is striking about this planning of Lazika, indicated by Barry’s report, is that “only one official is working on the planning of Lazika full time” with 10 to 15 part time workers, and the idea “came to President Mikheil Saakashvili just over four months ago while researching the China’s development”.