This Week in Armenian History

Death of Jim Torosian (January 5, 2014)

Jim Torosian was the chief architect of Yerevan in the 1970s and one of the creators of its contemporary image.

He was born in the capital of Armenia on April 18, 1926. He graduated from the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute in 1949 and continued his higher education in Moscow, graduating from the USSR Academy of Architecture in 1954. In the same year, he returned to Yerevan and started teaching at the Faculty of Architecture of the Polytechnic Institute (now part of the National University of Architecture and Construction of Armenia), where he earned the title of professor in 1979. He became a member of the Union of Architects of Armenia in 1957 and head of the workshop of architecture at the Yerevan Planning Institute the following year. He was the deputy chairman of the Union of Architects (1962-1964).

He built the monument to the Armenian alphabet in Oshakan, near the tomb of St. Mesrop Mashtots (1962). Between the 1960s and the 1990s, many other monuments followed (Mikayel Nalbandian, Paruyr Sevak, Avetik Isahakian, Alexander Miasnikian, Yeghishe Charents, Victor Hambardzumian) in collaboration with different sculptors, as well as the tombstones of Paruyr Sevak and Martiros Sarian, and the funerary statue of William Saroyan. The Isahakian monument in Gumri won the State Prize of the Soviet Union in 1977 and the tombstone of Martiros Sarian at the Komitas Pantheon earned the gold medal of the USSR Art Academy (1981).

Between 1971 and 1981, Jim Torosian was the chief architect of Yerevan. He revived a forgotten project by Alexander Tamanian to connect the northern and central parts of the city with the vast green area of waterfalls and gardens and incorporated new ideas, such as an exterior stairway, escalators, and an intricate network of halls, courtyards, and outdoor gardens. The construction of the Cascade was launched in the 1980s but abandoned after the earthquake of 1988 and the breakup of the Soviet Union. In 2002 the late Armenian-American benefactor Gerard Cafesjian initiated the revitalization of the construction working with the city and the country government, making the area what it is today.

Torosian was also the author of the Republic Square (formerly Lenin Square) subway station with its complex of upper ground and underground structures (1981), which won the State Prize of Armenia in 1983. Among many other buildings, he was the architect of the Cardiology Research Institute (1964-1969), the Museum of Contemporary Art (1982-1985), the former building of Yerevan City Hall and the current building with the City History Museum (2004), the central square of Spitak (1998-2005), the open-air altar (2001) and other constructions in Holy Echmiadzin.

During his long career, he was honored with many titles and medals in Armenia and abroad. He was an honorary citizen of Yerevan and Spitak. He passed away on January 5, 2014, and was buried in the Komitas Pantheon.