Yerevan’s Cascade: Armenia’s Beacon of Art and Design

Yerevan’s Cascade: Armenia’s Beacon of Art and Design

Right in the heart of Yerevan stands a towering monument of art and design built into the northern slope of the city.  It is called the Cascade, and it’s home to the Cafesjian Center for the Arts.  The monument is comprised of a series of escalators and exterior stairs that “cascade” down from the Monument neighborhood to the lower Kentron district near Yerevan’s Opera House.  There is remarkable art to behold at several levels along the journey.  But this ambitious project seemed like a distant dream for decades before its completion.

Yerevan's Cascade on a summer day; Photo: Richard Fejfar

Yerevan’s Cascade on a summer day – notice the tiny bride and groom having their photos taken
Photo: Richard Fejfar

Shaky BeginningsThe visionary Armenian architect Alexander Tamanyan first conceived of the idea for the Cascade, but he died in 1936 and Cascade construction didn’t begin until the 1980s.  The devastating earthquake that shook Spitak, Armenia in 1988 and the subsequent breakup of the Soviet Union diverted municipal funds and attention away from the project. It sat unfinished for more than a decade until Armenian-American businessman Gerard Cafesjian revived it in 2002.  At long last, construction was finally finished on the Cascade in 2009.

Photo: Devin Connolly

Barry Flanagan’s Hare on Bell on an upper lever of the Cascade
Photo: Devin Connolly

Art, Inside and OutWhat visitors see today when they visit the Cascade are sweeping views of Yerevan and its surrounding areas; Mount Ararat’s twin peaks make an appearance on a good day. There’s world class art at every turn.

From the outdoor sculpture park featuring unmistakable works by Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero to several indoor galleries which house pieces by artists ranging from Marc Chagall to pop art founding father James Rosenquist, the collection is rich and varied.  But the true wealth of the Cafesjian catalogue lies in the vast amount of glass art on display.  The center boasts collections by Dale Chihuly and Czech duo Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová, all influential figures in the world of glass.

Photo: Martin Klimenta

The bronze Woman Smoking a Cigarette at the bottom of the Cascade
Photo: Martin Klimenta

A Visit to the CascadeWhen I visit the Cascade, I always stop to admire the Chihuly pieces and the latest temporary exhibition on the ground floor.  My next step usually is to take the escalators all the way to the top to check out the view before slowly descending the 572 external steps, admiring each sculpture I pass on the way down and feeling a million miles away from the buzz of the city.

Yerevan is a rapidly changing and modernizing city, but to stand on the steps of the Cascade and watch it from afar, there is nothing but stillness to behold.  I love the contrast between these two aspects of the capital, and there is no better place than the Cascade from which to view them. The Cascade is a gem among monuments for its beauty, accessibility, scale and scope.  It is a dream come true for Yerevan and its visitors.

Photo: Martin Klimenta

Blue Kiwi by Peter Woytuk
Photo: Martin Klimenta

Travel to Armenia with MIRYou can travel to Armenia and wander through the Cascade’s many treasures on MIR’s small group tour, Treasures of the South Caucasus.

You can also travel to Armenia on a custom private journey or one of MIR’s hand-crafted private independent travel itineraries:

Or on a rail journey by private train:

 

(Top photo: There’s art on every level of Yerevan’s Cascade – Photo credit: Martin Klimenta)

PUBLISHED: March 4, 2015

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2 thoughts on “Yerevan’s Cascade: Armenia’s Beacon of Art and Design

  • The green areas across Cascade are too beautiful. I love there flowers, statues. All this are attractive for tourists. I have there my favorite statue, “Acrobats” and “Hare on Bell” by Barry Flanagan. In summer you can find there numerous tourists walking and admiring.