BOSTON — On March 24, the Tekeyan Cultural Association Greater Boston Chapter will host a virtual presentation and Q&A session with Armenian architectural designer and researcher Nare Filiposyan. Filiposyan, in her thesis, titled “(Re)Turn to Stone: Preserving a Culture of Stone Masonry,” explores the ancient stone masonry techniques practiced by masons in Armenia, and the cultural heritage imbued within their work. Her research spans interviews in Armenia; visits to medieval churches, quarries, and stone cutting facilities; remote conversations with stone masons; and her own experiments as a way to understand the techniques at play, and ultimately, to project a method for preserving the dying culture of Armenian stone masonry. Architect Theodore Touloukian will serve as moderator.
In contemporary Armenia, stone is ubiquitous — from street furniture to the home, from thousands of public water fountains to thousands of medieval churches, from municipal buildings to Soviet housing blocks disguised under stone tiles. Stone is a vital part of the cultural fabric, holding both physical as well as intangible cultural heritage. The history of Armenian stone masonry can be traced as far back as the Urartu period circa 900-600 BCE. Yet, despite the pervasiveness of this medium of cultural and artistic expression, certain medieval stonework techniques, tracing back to the 4th century, are dying out.
The existing academic literature on medieval Armenian architecture focuses on plan typologies (classification schemes) and formal descriptions and comparisons of various churches and monasteries. What has been overlooked is the underlying craft of building – the specific knowledge embodied by masons, that has enabled the existence of that architecture. With only a handful of masons that hold this knowledge alive today, the disappearance of their embodied techniques of stone masonry is at stake.
It is against this backdrop that Filiposyan, an Armenian architectural designer and researcher originally from Sisian, Armenia, has been working to understand and preserve these techniques through first-hand interviews with the few practitioners remaining in Armenia. Her current research on the preservation of Armenian stone masonry techniques has been supported by a NuVu research grant, the Marvin E. Goody Award, and an MIT Department of Architecture Graduate Fellowship.
Filiposyan holds a Master’s degree in Architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There, she served as a co-president of the Architecture Student Association and an executive member of the MIT NOMAS chapter. She has previously received scholarships to attend the United World College of the Adriatic, where she represented Armenia among 90 other nations. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Architecture from Bennington College, where she served as a trustee. She has held multiple design and research positions at SHoP Architects, Rockefeller Foundation, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, BKSK Architects, Caleb Linville Architects, WOJR and Matter Design, as well as multiple teaching fellowships for both graduate and undergraduate courses. You can read more about Nare Filiposyan’s work at her website: https://narefiliposyan.com/Re-Turn-to-Stone.