Lead Designer of New Convergence Center Speaks in Yerevan

By Shant Mirzaians

The TUMO Center for Creative Technologies has announced a new initiative. The EU TUMO Convergence Center for Engineering and Applied Science, funded by the European Union, is a state of the art STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) ecosystem whose mixed-use campus will be built on 25,000 square meters of land adjacent to TUMO Yerevan. A hub for research, education, and startups geared towards university students and young professionals, the Convergence Center will bring together local and international partners to bridge the gap between higher education and industry in Armenia.

The campus will host TUMO Labs ⁠— the Convergence Center’s hands-on STEM education program, 42 Yerevan ⁠— a local branch of the world-famous 42 network of coding academies, the French University in Armenia’s (UFAR) computer science and mathematics faculty, a shared hub, co-financing units, and a conference center. An event was held last Wednesday with the lead designer of the new building.

On the evening of February 12th, TUMO Yerevan hosted a public lecture by the co-founder and chief architect of the world-renowned design studio MVRDV, Winy Maas. The event was packed full to the brim with students and professionals eager to hear Maas speak.

Winy Maas has led MVRDV in designing world famous structures such as Villa VPRO in Rotterdam, Mirador Madrid and the Tianjin Binhai Library in China. In 2011, Maas was admitted into the Legion of Honor, France’s highest order of merit, for his work on the Paris Development Project. Maas was in Yerevan this week because his firm was selected to design the Convergence Center.

Last year, 67 firms from 26 countries expressed interest in designing the Convergence Center. From those, a shortlist of three firms were invited to Yerevan to participate in a two-day workshop to determine a winner. Ultimately, MVRDV was selected for demonstrating a deep understanding of the center’s programs and vision, in addition to the urban context in which the site is located. The design is to be finalized by Spring 2020. 

Maas’s lecture began with background on MVRDV, the projects they’ve worked on as well as their approach and philosophy on urban design. With each project, they combine the needs and desires of the community along with environmentally sustainable methods and tools that produce a design that is both unique and aesthetically pleasing. Even with old structures, MVRDV is able to reinvent and redesign buildings to fit modern demands while preserving the character and history of the neighborhood.

Maas then began to share his ideas for the new Convergence Center. During his visit, he met with Yerevan municipality officials to discuss how the new building can be integrated with the surrounding area and contribute to the development of the local urban area. The Convergence Center will  sit to the west of the Hrazdan gorge and river, thus considerations were made to connect the Center across the gorge towards the city center. Without going into specific details, Maas floated around ideas such as building the structure across the gorge, integrating the building with the metro system, or creating a park-like pedestrian path through the gorge towards the city center. 

Since its inception, TUMO has established campuses throughout Armenia, from Stepanakert, Dilijian and Gyumri, with plans for new locations in Masis and Koghb. In recent years, TUMO has also begun to expand internationally. In 2018,  centers opened in Paris, France and Beirut, Lebanon. By fall 2020, TUMO centers are set to open in Berlin, Germany as well as Kiev, Ukraine. There are also plans in Tirana, Albania to convert the old Pyramid building, an historical symbol of oppression, into a new TUMO center. TUMO’s success has transcended beyond the borders of Armenia. The desire to provide free STEM education within an atmosphere of creativity and collaboration for youth is a sentiment shared by anyone who hopes for long lasting development and growth. The Convergence Center project is a natural outgrowth of this momentum and the desire to extend the TUMO model beyond teens, to preparing young adults for rapidly growing STEM sectors worldwide.

Maas concluded the talk, saying that despite the challenges and difficulties societies face, positive and creative minds can always come together to find new solutions to create a brighter future for us all.