Rafayel Israyelian

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Rafayel Israyelian
Rafael Israyelyan.jpg
Born 17 September [O.S. 4 September] 1908
Tiflis, Russian Empire
Died September 8, 1973(1973-09-08) (aged 64)
Yerevan, Soviet Armenia, USSR
Nationality Armenian
Occupation Architect
Years active 1936–1973
Notable work
Website www.rafaelisraelyan.com

Rafayel "Rafo" Israyelian[1][2] (Armenian: Ռաֆայել Իսրայելյան; 17 September [O.S. 4 September] 1908 – 8 September 1973) was an Armenian architect.

Seen as a follower Alexander Tamanian,[3] Israyelian designed some of Soviet Armenia's most prominent structures, including the Sardarapat Memorial, the Yerevan Wine Factory and several churches, both in Armenia and abroad.


Israyelian was born in Tiflis (modern-day Tbilisi, capital of Georgia), then part of the Russian Empire, on 17 September [O.S. 4 September] 1908 to Armenian parents. His father, Sargis, was a philologist and folklorist born in Shusha (Shushi), Karabakh, while his mother, Mariam (née Hakhnazarian) was a teacher, originally from Nakhichevan.[4]

Israyelian with the sculptor and collaborator Ara Harutyunyan.

He attended an Armenian school in Tiflis and continued his education at the State Academy of Arts of Georgia, from which he graduated in 1928 as an architect. He later moved to Leningrad, where he studied at the Leningrad Institute of Communal Building from 1929 to 1932. He thereafter continued his education at the Ilya Repin Leningrad Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (formerly the Imperial Academy of Arts) until 1936.[4][5]

Israyelian married Sofia Muradyan in 1934. They had two sons and three daughters.[4] Israyelian moved to Yerevan, Soviet Armenia in 1936[6] and worked at different architectural organizations. He taught at the Yerevan Polytechnic Institute from 1941 to 1963. During World War II, he served in an anti-aircraft defense unit based in Yerevan.[2] He received the title of a kandidat nauk from the Repin Leningrad Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in 1952.[4]

He died on September 8, 1973, aged 65, at his Yerevan home, after a long illness.[6][1]


Israyelian was inspired by traditional Armenian architecture, especially church architecture. He utilized many traditional designs in his projects.[7] In this aspect, he is seen as a follower of the neoclassical architect Alexander Tamanian. He also borrowed from the architecture of Mesopotamia (Sumer, Babylon, Assyria).[3][8] However, his work is contemporary.[3][9]


Israyelian created two memorials dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 1965. The better known monument is located at Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and was inaugurated on April 24, 1965. The second memorial is located Yerevan's Erebuni District. The latter was sculpted by Ara Harutyunyan.[10][11]

Israyelian's best-known memorial is the Sardarapat Memorial, near Araks, Armavir, erected in 1968.[11][9] It is dedicated to the 1918 Battle of Sardarabad, in which the Armenian forces stopped the advantage of Turkish forces towards Yerevan. He also designed memorials dedicated to self-defenses during the Armenian Genocide. The monument to 1915 Defense of Hachn, was erected in Nor Hachn in 1974 and the memorial of Musa Dagh in Musaler in 1976. The latter was sculpted by Ara Harutyunyan. The memorial of the 1918 Battle of Bash-Aparan was erected in Aparan in 1979.[11]

In 1967 a memorial designed by Israyelian was erected in the Armenian-populated village of Banants (Bayan) in Azerbaijan dedicated to the villagers killed in World War II.[11] The memorial was demolished around 1990 during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.[7]


In 1961 Israyelian designed two altars for Etchmiadzin Cathedral, Armenia's mother church: the Main Altar and the Altar of Descent.[11][6]

In 1971 the summer residence of the Catholicos of All Armenians, known as "Haykashen", was built in Byurakan according to Israyelian's design.[6]

Israyelian designed several Armenian churches both in Armenia and abroad. In Yerevan he designed reconstructions of two churches: St. Sargis and Saint John the Baptist. Both were completed after Israyelian's death. St. Sargis, which was entirely reconstructed, was completed in 1976.[11] Architect Artsrun Galikyan further contributed to the design after Israyelian's death.[12] The reconstruction of Saint John the Baptist church, designed by Israyelian, was completed in the 1980s. The reconstruction works were further developed by Baghdasar Arzoumanian and engineer Avetik Teknejian.[13]

Israyelian designed three churches in the Armenian diaspora: Holy Forty Martyrs Church in Milan, Italy (1958), St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York City (1968)[14] and Surp Nerses Shnorhali Cathedral in Montevideo, Uruguay (1968).[11][15] St. Vartan is the first Armenian cathedral built in the US.[16] It is based on classical Armenian church architecture,[17] namely the Saint Hripsime Church in Ejmiatsin.[18] According to some sources, it was designed by Walker O. Cain,[19] however, the Armenian church publications note Israyelian as its architect.[20] According to his website, it was designed by Israyelian, but because he could not travel to the US, its construction was supervised by Édouard Utudjian.[21]


Israyelian designed two structures at Victory Park in Yerevan. The first is the pedestal for the statue of Stalin, which has served as a museum of "Great Patriotic War" (World War II). It was completed in 1950. It is now also the pedestal of the monument Mother Armenia.[11] The second is the main entrance to the same park, completed a decade after his death, in 1982.[11]

Israyelian designed several popular monuments near prominent landmarks of Armenia. In 1957 "Eagle of Zvartnots", created with Yervand Kochar, near the 7th century Zvartnots Cathedral.[5][22] In the same year, on a small hill on the road to the temple of Garni, a monument known as the "Arch of Charents" was erected. It offers a panoramic view of Mount Ararat. It is often referred to as the "Arch of Ararat". Lines from a Yeghishe Charents poem glorifying the mountain are inscribed into the monument.[5] The "Lion of Geghard" was erected near the monastery of Geghard in 1958.[5] It was sculpted by Ara Harutyunyan.[5] The monument is inspired by the coat of arms of the Proshian noble family found inside Geghard.[7]

In 1960 a monument conventionally known as the "Western Entrance of Yerevan" was erected in the outskirts of Yerevan, facing those entering the capital from the direction of Vagharshapat (Ejmiatsin).[11]

Other buildings

Israyelian designed a number of structures and buildings for civic use. They include the Ararat Wine Factory in Yerevan (1937–1961);[11] the Kheres Wine Factory in Oshakan (1950s);[11] the Hrazdan Gorge Aqueduct in Yerevan (1950), with engineer G. Yeghoyan;[5] the building of the Union of Artists of Armenia in Yerevan (1955-56);[11] the Ethnographic Museum of Armenia near the Sardarapat Memorial (1977–78).[5] His design for Kevork Chavoush Museum in Ashnak village was completed in the 1980s.[7]

He also designed restaurants in Yerevan ("Aragil, 1957/1060),[5][11] Hrazdan ("Tsovinar", 1960),[11] and Vanadzor ("Kars", 1965).[11] Israyelian designed decorative drinking fountains at the courtyards of St. Hripsime (1958), Geghard (1959), Etchmiadzin Cathedral (1967), St. Gayane (1972), and in numerous villages and towns around Armenia (1943–46), including Parakar, Karbi, Stepanavan, Sisian, Byurakan, Artik, Goris, Ashtarak, Alaverdi, and Taperakan.[11]

He also designed the Kanaker Aluminium Plant (KanAZ) buildings (1948–50), a campus of the Yerevan Physics Institute on the slopes of Mount Aragats (1960), a large hotel (pansionat) in Sochi, Russia (1977), several residential buildings in Yerevan and other structures.[11]


Martiros Saryan and Artashes Hovsepyan created portraits of Israyelian. Grigor Khanjyan depicted him in the mural Revived Armenia (1999-2000).[23] A street in Yerevan was named after him.[24]

Israyelian's house in Yerevan, designed and built by himself, was demolished in October 2011 to make way for a hotel.[25] The Municipality of Yerevan stated that Israyelian's son, Vahagn, had sold the house earlier and gave formal permission to demolish it.[26]


Israyelian was awarded:[4]


  1. ^ a b Dolukhanian 2008, p. 119.
  2. ^ a b "Կյանքն ու հասարակական գործունեությունը [The Life and Social Activities]". rafaelisraelyan.com (in Armenian).
  3. ^ a b c Ryabushin, Alexander; Smolina, Nadia (1992). Landmarks of Soviet architecture, 1917-1991. Rizzoli. p. 74. ISBN 978-3433023341.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Տարեգրություն [Biography]". rafaelisraelyan.com (in Armenian).
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Babayan, L. (1978). "Իսրայելյան Ռաֆայել [Israyelian Rafayel]". Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia Volume 4 (in Armenian). pp. 419-420.
  6. ^ a b c d Editoral (1973). "Մահ ճարտարապետ Ռաֆայել Իսրայելյանի (1908-1973)". Etchmiadzin. 30 (9): 41–43.
  7. ^ a b c d Dolukhanian 2008, p. 120.
  8. ^ Architecture + Design, 1988, vol. 5, p. 25 "Rafael Israelyan. He has developed links with the Armenian tradition by drawing upon its origins which are close to ancient Assyrian forms"
  9. ^ a b Adalian, Rouben Paul (2010). Historical Dictionary of Armenia. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-8108-7450-3.
  10. ^ "Memorial in Tokhmakh neighborhood of Yerevan, Armenia". armenian-genocide.org. Armenian National Institute.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Կառույցների ցանկ [List of buildings]". rafaelisraelyan.com (in Armenian).
  12. ^ Hatitian, Artun; Shahbazian, Pargev (1976). "Երևանի ս. Սարգիս վերակառուցված առաջնորդանիստ եկեղեցու նավակատիքն ու օծումը". Etchmiadzin (in Armenian). 33 (10–11): 90. ...այս երկու ճարտարապետների՝ Ռաֆայել Իսրայելյանի և Արծրուն Գալիկյանի նախագծով...
  13. ^ "Սբ. Հովհաննես Մկրտիչ եկեղեցի [St. John the Baptist Church]". yerevan.am (in Armenian). Yerevan Municipality.
  14. ^ Dugan, George (29 April 1968). "Armenian Patriarch Consecrates Cathedral Here". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Dolukhanian 2008, p. 121.
  16. ^ "Armenian Church Focuses on Schism". The New York Times. 7 May 1973.
  17. ^ Blau, Eleanor (11 September 1981). "New Yorkers Reap Harvest of Autumn Fairs". The New York Times.
  18. ^ "May 5 Concert To Honor 50 Years of St. Vartan Cathedral". armenianchurch.us. Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. 1 April 2018. Even while it was under construction, he could see that St. Vartan Cathedral was modeled “along the lines of the 7th-century St. Hripsime Church in Armenia...
  19. ^ "23-Karat Gold Leaf; Dome of Armenian Cathedral Is Regilded". The New York Times. 5 December 1993.
  20. ^ Editorial (1982). "Հայագիտական հրատարակություններ [Publications on Armenian Studies]". Etchmiadzin (in Armenian). 39 (11–12).
  21. ^ "Նյու-Յորքի Սբ. Վարդան եկեղեցի". rafaelisraelyan.com (in Armenian).
  22. ^ "Փորձ է արվում նսեմացնել Երվանդ Քոչարի ստեղծագործական ժառանգությունը". am.am (in Armenian). AM Law Firm. 11 February 2016. Archived from the original on 11 April 2019.
  23. ^ "Իսրայելյանը նկարինչների նկարներում". rafaelisraelyan.com (in Armenian).
  24. ^ "Streets of Yerevan of municipal significance" (PDF). yerevan.am (in Armenian).
  25. ^ "Prominent Armenian architect's house demolished in Yerevan (video)". Tert.am. 10 October 2011.
  26. ^ "Երեւանի քաղաքապետարան. Ռաֆայել Իսրայելյանի որդին համաձայնություն է տվել առանձնատան տեղում բազմաֆունկցիոնալ շենքի կառուցմանը". mediamax.am (in Armenian). 11 October 2011. Archived from the original on 12 April 2019.
  • Dolukhanian, Lola (2008). "Ռաֆայել Իսրայելյան. ստեղծագործության և իր մասին [Raphael Israelian: On him and his works]". Etchmiadzin. 64 (10): 118–122.
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