Use of Building
1901 to mid-1920s or 1930s: Tiflis Bank
Pre-soviet times: Fillifpojanz Coffee Shop. On the first floor there used to be a coffee shop that is mentioned in the novel "Ali & Nino" by Said Kurban (pen name), which was published in Austria in the German language in 1937. Archival photographs exist showing this coffee shop sign.
Beginning in mid-1920s or 1930s: Baku City Bank
Ending in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union: The Knowledge Society
Mid-1990s to present: Impro Shop (appliances sold on 1st floor)
2004 to present: Ataturk Center (2nd floor)
Tiflis Bank (from Tbilisi, Georgia) was one of the many banks constructed in Baku at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.
However, the Tiflis Bank was more luxurious than the other banks, both inside and out. During Soviet times, the Baku branch of the Tiflis Bank was closed and the building was assigned to the Baku City Bank.
Afterwards, Baku City Bank was moved elsewhere and the building became a center for the Knowledge Society (Bilik Jamiyyati) where lectures were given covering a wide range of topics - from history and physics to Yoga and the possibility of life on other planets. The popular lectures were read by distinguished scientists and experts. Anyone could attend them. Announcements were posted around town. Occasionally, lectures were not free and tickets had to be bought.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the role of the Knowledge Society diminished due to lack of funds. Then the building was granted to the Ataturk Center by President Heydar Aliyev. After being entirely refurbished, the building was opened in October 2004. The Ataturk Center works for cultural collaboration between Turkey and Azerbaijan. In the past, this center had rented rooms from the Institute of Manuscripts of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences.
The Tiflis Bank was built in a very decorative and artistic modern style by the interior use of bas-relief with stucco and the exterior use of stone carvings. Both the ornaments inside the building as well as outside bear a relationship to each other in design. The architects Kalgin and Ter Mikelov incorporated the use of the local architectural traditions and motifs in the ornamentation of the building, specifically in the use of flowers, vines, leaves, branches, fruits and garlands.
Unfortunately, some of the ornamental details on the exterior of the building were damaged when they were sandblasted in the mid-1990s. This was one of the earliest buildings after Independence (1991) to attempt to clean off nearly a century of grime from its façade. During such early attempts, the technicians seem not to have been well trained in the use of such powerful equipment. Consequently, some of the fine details have been worn away. The damage is irreparable.
The interior of the Ataturk Center is especially beautiful and well worth a visit. The first impression delights you the moment you step inside the entrance. The walls are painted a delicious pink. Attention has been paid to every detail from the vestibule, the stairs, handrails, marble columns, to the stained glass window and transparent skylight.
The main hall
on the second floor, in delightful pastels of peach, yellow,
light green and sand colors, has a delightful round shape with
a very large table arranged in a circle. The main focal point
in the room is the ceiling, which culminates with an elaborate
chandelier in the center of the room. The adjacent rooms are
much more simple in design.