#bgsocarch game
February 3, 2024
The architecture of the town of Loznitsa
February 3, 2024

TOTALPROJECT. The unknown architectural modernity


Toplocentrala Regional Centre for Contemporary Arts, Sofia




Aneta Vasileva
Emilia Kaleva

What does the architecture of the town of Loznitsa, Zone B5 housing estate, the art gallery and history museum in Kazanlak, Lozichka kindergarten in Sofia’s Lozenets district, Ruse Airport and the pedestrian areas in Shumen have in common?

They all represent varying perspectives of postwar modern architecture in Bulgaria as part of the exhibition TOTALPROEKT. The Invisible Architecture of Modernity staged in Sofia’s Toplocentrata Regional Centre for Contemporary Arts.

The main theme of the exhibition is the yet unknown architecture of Bulgaria built following World War II, which has been reinterpreted in the context of the total art of the postwar era and the developing modernity. Through six differing case studies in use, typology and location in Bulgaria, this project assembles the ideal city of postwar architectural modernity and traces the Bulgarian version of the postwar Gesamtkunstwerk – the holistic connection across all levels of a piece of architecture – from urban design, through space and structure, to detail and arts in the design.

Alongside the exhibition, 6 special events were hosted, each as a talk for each presented case study. The exhibition attracted c.5000 visitors and was accomplished with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Bulgaria joining the European Union. TOTALPROEKT is a project dedicated to the need to re-evalue and collectively develop our shared European architectural heritage, which aims to demonstrate yet another possible perspective of European architecture in the twentieth century. 

Team: Nikola Yanev, Viktoriya Dimitrova, Iva Hasamska, Teodora Madanska, Zekie Emin, Lilyana Todorova, Dayana Nikolova, Georgi Marhov. Mustafa Hayrulov, Yordan Yordanov, Gergana Ilieva, Vanya Dimitrova, Ivo Dimitrov

Partners: Toplocentrata Regional Centre for Contemporary Arts, Sofia, Ministry of Culture, Centre for Scientific Research and Design – UACEG, Bulgarian National Committee of ICOMOS, DOCOMOMO Bulgaria, Sofiaplan Municipal Enterprise, Chamber of Bulgarian Architects, Union of Bulgarian Architects, Sofia Municipality, District Municipalities – Vazrazhdane, Lozenets, Izgrev, Ruse Municipality, Loznitsa Municipality, Shumen Municipality, Art Gallery and Regional History Museum in Kazanlak, Imp-Act Communication Agency

Case Studies:

Ruse Airport

The 1960s marked the rise of Bulgarian civil aviation, which led to a proliferation of newly-built regional airports. The most noteworthy of which is the Arrivals Hall of Ruse Airport.

Built between 1972 and 1976 by local architect Yordan Boyadjiev, this modernist box stands out with its uncompromising attention to architectural detail, in exterior and interior alike, an exceptional level of synthesis of architecture with the monumental and decorative arts, and bold, but well thought out structural solutions.

Various interpretations of the theme of ‘flight’ appear throughout all layers of the architecture and design at the airport. From the site plan to the individual pieces of furniture – abstract images of aeroplanes and birds with outstretched wings intertwine in spaces creating a sense of weightlessness and levitation to prepare the passengers for their flight.

Loznitsa Town

How does an oriental village turn into a modernist town? The rapid modernisation is one of the most distinct signs of the 20th century and especially of the postwar era. This process fundamentally changed the lives of Bulgarians all around the country. The town of Loznitsa, Razgrad region, is an example of a total metamorphosis – from an ordinary village it turns into a distinguished example of modernity, shaped by a high quality postwar architectural environment. Architect Stoyko Donchev works with momentum – from the main urban planning concept, which divides the city centre into three main areas with different uses, to the smallest details in the buildings and the spaces around them – colourful stained glass windows, reminiscent of Mondrian’s work, concrete screens with geometric shapes, wood carvings, flooring and cladding… All of them are interconnected and skillfully repeated in all major buildings and spaces, but with small and logical changes that give them their own distinguished character.

What makes Loznitsa so fascinating is that it is itself a small modernist utopia shaped by the creative impulses of a single architect.  

Lozichka Kindergarten

After the end of World War II, in Bulgaria begаn a process of rapid modernisation. The widespread construction of schools, kindergartens and nurseries in standalone buildings is part of this development. A prime example from this period is the No.192 ‘Lozichka’ kindergarten in Sofia’s Lozenets district.

It was completed in 1952 under the supervision of the architect Lilyana Boseva and is a compact symmetrical pavilion. The axis of symmetry can be readily traced from the entrance of the property, through the expansive garden with lush vegetation to the symmetrically organised spaces in the volume of the building. Two large balconies are symmetrically located at each of the two floor levels, which seamlessly blend into the greenery of the large garden. In such a manner each of the four children’s groups are provided with easily accessible outdoor spaces.

The interpretation of architectural elements from the Bulgarian National Revival style is visible both in the design of the balconies and in the details and materials used – wood and stonework.

Kazanlak Art Gallery and History Museum

The Kazanlak Art Gallery, also known as ‘The Beauty in the Limelight’ due to its gleaming white limestone facades opened its doors in 1981. The building is a lesson in using natural materials and in creating generous open spaces, which are on par with the finest of buildings of the time from across Europe and the world.

The solid limestone façade does not reveal the surprise visitors are in for. The interior of the building is truly spectacular – an unexpected, wide, open space. At the centre of the building is an atrium, which is half a level lower than the entrance. Generous sets of stairs spiral up and around the atrium and gradually draw visitors up. At each half-level an exhibition hall opens up and the dynamic spatial sequence creates a lot of enticing views up and down across the atrium. The spiral in plan finishes with a ramp of sorts, made of deep and shallow steps that bid a slow farewell to visitors. The visitors flow is carefully considered and transforms the buildings into a total work of art – from the solid oak entrance door to the polychromatic stone floor finishes.

Zone B5 Housing Estate

Zone B5 shows the ambitious project of a modernist residential district for 17 000 residents, conceived as a benchmark of  housing construction of the period. Unlike many monotonous pre-fab panel housing estates, the architectural team behind the Zone designed picturesque courtyard spaces and a variety of public buildings. Thus, during the 1980s the high-rise buildings of this showcase district replaced the deteriorating urban fabric consisting of one and two storey houses of Sofia’s Dimitrovski district.

Only four years after Zone B5 was completed, the Iron Curtain fell and during the 1990s and the Transition period, the neighbourhood was transformed to an extreme often compared to a ghetto. Some of the first Bulgarian graffiti started to pop up over the walls of the modernist utopia. The Zone became a focal point for self-made and extravagant artists without whose contribution Sofia would not be present on many contemporary art stages. Zone B5 proved how architecture could influence not only its environment but also the life, behaviour and development of the people living there. Truly, a modern, gothic, sci-fi place.

Pedestrian Areas in Shumen

“…During the development of the project, the efforts of the design collective were primarily aimed at creating a peaceful environment for recreation and social activities. At the same time, the main goal was to preserve the human scale of the historically formed center of the city…” – words by the architects Dobril Dobrev and Ivo Petrov in the 1980s.

Long before it was popular to talk about ‘cities for people’ or the ’15-minute city’, two architects, born far away from Copenhagen,chose to put cars second by creating a design based on a ratio of 2:1 road lanes in favour of the pedestrians. They preserved the human scale in the environment, demonstrated great attention to details, created generous greenery. The terracing across the site, which broke down the rhythm of what would have otherwise been a long and monotonous lane, transformed Shumen as the only city in Bulgaria with a city centre spread across three levels.

The project led to the development of pedestrian infrastructure, which serves a large part of the key buildings in Shumen, including the ‘Founders of the Bulgarian State’ monument and the Shumen Plateau.

Publications in the media:

The exhibition ‘TOTALPROEKT: The Invisible Architecture of Modernity’ opened on 29th June 2022 in the Sofia art space ‘Toplocentrala. The unique exhibition tells the stories of 6 buildings and spaces in Bulgaria and its opening gathered nearly 400 people.

Read the entire article (in Bulgarian)

Children are playing in the green spaces of their kindergarten. It starts to rain and their teacher gathers them back inside. They climb up the steps to the generous balcony and continue their outdoor games sheltered from the elements without needing to stay inside. The gaps in the balustrade are cut out in the shape of a little girl. Through them views are allowed out to the heavy wet greenery. A child is thirsty and goes back inside.

Read the entire article (in Bulgarian)

Where many see a mere building, architect Aneta Vasileva sees layers of history. She teaches at UACEG, founder of the platform for architectural criticism and writing WhATA, and now is developing the foundation ‘New Architectural Heritage’, the first event of which is the exhibition ‘TOTALPROEKT: The Invisible Architecture of Modernity’ at the Regional Centre for Contemporary Arts ‘Toplocentrala’ in Sofia.

Read the entire article (in Bulgarian)

A new exhibition in Sofia is taking a closer look at six examples of post-war architecture in Bulgaria, from a kindergarten to a planned neighborhood and an airport, with the hope of providing answers and maybe, a whole new perspective. 

If you haven’t heard of post war architecture Bulgaria, you’re probably not alone. Bulgaria’s contributions in this area are still an obscure part of the Eastern Europe architecture of the 20th century. This legacy is largely overlooked also by Bulgarians themselves.

Read the entire article (in English)

The exhibition TOTALPROEKT by NAH (New Architectural Heritage foundation) in partnership with Toplocentrala opened at the end of June and is curated by architects Aneta Vasileva and Emilia Kaleva. Visited by many and receving a lot of critical acclaim showed that this is a major event not only for our architectural industry but also for the wider society, which interacts with the architecture of this period on a daily basis.

Read the entire article (in Bulgarian)

The TOTALPROEKT exhibition showing the invisible Bulgarian architecture of modernity can be seen from 29th June until 21 August 2022 at the While Cube gallery of the Toplocentrala Regional Centre for Contemporary Arts

Watch the entire video interview (in Bulgarian)

What is common between the architecture of Loznitsa Town, Zone B5 housing estate, the Art Gallery and Museum in Kazanlak, the Lozichka Kindergarten in Sofia’s Lozenets district, Ruse Airport, and the pedestrian areas in Shumen?

They all present different facets of the postwar modern architecture in Bulgaria and are case studies presented in the TOTALPROEKT exhibition, which can be seen from 29th June until 21 August 2022 in the White Cube gallery in the newest multi-functional arts space in Sofia.

Listen to the entire interview (in Bulgarian)

New Architectural Heritage

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