Many strategic and program documents of Sofia Municipality indicate that Sofia must actively work to preserve and promote the architectural layer of the second half of the twentieth century. The need for identification and protection of significant models in Bulgarian architecture, created after the Second World War, is specified in the Development Plan of Sofia Municipality 2014 - 2020, the Integrated Plan for Urban Reconstruction and Development (IPGVR), the long-term strategy for development of Sofia. Municipality "Vision for Sofia", the Plan for integrated development of the municipality - Program for Sofia. The interest in our new architectural heritage is confirmed by a number of studies in the field of tourism and international publications on the subject, which emphasise the need to identify and preserve it as a prerequisite for the development of cultural diversity, tourism and economy in the municipality.
The architectural heritage of the second half of the twentieth century is attracting global interest and a growing number of international initiatives related to it. As early as 1991, the Council of Europe issued special "Guidelines for the Preservation of the Architectural Heritage of the Twentieth Century", in which it recommended that European governments "develop strategies for identifying, preserving, restoring and promoting twentieth-century architecture". In recent decades, this architectural layer is among the priorities of global expert organisations such as DOCOMOMO (International Organisation for Documentation and Preservation of Buildings and Landmarks of the Modern Movement) and ICOMOS (International Expert Organisation for Cultural Heritage with a specialised scientific committee on the heritage of the Twentieth Century ISC20C).
Bulgaria lags far behind these global processes of preservation, development and promotion of this new architectural heritage. In our country, the architecture of the twentieth century and especially of its second half is still considered relatively "young" and close to us. As a result, it is deprived of an objective assessment and measures for protection and purposeful use, despite the huge number of sites created in this period - buildings, public spaces and infrastructure. Only a few sites built in the country after 1944 are entered in the National Register of Immovable Cultural Property. Only one of them - Bells Park, is located on the territory of Sofia Municipality. This puts at risk potentially valuable examples from our recent architectural past throughout the country.
Large and visible buildings and complexes built in Bulgaria after 1944 are usually placed under a common denominator, labelled "socialist" and "communist heritage", without taking into account the fact that among them there are valuable examples of their time, reflecting locally global cultural and architectural phenomena in the twentieth century. Centralised socialist construction seriously changed much of Bulgaria's living environment. The rapid modernization after the Second World War necessitated mass construction, which produced not only utilitarian but also unique sites. Thus, the architecture of this period forms the appearance of most public spaces in Bulgaria and a significant part of the built environment to this day.
These are material evidences from a specific past period in the history of Bulgaria, which is characterised by the large scale of its public investments, the achieved in some cases high levels of architectural and artistic synthesis, as well as the clear connection at all stages of design and construction - from urban planning through architecture to detail. This principle of complex approach in the general case has left a rich legacy of quality samples that are awaiting recognition as architectural and cultural potential. They have long aroused serious tourist interest among Bulgarian citizens and international tourists.
Increasingly, this architectural layer in Bulgaria is undergoing serious transformations, leading to depersonalization or destruction. All museums, galleries, administrative buildings, schools and kindergartens, hotels and squares, theatres and libraries are part of our daily lives, permanently inhabited and still far from the patina of heritage from previous periods - such as ancient mosaics, medieval fortresses and Renaissance houses. Therefore, being "newer", they are not perceived as potentially valuable and therefore easily and recently too often threatened by irreversible reconstructions. Some popular examples from Sofia are the thermal insulation of the visible concrete of the Russian Cultural Information Centre in Sofia, or the ruined Ropotamo restaurant and the Fairy confectionery. All of them are iconic buildings, which, although created during the socialist period, are a marker for the modernization efforts of the era.
The New Architectural Heritage initiative offers the following steps to identify, protect and promote the architectural values built in Bulgaria after 1944.
1. Identifying the need for representation of the new architectural heritage
Based on international experience in the field and locally conducted research and analysis, a number of strategic documents of Sofia Municipality such as Municipal Development Plan, Integrated Plan for Urban Reconstruction and Development, Vision for Sofia, Sofia Program, indicate the need for targeted research of this layer and identification of significant examples of it to be protected as cultural property.
2. Research, analysis and evaluation
The municipal enterprise Sofiaplan assigns the Centre for Research and Design at UACEG to prepare a specific proposal for samples of Bulgarian post-war architecture on the territory of Sofia Municipality, with potential for cultural heritage. The UACEG team in partnership with the Bulgarian National Committee of ICOMOS is going through a nearly two-year process of collecting and categorising information and analysing the qualities of various sites from the period in Sofia.
As a result of the research, a hierarchical long list of over 100 sites has been prepared, among which there are buildings, complexes, urban structures and urban spaces, park spaces, architectural and sculptural ensembles, etc.
A selection of potential sites with the most distinct qualities of cultural heritage has been prepared, which at the same time are at the highest risk of loss of value. This is a hierarchical short list of 15 individual and 7 group immovable cultural properties.
Of these, detailed arguments for cultural significance have been prepared for 15 individual and one group sites under the Cultural Heritage Act.
4. Presentation and discussion
The initiative is at the stage of public presentation and discussion of the project results. Representatives of the team are in the process of holding meetings with the owners of the buildings, the administration of Sofia Municipality, institutions, branch organisations and various stakeholders in order to collect, analyse and reflect the feedback on the project.
5. Establishment of the New Architectural Heritage Foundation
The New Architectural Heritage Foundation has been established to inherit the results and to continue the initiative for preservation, development and promotion of the most distinctive architectural sites in our recent history.
The newly formed foundation will initiate and create various communication campaigns, activities and projects with the aim to inform and educate the general public and to promote vivid examples of Bulgarian architecture and culture from the period both globally and in our country. Among the activities of the foundation will be maintenance of the website nan.bg with constantly updated information about remarkable sites built after 1944; information materials and books; creating, conducting and promoting tourist tours and routes; events; social media campaigns; projects, etc. The Foundation will work with institutions for the benefit of building owners of the new architectural heritage to demonstrate and validate opportunities for their future preservation, development and integration into the diverse urban environment and public life.
7. Proposing specific sites for protection as "immovable cultural property"
For the mentioned 15 + 1 sites, the foundation will seek protection as a cultural heritage according to the requirements of the Bulgarian legislation.
8. Preservation and development of the New Architectural Heritage
In the long run, the initiative should work in two main directions:
1. Popularisation of the new architectural heritage of Bulgaria at home and abroad;
2. Promotion of the new architectural heritage as a resource for development; Cooperation with institutions and municipalities in Bulgaria to establish, expand and promote the benefits of listing the new architectural heritage as "immovable cultural property", in the interest of both owners of sites of this architectural layer and society as whole.
The status of "immovable cultural property" in our country is usually associated with complicated procedures for coordination of construction and repair activities and other administrative burdens. However, with the modernization of institutions and municipalities, as well as with the increase of the opportunities provided by European funding, this status can bring more and more benefits and opportunities for development:
the owners are exempt from tax buildings and can take advantage of applying for funding under European, national, municipal programs;
with the growing interest of the active and younger generations in the culture of the twentieth century, the sites can be used and developed as cultural and tourist attractions;
expertly prepared regimes to the proposed statutes not only impose bans, but also offer opportunities for site development.
As buildings of newer architectural heritage are usable and used, they have a dynamic need for improvements and renovations, such as increasing their energy efficiency. Therefore, the protection proposals created within the project offer protection regimes (site boundaries and prescriptions for future interventions), which try on the one hand to preserve the value characteristics of the sites, but on the other hand seek to meet the needs of their owners and users. The aim is for the regimes to be algorithms for sustainable development in accordance with the qualities of the sites.
The challenge of providing sufficient funds for the preservation and maintenance of cultural monuments in a way that is fair to society remains on the agenda. This challenge is valid for every historical period and the initiative "New Architectural Heritage" aims not only to add new sites formally protected by law, but in cooperation with owners, investors and institutions to find working mechanisms for effective protection of values. The preservation of the values of our new architectural heritage will ensure the multi-layered nature of modern Bulgarian cities and will preserve their diversity - a prerequisite for their economic, social and cultural development.
Potential Sites for Protection as a Cultural Heritage
First sites proposed for protection as cultural heritage
Boyana State Residence Complex
Vitosha New Otani Hotel / Kempinski / Marinela
State residence in Bankya (former Government Spa)
Indoor tennis hall "Sofia"
Russian Cultural Information Centre (former House of the Soviet Science and Culture)
112 "Children's World" Kindergarten
Interpred World Trade Centre
122 Nikolay Liliev Primary School
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Residential building on Korab Planina Street and Babuna Planina Street
192 Kindergarten "Lozichka"
Cooperative apartment buildings at 37 Solunska Street and 41 Solunska Street
Sites with an upcoming proposal for protection
Largo — a complex of buildings of the former Party House / now the National Assembly, Council of Ministers, Presidency, Central Department Store, Balkan Hotel / Sheraton together with square space, the churches of St. George and St. Petka and subways with restoration and exposing the Eastern Gate of ancient Serdica
National Palace of Culture — complex, approaches and park
Residential complex "Zone B5"
Residential complex "Yavorov" (former residential complex "Lenin")
Residential complex "Vladimir Zaimov"
Experimental housing group in "Motopista" district — complex
Community and Previous Initiatives
Various groups, associations and institutions have been working on the topic of architectural heritage since 1944 in recent years:
— Ministry of Culture, National Institute for Immovable Cultural Heritage and Sofia Municipality, with the international European project ATRIUM - Architecture of the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century in urban government;
— Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, with a series of research projects;
— University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy with research and educational projects, lecture course and a growing number of student projects;
— Union of Architects in Bulgaria with the initiative "White Paper of Modernism";
— Bulgarian section of DOCOMOMO International;— ICOMOS Bulgaria through various initiatives of its members.
The New Architectural Heritage Initiative is a continuation of these efforts, and through the example of Sofia aims to propose concrete steps for the evaluation, protection, development and promotion of Bulgarian architecture after the Second World War.