Bulgarian modernism is one of Sofia’s best-kept secrets. It’s predominantly in the city center of Bulgaria’s capital where you’ll find prime examples of Bulgarian modernist architecture. Following WW1 and the two Balkan wars, Bulgaria saw a drastic change in the period between the two world wars. Naturally, that was also reflected in the architecture.
The years between the two world wars in Bulgaria were a very dynamic period in terms of the changes in stylistic trends. The 1920s was a period of coexistence of different architectural trends such as Art Deco, echoes of Art Nouveau, and different eclectic styles. On the contrary, the beginning of the 1930s was the time of the consolidation of the new trend of the Modern Movement with its distinguishable features like the clearness of the form, functionality, lack of redundant ornamentation, horizontalism, etc. but sometimes with some elegant local taste.
This was also the time of intensive growth of the urban population. As a result of that in Sofia, a great number of new multistory cooperative buildings emerged and formed the modern look of the central streets of the Bulgarian capital. Also, new administrative buildings were built in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s – government buildings, office buildings for Bulgarian and foreign companies, schools, hotels, concert halls, and cinemas.
All the architects were graduates of the High Technical Schools in Germany, Austria, France, Italy, etc. They were not only taught architecture but were also part of the dynamic cultural life of the important European cities. It is also important to mention that among those architects there were many women who studied architecture in the 1920s. They were active participants in the completion of the new modernist look of Sofia and other Bulgarian cities.
Sofia boasts many modernist architecture examples, including residential buildings, cultural and state institutions. In this article, we are looking at the 8 most recognizable such buildings in Sofia.
Sofia, Bulgarian National Bank
Knyaz Al.Batenberg Sq. 1
architects: Ivan Vassilyov, Dimitar Tsolov, and B. Kapitanov
The building is an example of the style of the modernized neoclassicism widely spread in the Bulgarian architecture of important public buildings since the mid-1930s. The plastic figure is a work of the sculptor Kiril Shivarov.
Sofia, Bulgaria Hotel and Concert Complex
4 Tsar Osvoboditel blvd.
architects: Stancho Belkovski and Ivan Danchov
The complex consists of a hotel, restaurant, and concert hall. Because of the situation from the beginning of the 1930s with the older buildings in the quarter, the new building has 4 individual façades – 1 on Tsar Osvoboditel blvd., 2 on Aksakov str. and one on Georgi Benkovski str. The hotel part together with the restaurant and the winter garden is located along Tsar Osvoboditel blvd. The concert hall is located in the center of the quarter and is accessible from each one of the 3 streets. The entrance from Georgi Benkovski str. is only for the administration and the artists.
Today the only public entrance to the concert hall is from Aksakov str. After its opening, the other entrance was in use – from Tsar Osvoboditel blvd. Because of the inclination of the terrain (the ground floor on the boulevard and the 1st balcony are on the same level) this entrance leads to the huge and 2-floors high foyer of the 1-st balcony.
In 1944, during the bombing of Sofia in World War II, the concert hall has been hit by a bomb. The 1937 Sauer organ has been completely destroyed. In the years after the end of the War, the hall was restored. The original chandeliers were not preserved and changed with new ones. The new Schuke organ was built in 1974.
Nedkov and Urumov apartment buildings
48 and 59 Vitosha blvd.
architects: Radoslav Radoslavov and Konstantin Dzhangozov
Both the buildings form a complex on one of the corners of Vitosha blvd. They are one of the most impressive apartment buildings in Sofia because of the fact that they follow Le Corbusier’s Five Points of Architecture completely:
Sofia, apartment building
37 Moskovska str.
architect: Victoria Angelova-Vinarova
first half of 1930s
This is one of the valuable examples of 1930s apartment buildings in Sofia. The apartments are spacious, with functional tracts. The building with its 6 floors has a Schindler elevator and also service lifts for the kitchens. The mosaic (displayed in the photo) is extremely remarkable and probably is the only example of this kind of decoration of the apartment buildings from the mid and late 1930s.
Sofia, cooperative apartment building
27 William Gladstone str.
architect: Vassil Vassilev
This building is one of the most interesting examples among the 1940s apartment buildings in Sofia. It has a stone tiling façade, huge windows, curved glass parts, and pergolas. The exterior, as well as the interior, is dominated by the curved forms, which can be seen even in the curved entrance doors of the apartments. The lobby is spacious and remarkable with the ribbed suspended ceiling and geometrical motifs on the floor. Although the building has only 3 floors, it has an elevator.
National Health Institute
Sofia, 26 Yanko Sakuzov blvd.
architects: Todor Zlatev and Dimitar Koev
This edifice was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.
Sofia, State Archive Building
Sofia, 5 Moskovska st.
architect: Assen Mihaylovski
Built as the Generali insurance company building (Assicurazioni Generali), today it houses the Archives State Agency.
Sofia, Residential House
Tzar Osvoboditel blvd.,
architects: Ivan Vassiliov and Dimiter Tsolov
This house is an exceptional example of a good renovation of a building from the Modern Movement in Bulgaria. The reconstruction has been done considering the original materials, colors, and mechanisms (for example sliding doors).
This is a guest article, written by Vasil Makarinov – founder of Bulgarian Modernist Architecture. For more information and countless examples of Bulgarian Modernism, make sure to follow their page.
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