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Bulgarian & Greek properties blog

16th August 2017 10:14 AM

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Sofia doesn’t differ that much from other cities. Every city (and even village) has its remainings from earlier times, witnessing about the city’s history. Also, Sofia has its own typical sequence of architectural periods parallel to its chapters in history. But as for most post communist European countries, the communist era was the last but one and the latest era is one of renovation and updating the architectural style to the global one of steel and glass. Compared to the rest of the world Europe has not even the highest skyscrapers and most inventive architectural styles and Bulgaria is only at the beginning with its newest of 126 m high.
Image: Downtown Sofia Boby Dimitrov. © Boby Dimitrov from Sofia, Bulgaria (Downtown Sofia) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Skyline of Sofia

Skyline with Vitosha on Background
© Podoboq from Sofia, Bulgaria [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Watch the skyline of Sofia to convince yourself that the Vitosha mountain on the background is more impressing than the few skyscrapers in the cityscape. However, glittering in the sunset the modern building are the best indication that the era of steel and concrete has started.

Sofia has over 600,000 residences and over 100,000 buildings. About 40,000 homes date from before 1949. Since 1949 between 10,000–20,000 buildings are constructed per decade. That way some 120,000 date from between 1950 and 1969, nearly 290,000 between 1970 and 1989, nearly 60,000 were built in the 90s and just over 100,000 between 2000 and 2011.

The different styles in Sofia’s architecture combines vary from Christian Roman architecture and medieval Bulgar fortresses to Neoclassicism and prefabricated Socialist-era apartment blocks. Some of these are aesthetically incompatible and declare the chaotic impression of the city.

Some preserved classical constructions

In the centre of the city you can find the ancient Roman, Byzantine and medieval Bulgarian buildings. As there are:

The 4th century Rotunda of St. George

Rotunda Sveti Georgi, Sofia

Rotunda Sveti Georgi, Sofia – © Ann Wuyts [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Rotonda “Sveti Georgi” is an Early Christian rotunda in red brick that is viewed as the most established working in Sofia. It is 9.5m in section and is around 14m high. It’s block dividers are a noteworthy 1.40m thick. The building is arranged in the midst of stays of the antiquated town of Serdica. It is still uncertain what it’s original function was. Some say it was for bathing, other give it a religious funtion. Sovereign Constantine the Incomparable transformed the Rotunda into a Christian temple, until the attack of Attila’s Huns, when it was totally wrecked. It was reproduced during emperor Justinian. During the rule of sultan Selim I (sixteenth century), the congregation was transformed into a mosque, the ‘Gyul Mosque’. It’s construction got a minaret and the Early Christian craftsmanship was painted over with Islamic components. The first frescoes (3 layers) were just revealed amid reclamation works in the twentieth century.

The walls of the Serdica fortress

Remains of Serdica fortress walls in central market hall, Sofia

Remains of Serdica fortress walls in central market hall, Sofia – © Apostoloff (Self-photographed) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Artially preserved Amphitheatre of Serdica

Amphitheatre of Serdica, Sofia

Amphitheatre of Serdica, Sofia – © Epaunov72 (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The architecture after the Liberation War

Knyaz Alexander Battenberg invited architects from Austria–Hungary to shape the new capital’s architectural appearance. Among them were Friedrich Grünanger, Adolf Václav Kolář, and Viktor Rumpelmayer, who designed the most important public buildings needed by the newly re-established Bulgarian government, as well as numerous houses for the country’s elite. Later, many foreign-educated Bulgarian architects also contributed. The architecture of Sofia’s centre is thus a combination of Neo-Baroque, Neo-Rococo, Neo-Renaissance and Neoclassicism, with the Vienna Secession also later playing an important part, but it is most typically Central European.

After World War II

The establishment of a Communist government in Bulgaria in 1944 caused a substantially altered architectural style. Stalinist Gothic public buildings emerged in the centre, notably the spacious government complex around The Largo, Vasil Levski Stadium, the Cyril and Methodius National Library and others. As the city grew outwards, the then-new neighbourhoods were dominated by many concrete tower blocks, prefabricated panel apartment buildings and examples of Brutalist architecture. They still make Sofia’s housing very high compared to post-Western block countries.

Examples of the Brutalist architecture

Sofia Central Railway Station

Central Railway Station Sofia

Central Railway Station Sofia – © Bin im Garten (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Interior central railway station, Sofia

Interior central railway station, Sofia – By Gerg2013 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Buzludzha Monument

Buzludzha monument in the balkan, Bulgaria

Buzludzha monument in the balkan, Bulgaria – © Mark Ahsmann (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Hotel Rodina

Sofia Hotel Rodina near Russki pametnik

Sofia Hotel Rodina near Russki pametnik – © Bin im Garten (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In the post communist era (since 1989)

Tsarigradsko Shose and Capital Fort, the highest building in Sofia (126 m)

Tsarigradsko Shose and Capital Fort, the highest building in Sofia (126 m)
© Serdik (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

After the abolition of Communism in 1989, Sofia witnessed the construction of whole business districts and neighbourhoods, as well as modern skryscraper-like glass-fronted office buildings, but also top-class residential neighbourhoods. The 126-metre (413 ft) Capital Fort Business Center will be the first skyscraper in Bulgaria, with 36 floors. However, the end of the old administration and centrally planned system also paved the way for chaotic and unrestrained construction, which continues today.

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