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The architects of the socialist era were all but "brainwashed"

28 May 2014 / 13:05:03  GRReporter
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    This is mainly due to their similar function. One of the main features of an office building is the row of rooms with no strictly defined function, and its unsettled purpose does not imply a particular image. Maybe the top of this unsettled purpose in terms of functions is present in the glass skyscrapers by Mies van der Rohe that are a universal space, expandable in height, used for momentary needs and reconstructed many times. The office building itself is a building with an unsettled purpose, because the functions it houses constantly change, which is why it remains largely unrelated to the image. And architecture differs from sculpture in terms of the relationship between function and image too. Beyond this relationship, the search for an image in architecture often leads to formalism.
    How does the Largo in Sofia fit the architectural concept of the Eastern Bloc?
    Except for the Stalinist baroque, the architectural trends in the countries of the former Eastern bloc followed the specifics of the relevant culture and the influences of the global architectural trends. For example, I really like the Hungarian architecture of the last socialist decade, especially the exceptional works by Imre Makovec, as well as the Armenian and Latvian architecture. These are radically different architectures. The Largo in Sofia does not match any universal socialist architectural views, although it dates back to the period of Stalinist baroque. It seems that it resists them, which we previously mentioned, creating the impression that it follows them.
    Is there another country on this side of the Wall that adapted the representative socialist architecture to the previous appearance of the city?
    Yes, at many places. One of the best examples of the integration of this type of architecture is in Russia itself, in the Moscow Kremlin. In addition to the Vatican, the Kremlin is probably the only centre of power operating from the Middle Ages to this day. There are exceptional buildings and structures of various ages in the Kremlin. The Kremlin Palace of Congresses was built among them too. It was completed in 1961 and its purpose was to house party congresses, conferences, and to act as the second stage of the Bolshoi Theatre. The building of the Kremlin Palace of Congresses was designed and constructed with sophistication and it is very modern even today. It corresponds to its epoch and, at the same time, it is part of an architectural ensemble that has been formed over the centuries. The Kremlin Palace of Congresses actually was the first major public building that marked the end of the Stalinist baroque. Later it became a model for other convention centres in the capitals of the socialist countries, including the Bulgarian National Palace of Culture (the structure of the main halls in it almost literally copied the massive and spatial organization of the halls in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses).
    Do you think that the buildings around the Largo have adapted to the new urban environment?
    The Largo complex is a closed complex and its unity is internal. Now the complex has lost its integrity, as it is open towards Todor Alexandrov Avenue. We have already mentioned that the complex resembles a roofless hall. According to the design project created in 1952 by a team led by P. Tashev, the fourth side of this "room" was supposed to be closed by a tall building, the House of Councils. However, only the three sides were completed and the statue of St. Sophia in the place of the fourth is a weak accent to compete the "hall". Therefore, Todor Alexandrov Avenue seems to "rush into" the Largo, breaking the composition. The Largo is awaiting its appropriate architectural completion.
    If we disregard the fact that the Largo complex was built for the Communist Party, the buildings in it are of exceptionally high quality in terms of implementation and form a separate centre of state power. Therefore, in my opinion, it would be appropriate if the Parliament, the main institution of power, moves to this complex to complete, along with the Presidency and the Council of Ministers, the conceptual integrity and the functional continuity of the Largo.
    How could we use the Mausoleum of Georgi Dimitrov if it were not demolished 15 years ago?
    Immediately after the democratic changes, there was a competition to change the purpose of the mausoleum. The first prize was awarded to an exceptional project of a team led by Alexander Naydenov. In this project, a concrete slab on the level of the mausoleum platform and of the main entrance of the palace covers the square between the mausoleum and the royal palace. Under the slab, the design project provides for exhibition and public areas that are an extension of the National Gallery of Art housed in the palace. The cube of the mausoleum, above the slab, takes the form of a new entrance to the art gallery, like the glass pyramid in the reconstructed Louvre in Paris. The slab itself, shaped like a square, reaches the park in front of the National Theatre, thus forming a single and complete cultural centre of national importance, a kind of a "living room" in the city. At the same time, the high level of the square restores the authentic silhouette of the palace (which is an architectural monument) from when the garden was levelled with the main entrance. In my opinion, Bulgaria has lost a lot by not realizing this project.
    Do you think that this centre of the communist cult had to be demolished?
Tags: Sots ArtArchitectsStalinist baroqueParty HouseMausoleum of Georgi Dimitrov
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