architecture: public buildings

Contemporary Museum Center in Sofia

Sofia, Bulgaria

Building type:
Renovation and Extension
Surface: 26 448m²
Client: Ministry of Culture
Project: 2010

The new museum complex is intended to shelter the Bulgarian National Art Treasure.

The building is designed as a unique cultural complex, keeping all up-to-date demands, and is easily accessible to the public.

The composition represents a dialogue of contradiction and interconnection between two main elements. On one hand, the “framework” formed by the existing buildings, even though different, is static, rectangular and represents the tradition and the established order. On the other hand, the “core”, or the inner yard, covered with an elliptical glass dome, unifies the building with the oval ramps as one and portrays modernity, dynamics and fantasy.

The 20-meter high monumental atrium shelters an entrance hall, panoramic elevators, spatial staircases, and an elliptical spiral ramp. It provides an easy, smooth, and uninterrupted passage to all levels of the expositions character.

The atrium is perceived as a large covered place for culture (like the Louvre Pyramid and the Main Entrance Hall of the British Museum) that is daily open and accessible.

The panoramic restaurant’s vault is treated with the same type of roofing and lighting. The restaurant is situated on the forth level of the Museum Center.

The project could be defined as classical and modern, minimalistic and dynamic, uniting elements of European architecture with these of Bulgarian tradition. These elements are best expressed by the use of stylized decorative elements. The Bulgarian ornamentation called “elbetitsa” is recognized frequently in the openwork metal bars and in the glass architectural details, in both interior and exterior. This emblematic element is often seen in the centuries-old Bulgarian history from Proto-Bulgarian times to nowadays symbolizing the harmony in the world and in human behavior. In Mediaeval times the element was a personification of Bulgarian power and nowadays it embodies the eternal life of the nation and the striving for a renewal of the country.

This airy ornament contrasts the massive stone cladding of the whole building, designed with the same material as the National Gallery of Foreign Art and in this way uniformity has been achieved. All new fragments in the façades are treated with openwork membranes of the symbolic decoration made of imprinted glass or perforated steel. Additionally, these symbolic façade elements remove the direct light in the exhibition rooms and filtrate the natural light. Another view point is that they contribute to the whole novel and artistic outlook of the most significant and major cultural center in Bulgaria.