urban planning

Sofia’s historical city center - Graf Ignatiev Street (Zone 2)

Sofia, Bulgaria

Description: Sofia’s historical city center renovation, Zone 2 (2014)

Graf Ignatiev Str. is one of the oldest and busiest arteries of the Capital city with connecting function for the adjacent streets and squares. Generally the area is one of the most important in the center of Sofia, but nowadays its huge potential is not used because of unsolved problems, lack of adequate urbanization as well as the neglected look of the pedestrian and park areas. Historically they are of great importance for the city and therefore declared protected territory.
The whole area needs a serious renovation which must start with total replacement of the road surface, removing all kinds of curb stones and placing ornamental slab stones in uniform rectangular raster. So will be achieved smoothness of the transitions and harmony of the spatial and town-planning composition. Its backbone is the tramway line where the space between the rails will be grassed with passages at every 7.5m. Thereby the pedestrians will be careful not to step on this beautiful natural cover and will not walk freely on the tramway line. This is an ecological and elegant way to overcome the conflict between them and to avoid accidents.
The streets Solunska, Tsar Shishman and September, 6 are considered as pedestrian areas but actually cars will circulate there according to a special arrangement established by the Municipality: for instance, circulation will be forbidden for several hours in the evening and/or on some holidays. Therefore there will be some small differences in the color of the road-surface compared to the pedestrian streets.
Slaveikov Square is the beating heart of the whole pedestrian area. Unfortunately, it is taken by the booksellers whose enormous racks have occupied a large amount of space and make difficult the pedestrian circulation. There is no need to extreme measures and chase them from the temple of letters since the place has its traditions. But it is imperative to make total and radical space reorganization. In the first place, the core must be completely freed so that it resembles again the square as it has been designed in the beginning of the 20th century and to restore in its center the identical historical fountain. In order to shape the square space it is necessary to plant on its west side a new line of trees only some of which will be moved from the center of the square using modern methods and technologies. Of course, on the periphery of this core will be situated new esthetic book stands, similar to those of the second-hand booksellers in Paris, where books ate arranged mainly vertically so that the presentation surface is the same as at present. And yet, the whole space before the City Library is cleared in order to organize cultural events, celebrations, book fairs… there is the place of the “Thematic Square of Letters”.
At the present time, the small garden “Raiko Daskalov” has a rough surface of huge cobbles and the atmosphere is forbidding, therefore it is not particularly frequented. The adjacent streets are very busy, with lots of cafes, restaurants and bars so, upon change of urban design elements, it is appropriate to locate there the “Thematic Square of Gastronomy” where every month can be organized days of European countries culinary art. Underneath, it is recommended to be built, out of the project’s range, a two-level underground parking lot for 70 cars with access from Angel Kanchev Str. without affecting the tall trees.
The garden “St. Sedmochislenitsi” is developed through recovering symmetry of lawns around the temple which is accentuated by the special ornamental surface composed of seven elements. The other half of the park is established as an independent space which it is appropriate to be animated through organizing temporary exhibitions and thus to be transformed into “Thematic Square of Photography”. Underneath, it is recommended to be built, out of the project’s range, in place of the unused anti-bomb shelter, a two-level underground parking lot for 160 cars with access from September, 6 Str. without affecting the tall trees.
The traffic organization will not be changed. It is submitted to create a single cycling lane with low speed all along the Graf Ignatiev Str.
The pedestrian squares and alleys will be made of natural materials – light beige granite with light texture and terracotta in pale brick-red color, composed in the typical for Sofia rectangular raster (7.50m).. For the streets with special traffic arrangement, the terracotta bands in the reinforced pavement will be replaced by grey granite.
The urban facilities elements are in the traditional for the Capital classic style: the details are clear and with a more contemporary look. There are installed a multitude of bicycle stopping places, as well as oval automatic module toilets. The pedestrian spaces and parks have an entirely new economic LED lighting net. The benches, the book and food stores as well as the rubbish containers ornamental grilles are made of natural wood, in the ecological spirit of the sustainable development program.
The project suggests the building of a unique system of pedestrian streets and squares which will fulfill with new content the central part of the city around Graf Ignatiev Str. There will be all the conditions to carry out cultural and social events as well as the celebrations of Sofia – European Cultural Capital in 2019.

Stefan Dobrev architect and urbanist