urban planning

Sofia’s historical city center - City garden around the Russian church (Zone 3)

Sofia, Bulgaria

Description: Sofia’s historical city center renovation, Zone 3 (2014)
Competition: 2014 competition - Second place

The City Garden, which dates from the beginning of 19th century, is the oldest in Sofia and together with the garden around the Russian church represents one the busiest park areas of the Capital with structural function for the adjacent streets and squares. As a whole, 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 and development conception, parking all over the public squares, 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 heart of the whole space is the City Garden. Its whole north part, in the place of Georgi Dimitrov’s mausoleum, is completely disorganized and deserted and in the most part is an open air parking lot. It is imperative to do total space reorganization. In the first place, the original conception must be returned, and for this purpose the longitudinal axe is restored and accentuated and the visual connection with the National Art Gallery is renewed. Two millionths Sofia is in dire need of a large urban space for organizing cultural events and celebrations on a larger scale. Here is the place of the Central City Square where is fountain show and which is entirely pedestrian. On its south side the slight displacement enables the establishment of a large open air amphitheater and oval “Thematic Square of Music” in close proximity to Bulgaria Hall. Underneath, it is recommended to be built, out of the project’s range, a two-level underground parking lot for 280 cars with access from Kniaz Alexander I Str. and exit to Diakon Ignatii Str. without affecting the tall trees nor the foundations of the former Mausoleum. There are some preserved premises on the underground level, which can be used to establish a future museum complex.
At the present time, Kniaz Alexander I Square is an open-air parking lot on the yellow pavement with some existing trees. The project submits creation of a pedestrian square with rectangular raster, made of granite and travertine, as well as including an ornamental element accentuating the entrance to the Parliament. The rectangular area of the Square will be shaped through planting a new line of trees to the east, and underneath already exist a project to establish an underground departmental parking lot for the deputies.
The triangular square “Nikolay Giaurov” is also a chaotic parking lot on the yellow pavement. Its north part around Moskovska Str. will be preserved but restructured and optimized in order to keep a maximum of parking places on a minimal surface. In the south part will be create a triangular pedestrian square with rectangular raster of granite and travertine with elegant ornamental elements, three small fountains as well as statues of Nikolay Giaurov, Boris Hristov and Fiodor Shaliapin. The square space will be shaped by planting two lines of trees, to the north and to the east. The proximity of the National Opera makes out of it the ideal place for “Thematic Opera Square” where celebrations and cultural events can be organized.
The garden around the Russian Church is developed through restoring the pavements and lawns around the temple which is accentuated by special colored plant elements. There will be lots of benches, the lightening will be replaced and the park will be entirely renovated. The traffic organization will not be changed. It is submitted to create a single cycling lane with low speed from Nikolay Giaurov Square through Moskovska Str. and all along the Kniaz Alexander I Str. The pedestrian squares and alleys will be made of sustainable 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). 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 the park have an entirely new economic LED lighting net. The benches, the 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 squares and park spaces which will fulfill with new content the central part of the city around the City Garden. 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