Ilinden Apartment

Ilinden Apartment

The task:

To transform the kitchen and the hallway of a two-bedroom apartment in a typical plattenbau housing block in the Ilinden district in Sofia, and turn them into a cosy and practical space. The client, a young family, wished for a minimalistic and clean design without any detailing and decorations.

Our approach:

We merged the spaces in order to have the sense of more space and to join the kitchen with the other parts of the apartment. We removed the kitchen door and the non-bearing precast elements, which separated the space. The common pavement, wall lines, materials and lighting add to the sense of a single space.

We used each and every possible nook and cranny to add more storage space and provided enough countertop area.

The colour palette relies on a pleasant balance between minimalism and hominess, the latter provided by the natural oak veneer on the wall panelling and the upper kitchen closets. The yellow round mirror is the only accent putting the finishing touch to the picture and optically enlarging the space.

The result:

An interior space transformation turning a common kitchen and a hallway from service spaces to the centre of the young family’s home.

Renovation of toilets in 5th Primary School Ivan Vazov

Renovation of toilets in 5th Primary School Ivan Vazov

The building of Fifth Primary School Ivan Vazov in Pavlovo, Sofia was completed in 1949. It is a typical example of a mid-20th-century school building. The toilets in the school are located on each floor and are being used by pupils and teachers. Through the years they have been subject to many partial repairs with no projects and poorly funded. The result was right before our eyes: ugly toilets in disrepair, smelling bad and always leaky leading to high water consumption. 

We decided to reorganize the toilets thoroughly in order to meet the contemporary hygiene and security requirements and make them pleasant for the users. All partition walls were demolished to open up the space and eliminate the labyrinth of nooks and crannies, hard to clean and control. All toilet cubicles were reorganized to open directly to the main space with the sinks. The doors to the hall were removed for better security – in case of bullying anyone could call for help. A small storeroom for cleaning materials with a service sink was provided next to the sinks.

Colours are the main feature of the design. The ceiling height is quite big so it was necessary to lower it visually to make the space cosier for the children. That is why we also painted the ceilings in colour and installed pendant lamps. The coloured wall tiles reach the level of the door lintel thus structuring the space and making it more comfortable and comprehensible. 

As the toilets are used by children between 7 and 14 years of age, we installed sinks at different heights for everyone’s convenience. One cubicle on each floor is accessible for kids and teachers with disabilities.

Flat L19

Flat L19

The task:

To transform a 100 sq.m. three-room flat to leverage all of the living space in order to accommodate the owners’ dynamic lifestyle and extensive book collection.

Our approach:

We redesigned and repurposed several parts of the flat to better capture the natural light and create additional corners for reading, working and a bar area. Broadening the window frames created additional storage and sitting space without compromising the overall spaciousness.

The colour scheme accentuates the various corners in the open plan and brings an overall sense of completeness to the flat. Using a combination of open and closed built-in storage cabinets allows for easy organisation and does not compromise the overall living space.

The result:

An interior design transformation that effectively accommodates the owners’ dynamic lifestyle and makes the most out of the available space.

Tell Yunatsite

Tell Yunatsite

Tell Yunatsite is one of the most imposing prehistoric sites in Europe. It is a unique example of a site that has been inhabited for more than six thousand years. The site has been subject to long-term archaeological excavation and international research. It is also a place of interest for visitors.

These interweaving features were actually the biggest design challenge. How to protect a substance, which, in its essence, is an accumulation of highly vulnerable adobe, clay and soil? How to ensure future research activities, which, in fact, remove layer after layer from this substance? How to explain the significance of this seemingly ordinary mass of earth? How to tell the stories, which the tell is hiding? How can we unite what seems to be non-unitable – a living archaeological (also in the context of a whole ecosystem that has developed here) and a unique for visiting (but hardly comprehensible) cultural site?

The massive profile of the tell is protected by steen nets and explained by large distinguishable elements. The area around the chalcolithic fortification wall is protected by a textile membrane shelter. And the protection of the fortress wall is provided by rammed earth – we apply the common approach refracted through the clay nature of the wall. A system of pathways and steps in the terrain, of steel grate platforms and stairs – open and developing – provides safe circulation and experience. All interventions are designed not to threaten nor damage the integrity of yet unstudied cultural strata, but to guarantee the possibility for future archaeological research: ready-made elements put in place, concrete tetrapods for foundations of the large shelter, protection without using chemical components. 

The architectural approach follows the principle of contrast – recognizability and attractiveness of the new elements without being intrusive to the environment. With the natural environment as a background, the new galvanized elements stand out with their minimalistic design. The white textile membrane defines the place where the prehistoric structures are exhibited in situ. Several red accents draw the visitor to the key spaces. The chosen materiality intuitively hints of temporariness and reversibility in the context of the prehistoric layering, of something new that is telling stories about the tell.

Learning from Stolipinovo: The Pink Book

Learning from Stolipinovo: The Pink Book

This publication is the narrative about the ten-month winding path of the project Building Together: Learning from Stolipinovo. About the stereotypes we have overcome and the friendships we have made working together. About our way of rethinking the role of art and architecture in bringing communities together. About the art of the craftsmen. The challenge of ‘seeing’ beyond the obvious and finding inspiration in a different way of life.
We present all this in stories about the project through different prisms and media — images and text. The narratives are personal, the events — true and concrete. We have chosen those ‘lessons from Stolipinovo’ that are important to us — those that helped us and inspired us, and also those which refuted us and surprised us. This is our way of sharing several guidelines for approaching the conceptualization and implementation of socially based architectural projects, especially those involving different ethnic groups and/or minorities.
For us, this was not a standard design and implementation project, nor it was simply discovering new things. Building Together: Learning from Stolipinovo was a process of searching and recognizing.

Karin Dom

Karin Dom

The desire of Karin Dom for a place where children with special needs and their families feel free, together with the highly specialized and functionally introverted programme is a challenging task. How to combine protection with comfort, specialized with comprehensive or individual with common? How to create the feeling of one home for seemingly incompatible and diverse services: medical, social, educational? How to retain the strong spirit and legacy of the first building of Karin Dom in the new one?

The project introduces a broader concept of specialized care in a living organism that fuses healthcare and learning with play and joy of experiencing the world. A concept that goes beyond the specific requirements of the enclosed rooms but includes a sense of openness, friendship and community.

The new building of Karin Dom is developed as a single volume in the cradle of the lush greenery of the site. A fluent volume that embraces a piece of that nature granting a generously open space. The perception of a free environment is enhanced also from the common inner spaces around the courtyard. These are imagined as places where children and parents could find relaxation and withdraw when needed. Such spaces are important for the general inclusive learning environment, but also for building the sense of being among friends.

The project carefully considers the need for a comfortable and healthy environment. The big windows and glazed facade towards the inner courtyard bring abundant natural light in and allow for constant cross ventilation for all the premises.

With its outer wooden skin, the building integrates itself into the grammar of the existing urban grove. The wooden cladding over a coloured breathable facade membrane contributes to the relative privacy of the activities inside but at the same time gives a living appearance. Once in Karin Dom, though, one could embrace at a glance the whole building and its life through the inner glass skin.

Ada Tepe Exhibition

Ada Tepe Exhibition

Ada Tepe is the mountain peak where the oldest known gold mine in Europe has been found and studied. Now gold is being mined again and all traces from the Bronze-Age mining technology will disappear. The main challenge of the project is to reveal the “absent” heritage of ancient gold mining.

Ada Tepe Exhibition is planned to be in a disused room of a local community centre. The exhibition covers several topics: gold mining in the Bronze Age and now, the life at the mine, the peak, the excavations, the gold, the nature, and the future of the mine. Their manifestations in terms of spatial and architectural appearance interweave to stimulate all senses.

The main featuring element is the inclined plane of the “mountain slope”. It divides the exhibition room in two but simultaneously connects the topics – physically and meaningfully. The aboveground space is dark, mysterious and unknown. Here are the stories and facts from the past (mining, life, topography) compared to similar contemporary activities. A massive trench leads to the underground space – just like the way ancient miners and today’s archaeologists “entered” the mountainside. All is bright and golden here as a reference to the underground treasures but also to the enlightening role of science for unveiling the distant past.

The exhibition encourages people to roam around the space, to climb the “mountain slope”, to venture underground, to touch, hear, feel, and experience this important yet unconventional heritage of the region.

Sveta Nedelya Square

Sveta Nedelya Square

Arriving from the station we see the distant profile of the mountains to the south: the space of the square finds its logical conclusion in the geography of Sofia.

We walk in the large space of Sveta Nedelya Square and we look for signs: what is this space? Is it a square, or a roundabout? Is it a square or a linear crossing? We see some ruins and speak to the archaeologists leading the works: is it this what is underground? No, “this is only a minor part of the Roman and Ottoman cities”, they say… Monumental rests are calmly waiting under the tramway rails. We discover the different characters of the four quadrants around the square, their spaces, variety and richness, ruins surfacing here and there… Pure times we live by.

Sveta Nedelya Square is, in the project we propose, not only a square but a collective and broad experience in time and space. A place, as all the centre of Sofia, where we can feel time, “pure time” as anthropologist Marc Augé describes it, without resuming history or completing it, but assuming it as a deep cultural and intimate experience.

Our proposal is to work on the paradox of the coexistence of different times in the same space. The different cities laying one on each other in the space of the square become, in the project, part of the everyday life of the people walking by, meeting there, strolling and chatting.

The project introduces a broader concept of heritage in a living city. A concept that goes beyond the listed buildings, spaces, and archaeological structures but includes senses, memories, habits, liveability. An approach that is aiming at changing the perceptions of the people towards a multifaceted heritage and bring it closer to their everyday life.

What is impressive in Sveta Nedelya Square is the continuity in time. The project makes this perceptible also in space by introducing a continuous surface that inserts a third dimension, lowering and lifting up, in and out. The surface is a way to highlight the complex and continuous coexistence of different aspects of our life: archaeology, urban fabric, green areas, public spaces, transportation. We propose to create a seamless transition between epochs, not two separate levels in the space-time, but one surface that integrates the various layers into a single entity.

Sveta Nedelya Square will always be a square and part of the central pedestrian promenade crossing North-South the centre of Sofia, but it will also represent a planetary metaphor of memory and vision of the future. A unique place to live by.

By revealing and getting closer to the extraordinary heritage, the new Sveta Nedelya Square finds a new role in the city of Sofia. It becomes a hinge in a system of archaeological sites today fragmented, not always visible or accessible, not part of the city space. The continuous surface valorises all the square.

Building Together: Learning from Stolipinovo

Building Together: Learning from Stolipinovo

"Изграждаме заедно" в "Столипиново"

Как да подобряваме градската среда така, че местните да ползват и пазят изграденото? "Заедно" е отговорът на група доброволци, които от няколко месеца работят в пловдивския квартал "Столипиново".

Публикувахте от Свободна Европа в Сряда, 27 ноември 2019 г.

 

Building Together: Learning from Stolipinovo is a project-process for practical interventions in the urban environment of Plovdiv through architectural workshops. Its core is the teamwork with craftsmen from Stolipinovo – Berul the carpenter, Zdravko the ironworker, Carlo the builder, from the initial idea to its realization. Over 60 participants became involved in the process – pupils, students, young professionals, residents from the neighbourhood. They all expanded their knowledge and skills while building together and learning from one another.

What did we do? We challenged our imagination how to reuse old furniture and building elements in an innovative way and, in the frames of eight architectural workshops, we made four urban art installations.

The Door. The installation is inspired by an old wooden door. We cleaned it and created a new frame that we decorated with turned elements. We also added two mailboxes, which we made out from two old cabinets. Finally, we “dipped” half of the door in a bright colour. Thus, at first glance, an old and useless thing has turned into something new and beautiful. The Door provoked with its presence in a narrow lane in Kapana in the centre of Plovdiv in the summer and autumn of 2019. It was surreal and unusual, it challenged us to ask questions but also look for answers.

The Table with Benches. The installation is inspired by the habit of spontaneously meeting somewhere to exchange ideas. It all started with two old doors. One has been cleaned and restored to use as a large plate. The other was cut in two, reinforced and processed as benches for the table. We left the specific door elements visible to remind us of their previous use. In the end, we painted the installation in bright, attractive and unusual colours. The seating is visible from afar. It invites you to sit in the cool shade of the trees, pause for a while, look around and start a conversation with a stranger. To immerse yourself in the everyday life of the neighbourhood. We placed the installation in Izgrev and it was most interesting to us to look at its “movement” around the neighbourhood, to see how people use it and take care of it.

The Painting Boards. The installation was designed with the help of the Children`s City team and is inspired by an old double-glazed window. As we lifted the frame to move it, it almost fell apart and stood open like a book. We brought a couple of such windows in Stolipinovo, we carefully cleaned the frames, replaced the glazing with plexiglass panels, strengthened the structure and created a folding and opening mechanism. Of course, we painted the wooden elements in bright colours. On Children`s Day – the 1st of June – the painting boards popped on the lawn of the Children’s City. The children found uses that we had never suspected. The most fun was painting your friend’s face, who was on the other side of the transparent plexiglass panels.

The Long Bench with a Canopy. The installation is inspired by the people of Stolipinovo. While working there, people often told us they wanted more benches and more shadow. That’s why we decided to make a very long bench with a canopy in a lawn on Krayna Street. We made the 12-meter-long bench of bare concrete. We decorated it with the imprints of plastic bottles and their caps (found on-site and donated by a Plovdiv bar), and with parts of toys (also found on-site). For the canopy, we used thousands of recycled textile cut-offs (donated by a Plovdiv factory). We tied over 9000 knots to create a colourful faerie. We covered the ground around the bench with sand (donated by a local concrete plant). It was like a beach for the local kids, and it didn’t take long for them to find a playful use of the bench – to run and jump from it in the sand.

Office Space V14

Office Space V14

The task of this project was to transform an open-office space in an office tower into a shared office of a union of companies working with African partners. The client required divided spaces for the different teams but also common spaces for gathering and communication. As a result of our work, though, these spaces became comfortable places for work but also for informal meetings and rest. The yellow and ochre colours, which we added, brought cosiness but also made the space more vivid. The design of the foil on the interior glazing is inspired by the patterns of the art of Sub-Saharan Africa, as a reference to our client’s business.