Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Global Walking Tour: Sofia
2 August 2018
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SOFIA – On August 2nd, Sofia took part in the CTBUH Global Walking Tour for the second consecutive time. The walk was organized and led by CTBUH Bulgaria Representative Manuela Belova, Founding Partner, VA Architects.

Since Sofia does not feature a river or a waterfront, this year’s theme, “Walking on Water,” was re-imagined as walking in the context of another natural landmark. The city’s skyline is indeed defined by the mountains that surround it. Still, one savvy participant in the walk reminded the group that Sofia is a city built on top of rich mineral water sources, so it turns out that they were literally “Walking on Water.”


The CTBUH Global Walking Tour kicked off in Sofia at Telus Towers. Photo by I & B REAL ESTATE SA
 

The walk started with a meeting on the Makedonia Square where the recently completed City Tower (also known as Telus Tower) is located. Enthusiastic professionals gathered in front of the building and while waiting for the tour to kick off, discussed how the building fits in the context. The tower’s lower volumes contribute to a smooth transition towards the neighbouring buildings. Telus Tower has three entrances at ground floor level where shops, cafes and restaurants are available for the local community, as well as building tenants. After passing through security checks, the team of I & B REAL ESTATE SA guided the tour group to the more private upper floors. The group explored the gym on the 15th floor and a typical office space on the 10th floor from which the lower green roofs could be seen.

Visible from the floors at height was also the construction site of a new tall building that is set to surpass both Telus Tower’s 75 meters and the neighbouring Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria (CITUB) headquarters, which is 99 meters high. When the new building is completed, the three towers will form a small triangular cluster of tall buildings in the very center of the capital. An interesting fact discussed among the group was the unique “top-to-bottom” construction method used for the CITUB tower, built in 1978.

The walking tour participants gather outside of Telus Towers and receive an introduction from a member of the management team (left); the group explored the private upper floors of the building, including the gym and office spaces (right). Photos by I & B REAL ESTATE SA
Walking tour attendees take in the views from Telus Towers (left), including the construction site for a building that will surpass its neighbors in height (right). Photos by Manuela Belova.
 
Once the Sofia tour group explored the key components of the Telus Tower, participants in the walk were invited to enjoy a cocktail in the company of the building’s management team with food and drinks kindly provided by I & B REAL ESTATE SA. This was a great opportunity to discuss the visited spaces in more detail and, more broadly, the role of tall buildings in Sofia in general.

Although the conversations were lively and engaged, it was soon time for the group to head off to Millennium Center which is a 20 minute walk from Telus Tower. The group passed through the famous Vitosha street which is among the liveliest locations in Sofia. The pedestrian zone which is packed with cafes and restaurants continues all the way to the gardens of the National Palace of Culture (NDK) which was built in 1981. NDK is probably the most emblematic building in Sofia, recently hosting the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, held between January and July 2018.

The group enjoys refreshments with the Telus Tower management team. Photo by I & B REAL ESTATE SA (left); En route to Millennium Center, the tour participants stopped to take in the evening mountain views. Photo by Manuela Belova (right)

The group made a short stop at its southwest terraces to enjoy the dramatic evening views towards Vitosha mountain. Participants took the time to observe how current and older generations of buildings co-exist and what contrasts arise from the variety of architectural styles.

The final stop on the tour was the neighboring Millennium Center. Architect Borislav Bogdanov welcomed the group and led them to a 24th-floor restaurant, appropriately named “The View.” Once at the top, participants gathered at one of the terraces to hear Bogdanov share intriguing facts about the building. The group learned that the project’s volume and design had been changed multiple times before construction began. The final result yielded an office tower with a restaurant (privy to expansive views of Sofia’s urban landmarks), a residential tower and a hotel tower. While Sofia lacks immediately legible axes or a grid system, the city’s landmarks offer visual organization to help visitors get oriented with the vast capital.

The view from the top of the final tour stop, Millennium Center. Photo by Manuela Belova (left); the group assembles at The View, a  rooftop restuarant. Photo by George Mandazhiev (right)
AMFION Founder & Owner Boris Bogdanov shares information about the three-building Millennium Center complex (left); Day turns to night over Bulgaria's vast capital (right). Photos by Manuela Belova.

The walk ended with dinner at the restaurant accompanied by continuing discussions about the status of tall buildings in Sofia, including the newly passed regulation which limits their height to 50 meters in the city center, and 75 meters everywhere else. This limitation has been put in place to prevent buildings from blocking important views of the mountains.

New studies are defining the zones for future tall buildings, participants on the tour had the chance to appreciate Sofia from a different perspective –  the view from the heart of the city, nearly comparable to the one from the peaks of Vitosha mountain.

 

The CTBUH Sofia Walking Tour pose for a group photo atop Millennium Center. Photo by Manuela Belova.

Attendees:
Meri Todorova Actavis
Klimentin Chernev ALUKONIGSTAHL
Todor Dimitrov ALUKONIGSTAHL
George Mandazhiev Independent architect
Radoslava Paraskova Independent architect
Rumen Markov Large Infrastructure Projects
Nikola Mishkov Pro In Plus
Lyubomir Georgiev Sofproect
Emil Hristov Sofproect
Nely Naidenova - Jelezova Sofproect
Dayana Nikolova Sofproect
Stanimira Nikolova Sofproect
Alexandar Petrov Sofproect
Jorjeta Rafailova Sofproect
Viktor Kerchev Trakya Glass Bulgaria
Manuela Belova VA Architects
Teodor Parvanov VMware Bulgaria