images : Foster + Partners
Foster + Partners masterplan draws on the contours of the historical trade route bisecting the country and the elegant language of vernacular architecture to forge a new, thoroughly contemporary district for the city. The world-class architecture and amenities of the new development are intended to draw international business to the area and forge the development’s reputation as the second major centre of Bulgaria’s capital. At the heart of Foster + Partners’ design is a central park, conceived to give back the green space to the people of Sofia, who had long been denied access to the site due to its military nature.
Taking the circle – the symbol of round table democracy – as the starting point, the three primary functions of the buildings (European Union Agency, Knowledge Centre, and Exhibition Centre) were then expressed. The circle then evolved during the design process to take the form of a curved triangle, accommodating each of these different building types and responding to the natural contours of the site at the edge of the mountains. These three ‘magnets’ are expressed through the architecture: the high rise building, which contains the European Union Agency, defines the entrance to the masterplan and creates a new landmark, encircled by a public plaza, while the architectural language of the Knowledge Centre and Exhibition Centre is in contrast to the surrounding development.
The buildings are anchored and the space between is defined by an extensive central park, with fingers of vegetation stretching out towards the city. The different heights of the buildings then rise and fall in a gentle wave around its perimeter in response to the path of the sun. Within each volume, a large void has also been created to function as an internal courtyard and further contribute to the scheme’s progressive environmental strategy.
Curving around the outer edge in the south of the site allows the exhibition buildings to maximise the available internal open space and accommodate a flexible range of large-scale shows and trade fairs. The open, commercial character of this point in the triangular plan will extend to influence the adjoining office street, echoing aspects of the city’s strategic location along the trade route to Istanbul. The Knowledge Centre, anchoring the buildings to the north of the scheme will function as a lively forum for learning, debate, exploration and entertainment and also serve as an accessible extension of the public realm. The low-rise nature of much of the Sofia masterplan provides a measured counterpoint to the tower, which will enjoy views of the park and mountains beyond as well as providing a marker for the development from the wider city.
Multifunctial Complex, Sofia Competition
Client: Government of Bulgaria
Programme: Mixed-use Masterplan
Competition: 2008 – Apr 2009
Site Area: 632,000m²
Breakdown of Sofia Multifunctional Complex Masterplan:
Housing 90,000 m²
Retail 140,000 m²
Office 300,000 m²
Hotel 150,000 m²
Park 100,000 m²
Exhibition Hall 60,000 m²
Knowledge Centre 50,000 m²
Other 240,000 m²