National Exhibition Centre pt.2

Finalist - International Architecture Competition 2014

  • Project : Renovation of the National Exhibition Centre
  • Year : 2014
  • Location : 6 Shipka str. / Sofia / Bulgaria
  • Organizer : The Union of Bulgarian Artists 
  • Status : Competition
  • Team : Petar BELEV & Sarra BAKAIL 

Travelling lanterns

What is the role of a gallery in the city?
In the reconstruction of " Tate Modern " in London , the architects Herzog & de Meuron named the strategy of their project " Trojan horse " - a building that not only fulfills its essential function of a gallery but completely changes the flow of public life in the city. Indeed " Tate " has become a place where people meet , spend the afternoon or just drink a cup of coffee without a clear idea of how to spend the day , they just go there . We believe that the gallery Shipka 6 has great potential to be such a space , and this can be achieved by unlocking the several important elements .We can not imagine Paris without center " Pompidou " , London without ' Tate Modern' or New York without ‘MoMA’. Cities like Bilbao emerged from the shadow of the past and became major destinations due to the the appearance of a single gallery. No matterwhether it’s with regard to the so called ‘Bilbao effect’ or the emergence of ‘Trojan Horse’ in the heart of the city, a gallery like the one on Shipka 6 is not just an architecture project.

Current situation of the existing building
Today, the building of Shipka 6 has an introverted character and is relatively closed in itself. The edifice in a way turns its back on the city and doesn’t have the functional legibility of a gallery in relation to the public space. There are several reasons for this closeness. The ground level is not connected to the street well-enough, the exhibition floors are surrounded by concrete facade elements that further shuts the space away from the city and the natural light. The potential of the roof is not utilized. The following design solution offers an alternative to this introverted character and offers a total ‘opening’ to the city, the public and the territory.

All roads lead to’…Sofia
A great deal of the cultural and intellectual life in Bulgaria happens in a small perimeter in the centre of Sofia. By means of a thorough urban analysis we traced exactly this concentration of cultural and educational public buildings and institutions. The national exhibition centre of UBA (Union of Bulgarian Artists)–Shipka 6 is in the immediate vicinity, located in the heart of that perimeter. The project is also in the ‘active’ core of the city , a place where everything converges to a common vanishing point: centralization of roads and streets , centralization of public buildings and facilities . 

The project takes advantage of this situation to reverse the centripetal figure of the city to a centrifugal one, based on diffuse / decentralized principle of spreading the art and knowledge. This decentralized distribution is based on vectors like the location of the educational and artistic institutions and the relevant public transport routes. This principle of diffusion is applied on several scales : territorial , urban and architectural . Shipka 6 Gallery becomes a starting point of a series of interventions that can spread throughout the city. It is the ‘mother ship’, the ‘biggest lantern’ from which a series 'traveling-lanterns’ in the form of small kiosks can be built and placed at key locations in the capital.On territorial scale this scheme of decentralization reaches neighborhoods of disparate nature aiming namely the dissemination of art and knowledge to a wide and varied audience. 

From territory scale to architectural scale.
The idea for decentralisation and diffusion is valid on an architectural level in the avatar of a “lantern” that lights multiple scales. The project has 3 parts, each one of them is connected with a different scale, (from really small territorial scale to a really far one). Only when they are all connected together they form their meaning. In this way the body of the building can be interpreted as 3 elements:

Ground floor level – Sculpted with a relief defformation that makes the street and the space of The Doctor’s Garden to penetrate deep into the building, extending the public space in the core of the galery. Like a wooden topography it slips under the building’s floors under the “big lantern” of the gallery.

The body of the lantern – Opened at some places and exhibiting on show sculptures that create a specific scenography and greet us to enter the building with a walk from the public space to the inside of the gallery .

Finaly the roof – Rising 25m above street level and offering a 360 degree panoramic vista of Sofia’s parks, gardens, Alexander Nevski’s Cathedral, the city center, the rising monuments and important buildings. All this in front of the background of mountain slopes and the far territorial landscape.

Existing building / 6 Shipka str.

A project in the heart of a centralised and equipped territory

Plan masse

Shipka 6 building - a Multyscale Lantern

Morning view from Shipka street

Interior of the exhibition space

The roof is an open-air exhibition space

Vertical Section

North facade

West facade

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