The Bulgarian project “Reconstruction and redevelopment of an existing building into a cultural and educational centre (museum) for contemporary art and a library” won the Special People’s Choice Award in the European Commission’s Regiostars 2023 competition. This is the project for the new Burgas library, funded under the Operational Programme “Regions in Growth” 2014-2020. The architectural project is the work of Varna architects and public figures – arch. Delyan Zhechev and arch. Lyubka Citronova, who won the competition announced by the Municipality of Burgas.
The prize was awarded at a ceremony in Burgas. The Bulgarian proposal was selected among 228 projects of the European Union member states.
The winner – why?
“From a classical library of books, we decided to make a children’s innovation centre, says one of its authors, arch. To get children to come in, it had to be interesting in vision, function and thought. We tried to look into the world of children and integrate it into the building. We won the competition with this concept.”
“The library filled up with children. The building is alive, which was our goal,” says Arch. Lyubka Citronova. Thus, it practically became the first 24-hour library and youth centre in the country.
The change began in 2019 with the reconstruction of the old German school and hospital in Burgas. Nearly 10 million BGN have been allocated for the construction, one third of which from the operational programme and the rest from the Urban Development Fund.
When such old buildings are reconstructed, it is very difficult because they already have a ready-made function that has to be adapted in a useful way to the new project,” says Arch. Zhechev. The other problem arises because of the location – the environment is in a residential area with communications. It cannot be demolished, otherwise a new detailed development plan would have to be drawn up.
Why in Burgas it can, but in Varna – no
In Burgas, unlike in Varna, when they decided to make a library, it was a deeply considered act by the mayor and his team, says arch. Zhechev. So the dream of a new library became a feasible project.
Seven years after the competition and the selection of the design for the Varna library building and five years after the building permit was issued, there is no such building. No funding has been secured, no ideas or attempts to secure the investment of nearly 50 million BGN. The building permit for the building, renewed in 2021, expires next year. Revalidation can only be done once according to the regulations. Therefore, if the implementation of the building does not start before July 2024, the project cannot be implemented.
The municipality of Varna has paid nearly 700 000 BGN for the project for a new building of the regional library in Varna. 450 proposals from all over the world took part in the 2015 competition. The project of a Dutch architectural firm, Architects for Urbanity, was selected. The project is included in the Integrated Development Plan of the Municipality of Varna, but no funding has been secured.
The modern look and the “green” roof of the future library will probably remain only electoral propaganda in the year of local elections.
“In Burgas, the administration was prepared not only for what exactly it wanted, but also from where it would finance it. In Varna, everything started backwards – from the megalomaniac ideas of our former chief architect, from the mayor who had no idea what was happening in his city, to the place that was chosen totally wrong because it does not meet the communication for such a project”, commented part of the reasons for the failure of the arch. Zhechev. In his words, the winning project did not meet the brief either. When you do something just for PR, in front of people, it does not have a good result, said arch. Zhechev.
Where do the youth gather in Varna
Varna still lacks a public space for young people. Such should be built outside the city centre, in a place with quick and easy communications, says arch. Lyubka Citronova. “This place should have been the Island under the Asparuhov Bridge. That’s where the shopping malls, theatres, cultural institutions should be,” says arch. Zhechev. According to him, the city’s biggest problems come from its General Development Plan. “It was not made to solve the urban planning problems of Varna. That is why everything that could be compacted as building was done,” said Arch. Delyan Zhechev.