The Unfinished Central Part of the City of Shumen

Downtown Shumen

Location

Shumen, Bulgaria

43.271272, 26.920086

Author

Ivan Sivrev

Architect

Built in

1988

A lot of cities in Bulgaria were meant to get full reconstructions during Socialism. The city Shumen was on the list of those selected for renovation and a very ambitious project started but it was never finished.

A lot of cities in Bulgaria were meant to get full reconstructions during Socialism—so that politicians could brag about them in front of their foreign guests. At the time, most of the cities and towns got their new concrete and cubic central squares, Communist Party House, post offices, cultural houses, etc., but Shumen wasn’t one of them. The city was on the list of those selected for renovation, as it was, and still is, a big regional city with a lot of history connected to the 1300 years’ celebrations. The reasons for the project being started but remaining unfinished were several. They had to do with its geographical features (the city is far from Sofia and situated in a mountain region) and with its being at the end of the list since its name starts with the letter “SH” (cyr. Ш), which is almost at the end of the Cyrillic alphabet.

The project for the city centre was created in 1988 and it was very ambitious. It included the construction of a department store, concert hall, bank, post office, hotel, restaurant, underground parking lot, fountains, etc. There was a plan to connect the different parts of the city on several levels for use by pedestrians, cars and even underground buses. The plan was really good and functional; it was suited to the specific uneven terrain of the city and appropriate to the need to connect the different parts of the city with no connection to each other. There was also going to be a central square that was missing until the project started. Of course, the project was to implement contemporary ideas too, for example, copper roofs and artistic elements representing the synthesis of art and architecture.

With the change of regime in 1989, all socialist projects were abandoned, so everything was left at the stage it was in at that time. The foundations were laid, the concrete construction was made and even some of the decorative marble reliefs were completed. And it has remained that way ever since, with no further work done to it except for putting up some metal fences to prevent curious children and teenagers from injuring themselves: the symbol of Socialist grandeur and urban achievements became the biggest memorial to the ruined system.

The municipality held multiple contests for designing the city centre. Several ideas were presented but none tried to incorporate the existing structures, of course. Not thinking of the bigger picture, the authors of the plans proposed to tear the structures down and focus on the designers’ plans instead. Nothing came out of these contests so Shumen stayed the same.

The locals don’t like the open construction site at all, but their distaste for it grew even more following the well-publicised murder of an 11-year-old boy that took place there in 2011.

TEXT BY ANELIYA IVANOVA

Function

1988Work in progress for a new and modern vision of the city

2018 Unfinished, forgotten and crumbling

Ownership

1988 Municipal

2018 Municipal

Condition

1988 Construction site

2018 Unfinished and abandoned

Property Management

1988

2018

Form of government

1988 Totalitarianism under Soviet influence

2018 Parliamentary Democracy

Spatial Planning Agency

1988

2018

Type of heritage and protection

1988 None

2018 None