|The Largo at night. (c) Agne Drumelyte.|
Right in the center of Sofia, above where the main street of the ancient city of Serdika was, looms the strict, monumental architectural complex The Largo - one of the more known socialist architecture examples in Eastern Europe.
It was built in the early 1950s, in the lands freshly-flattened by the WW2 bombings (as much as 1/4 of the city was destroyed beyond repair then - especially the center).
Rather oversized for the under 7.5 million Bulgarian population, the Largo consisted of functionnaire buildings: Ministries of Electrification & Heavy Industry; the Government; the Party House - that is, the house of the Communist Party, not a nightclub.
It also included attractions like the former leader's Georgi Dimitrov's mausoleum (1949; constructed in only six days as the great Bulgarian socialist leader died unexpectedly during his visit to Moscow); and the TZUM, at the time Bulgaria's most prestigious department store where the products of the socialist workers' achievements were on display for local and international visitors.
The important guests used to stay at the nearby Hotel Balkan, also part of the complex - the building nowadays is used by Hotel Sheraton.
All of the said buildings, except for the mausoleum that was demolished in the 1999, still dominate the central Sofia today. Most of them, however (with the exceptions of the TZUM and the Hotel Sheraton) can be seen only from the outside. The former communist government buildings are used by the democratic Bulgarian government nowadays.
There is, though, a hope that the great dinosaurs will open up to the public one day. I have just been on a trial tour to the complex, 'The [Un]Known Largo'*, and have witnessed some of the insides of the former communist Party House - see a post on it here.
The tour is part of the EU-funded ATRIUM project that aims to create & promote a cultural tour route through the Southeastern Europe, one that is concerned with the totalitarian architecture of the 20th century. Most of the tour's venues are socialist buildings of the Balkans but a couple of right-wing totalitarian venues are on the list too.
*If all goes well, the tour should be up and running from approximately November 2013 - check for the updates here.
|The facade of the Party House (centre), on the same night.|
Text and photos (c) Agne Drumelyte, 2013.