urban failure // post-socialism // top-down culture // programming // urban transformation

In this workshop, led by the Amsterdam-based collective Failed Architecture, we tackled the topic of Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. In 5 groups we mapped and documented the case based on the categories of politics, society, economics, physical environment and reputation. Through desk research, fieldwork and meetings with local experts we collected opinions, photos, articles and other relevant information, and arranged them in a visual timeline. Our findings and conclusions were presented during Sofia Architecture Week and followed by a public discussion. The timeline became part of the collective’s future workshops, thus transferring and expanding the debate into another context.

The National Palace of Culture (in Bulgarian: НДК, 'endeka') – an enormous congress and concert center, was built in 1981 by the Bulgarian Communist Party. After 1989 its legal status and functioning became under question. In view of its reputation, NDK is often described as a flying saucer (or an UFO, in Bulgarian: NLO): an alien presence in the center of the city which everyone is familiar with but few understand. It was built at a time when culture was imposed from above and centralization was paramount. The challenge of transforming NDK’s reputation involves making it more accessible, open, and inviting to the public. It should become a daily part of Sofia’s city life rather than a mysterious and underused example of “extraterrestrial” architecture.