Article by Richard Fawcus. 18 March 2018.

Fragment from the mosaic "The Care for Adolescents" (Ivan Stoilov-Bunkera, 1981).

Photo from the International Academy of Architecture (IAA), 2010.

The Buzludzha Memorial House is recognised as one of Europe’s most endangered heritage sites.

Europa Nostra is a European heritage advocacy group, which describes itself as “the leading citizens’ movement to protect and celebrate Europe’s cultural and natural heritage.” The group campaigns for the protection of endangered heritage sites, and offers representation in appeals to international bodies such as the EU, the Council of Europe and UNESCO.

Following an application submitted by Dora Ivanova’s Buzludzha Project Foundation in early 2017, on 16 January 2018, Europa Nostra announced the Buzludzha’s Memorial House’s inclusion on its new shortlist of “the 12 most endangered heritage sites in Europe.”

According to a press release from Europa Nostra: “The 12 monuments and sites were selected while taking into account their outstanding heritage and cultural value as well as the imminent danger that they are facing. The engagement of local communities and the commitment of public and private stakeholders to saving these sites were also considered crucial. Another main criterion was the potential of these sites to act as a catalyst for sustainable socio-economic development.”

In March 2018, Europa Nostra picked seven of these 12 sites to appear in their “7 Most Endangered” programme. Once again, the Buzludzha Memorial House was selected for inclusion.

Europa Nostra provided the following assessment of the site:

“Today the ostentatious finish of its Brutalist architecture, heavy iconography and colourful mosaic has decayed, however the building attracts increasing attention with its dramatic history, its striking architecture and the vision of deteriorated extravagance.

“Its destiny is similar to that of several hundred monuments built during the Communist regime in Bulgaria and the entire former Eastern Bloc. The recent heritage of these post-Communist countries is often traumatic and unfamiliar to a broader public. The significance of this monument on a European level is therefore evident. As a lieu de mémoire, the monument presents a challenging and often difficult history.

“On one hand, the environmental impact of the building, which so drastically altered the surrounding context when built, can present itself as point of contention when discussing its preservation. The strong ideological message that is communicated by the sheer size of the monument and its interior imagery likewise presents a problem: how can this be preserved in a way that is sensitive to the human experience of this site and which does not inadvertently glorify or reiterate a political ideology?

“On the other hand, other parties will argue that allowing the monument to gradually decay does not acknowledge the human labour which was spent to construct the monument or indeed the immense cost of its inception.”

Meanwhile in Bulgaria, the Buzludzha Project Foundation held a press conference to share the news, where Dora Ivanova gave the statement:

“This result is deeply significant. It signals an objective assessment from one of the most highly respected cultural heritage organisations in Europe, declaring that the Buzludzha monument should be preserved, as it is valuable, not only to the region or to Bulgaria alone, but as a site of European Heritage.”

You can read more about Europa Nostra’s 2018 list of Europe’s most endangered heritage sites here.