The station square “Rotunda” (in front of the Central Railway Station) is a key junction in Sofia, that distributes 2 types of intercity transport (railway and bus) and 6 types of inner city transport (auto-mobile, bus, trolley, tram, cycling and metro). It serves to 4 major groups of stakeholders and users – commuters, tourists (including international tourists), the local community and merchants. However, due to overall disintegration and deterioration of the place, marginal social groups (including homeless, drug addicts, sex workers etc.) have established in the spaces of the of the station square complex, which has led to total dysfunction of the complex.
Integration of the spaces of the station square through contextual functions implies finding balance in the functions’ typology and mutual correlation. Thus, all stakeholder (owners, cultural operator, merchants, marginals etc.) would benefit from the utilization of the complex. Based on year long interdisciplinary research, we have come to the conclusion that a core of cultural functions has the most potential for reviving the station square complex in its early development. We have called that the “good bacteria” principle*. Major factor for that is the fact that the cultural operators produce content which attracts public attention and vast social groups. That way, the core stimulates the development of vague spaces** in the city (such as the “Rotunda”) in the most innate way.
On the other hand, cultural production is hardly financially sustainable through time, which would interpret it as a catalyst of the revival process, rather than its direct investor. This suggests finding a sustainable balance through implementing contextual commercial, social and communication services, in order to complete the functional program the complex of the square and its adjacent area on macro scale. That way, we would achieve a long lasting model for the development of the “Rotunda” as cultural and mobility center. In addition, the model would extra benefit from its position as a communication core between Central/West Europe, the Balkans, Sofia and its countryside. Through those tools, the “Rotunda” would transform into a lively place for the locals, commuters and tourists of the city.
The project suggests delicate architectural intervention which solves only major spatial and communication problems at first place. It emphasizes on redeeming public spaces from commercial functions and amalgamation of inner complex sites. Besides that, the intervention proposes differentiation of the architectural elements by separating/uniting them visually mainly by repainting. That approach is perceived as initial by the time sufficient investment is attracted for overall restoration/redesign of the site.
The project is initiated by “Under Gara” association, with the financial support of OP Europe by Sofia municipality. The architectural project is based on a sociological research of the area executed by AFIS agency in the summer of 2015, as well as urban/architectural research of sites and buildings with the potential for development of cultural infrastructure executed by “Transformatori” association in the second half of 2014 (sharedspaces.bg). During the working process, “Veloevolucia” association participated with expertise on the mobility program.
The project was presented with an architectural exhibition, followed by a public discussion involving representatives of “Vyzrazhdane Markets” (the owner of the site), National Company for Railway Infrastructure, Sofia municipality, Civil Initiative for Public and Rail Transport as well as numerous NGOs and civil organizations. Thorough information for the project, past and future events, and its further development could be found on undergara.com.
Interactive 3D panoramic photos and aerial (drone) footage documenting the state of the station square have been made by Center for Informal Education and Cultural Activities “ALOS” and “Transformatori” association in the autumn of 2014.
*”Good bacteria” principle (Ivan Bonev, Victoria Paeva, Timisoara, Romania, 2015) – the integration of stimulating problem solving function/intervention/activity, acting positively on the integrity of a urban/architectural/social system.
**Vague spaces – as defined in “Terrain Vague” by Ignasi de Sola-Morales, 1995, Cambridge.