Getty Grant for Buzludzha Monument Project

The Getty Foundation has awarded a $185,000 grant for the conservation of the Buzludzha Monument as part of its 2019 'Keeping It Modern Initiative'. Prof. Thomas Danzl, holder of the Chair of Conservation-Restoration, Art Technology and Conservation Science, and Dora Ivanova, founder of the "Buzludzha Project Foundation", are the organizers of a large initiative on the iconic and controversial artifact of Bulgaria’s socialist era. Andreas Putz, Professor for Recent Building Heritage, is also involved in the preservation management plan comprising a kick-off summer school for students.

Side view Buzludzha Monument (Picture © Dylan Thuras)

The Getty Grant will fund the creation of a conservation and management plan for the Buzludzha Monument, beginning with a full evaluation of the building’s structural condition. It will explore the future (re)use of the monument, and aim to establish a viable business model for operating Buzludzha as a reinvigorated heritage site. This phase will conclude with the release of a public report in September 2020, forming a basis for further decision-making.  

The project will be undertaken by a multidisciplinary team of Bulgarian and international experts including the German and Bulgarian committees of ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites); the Technical University of Munich (TUM as institutional member of ICOMOS); the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy in Sofia; the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden and the Hochschule der Künste Bern; as well as the Buzludzha Project Foundation, a Bulgarian organisation which has been campaigning since 2015 for the monument’s preservation. The original architect of the Buzludzha Monument, Georgi Stoilov, will also have a key role in the project.

The Buzludzha Monument is a masterpiece of 20th century architecture, art and engineering. Located on a mountain peak in central Bulgaria, this unique structure was completed in 1981 to celebrate the history of socialism. It was used for only eight years – until the dissolution of the socialist regime in Bulgaria in 1989. Soon after these political changes, Buzludzha was abandoned and left vulnerable to theft, vandalism and severe weather conditions.
Today the glamour has turned into decay and is highly endangered, but the building still attracts attention due to its dramatic history, gravity-defying architecture and 1000m² of extraordinary, colorful mosaics. Its saucer-shaped body, with a 60m free-spanning roof and 20m overhangs, symbolizes a wreath commemorating the historical events which happened there. In February 2018, the monument was recognised by the heritage organisation Europa Nostra as one of the "7 Most Endangered" heritage sites in Europe. 

A proper recording of the current condition of all surfaces and their state of decay will allow exact planning, calculations and future conservation of the monument. With this database, a structural survey will be conducted. Defining the future use of the monument is an important part of the project. Besides engineering, architectural and conservation concepts, technical solutions for the proper functioning of the building will be planned.

Thus, the Professorship of Recent Building Heritage Conservation and the Chair of Conservation-Restoration, Art Technology and Conservation Science are looking for advantuerous students of architecture with some experience in building survey and documentation to join this preliminary investigation. 
The excursion to Bulgaria will be offered as a Summer School (MA, Exercise, 4 SWS 6 ECTS) in late September/beginning of October 2019. All work will be done on site with two additional meetings of the group in the winter term. Costs for travel and accomodation will be funded by a grant from the Getty Foundation. However, we can only offer four to six places for students. Interested students are invited to contact the professors for specifics.