What the British architects say about the monument

Tsvetelina Dimitrova, architect
Rosen Petsev, architect

By coincidence, the recent events about the memorial 1300 Bulgaria, found us away from home. The physical distance prevented us of taking active and direct part in the campaign against its demolition. However, what we managed to do is to present the issue to friends and colleagues here in United Kingdom and to kindly ask them for their position as independent professionals with attitude to the concrete matter.
The following comments reflect the personal position of colleagues from my current job (mainly), with whom I keep close professional relationship. They were so generous to take this initiative heartily and to devote their personal time immersing themselves in this not so personal problem sharing their experience and position.

Dan Slavinsky
Simon Bowden Architecture, Architect

The monument, whatever one thinks of its appearance, is an important cultural element in the fabric of Sofia.
I am strongly of the opinion, that a city or people that is aware of its past is much stronger going forward into the future.
I support the movement to keep the monument. It is evident from the debate that there are people that are offended by this piece, and therefore some background history could be displayed next to it as an informative and respectful explanation of the context within which the monument was conceived.
Most cultures have periods or moments in their past of which they are ashamed. It is a strong culture that faces these moments and talks about them openly. Not doing leads to ignorance and bad associations with the past, and allows the misunderstandings to remain.

Chris Mulholland
Foster + Partners, architectural assistant

In my opinion, as architects we should where possible, use the old/existing to create something new, not simply destroy + rebuild. In the case of this unique + beautiful memorial, to destroy it would not only destroy such a strong physical presence, but also erase a memory of an important part of Bulgaria’s history and a brilliant sculptor/designer’s representation of that moment.
Architecture should be made to endure.

Cristina Sanchez
Foster + Partners, architect

An element like that monument has an undeniable artistic and architectonic value. However, it is a powerful symbol – therefore, it is a decision to be made by the people affected by it, with their own circumstances.
To me, as a foreigner, the structure is a valuable record of a piece of history, even in its current situation.

Daniel Rodrigues
Foster + Partners, Architect

A city is an addition of different moments, past, present and future: its inhabitants, landscape, buildings, infrastructure and monuments.
The Monument “1300 Bulgaria” is part of the History of Sofia and Bulgaria. It is part of the urban fabric and it has an artistic and architectonic value that goes beyond its historical symbolism.
Many monuments around the world have a strong political or religious character, from different moments in history. Centuries after being built they are there to remind us of those moments, but they also carry an undeniable artistic and cultural value. This value is part of the city’s legacy and richness, which should be embraced and preserved.

Ece Top
Foster + Partners, architect

I find the monument aesthetically and culturally important and would support its refurbishment.

Elin and Christian
Foster + Partners, architect / graphic novelist

The citizens of Sofia should not negate what the monument represents to them – a unique historical experience and heritage that makes them stand out in a European context and gives them a hard won knowledge of what a society can inflict upon its citizens. They should remember that the monument also represents a particular appetite for the future that was born out of post-soviet era, which inspires its European cousins and that Europeans need more than ever, today.
All over Europe, in these times of crisis, nostalgia is favored over forward thinking, a pre-WW2 war memorial, in the place of a unique piece of sculpture- that may point backwards in time, but also forwards, would be an unfortunate continuation of idealizing a past we have no real connection to.
All good art it‘s uncomfortableе with us until we learn to appreciate it. This sculpture is no exception. In the years to come, if taken properly care of and as the shadow of the Soviet era fades even more, I am positive the Sofia monument will become popular on its own merits, both among Sofia’s citizens and among a broader European audience as well. Keep it!

Frederico Francisco
Foster + Partners, architect

You can’t hide history but you can be part of it.
Suggestion to the government:
Don’t spend money demolishing but renovating it. Create an open competition to architects and designers to renovate the sculpture and its values, and become understandable to the citizens.

Giovanni Patania
Foster + Partners, architect

When I saw this memorial for the very first time I couldn’t believe it has been designed during the early 80s. It is clear that Valentin Starchev had a vision, and this vision has been translated in sharp architectural shapes playing together a wonderful game of balance and might. It is dumb to think that just for not well founded ideological reasons and just because people don’t yet understand the value of this monument, is necessary to get rid of it. I would fight to avoid it happens.

Kasang Kajank
Foster + Partners, architect

I believe this monument is of strong cultural values, as it embodies the ethos and spirit of Valentin Starchev’s contemporary presence, importance and approach. To remove or dismantle it will be removing a key aspect of history and cultural memory.

Luca Caroti
Foster + Partners, architect

The value of the memorial is in its own memory. The history of our cities is not only in our minds but also in the places and monuments that marked them.
The knowledge and the respect of the history is the first step to learn from our past.
We can’t build a better future trying to delete the past.
What kind of memory we will have if we want to demolish the place of memory?

Matthew Kernan
Foster + Partners, part I architect

I believe cultural values of such monuments are profound in every sense in respect to our history.
To remove + dismantle this monument would be a step backwards. People do not like things in which they do not know. This is why we should place emphasis on educating others rather than destroying to start all over again.

Mayoor Jagjiwan
(Foster + Partners), architect

Our history is made up of buildings, monuments and landscapes which reflect our history.
We must have measures in place which preserve, conserve and protect our historic environment. Important places would risk being changed and losing what makes them special. We must not lose these places forever.

Ming Zhong Song
Foster + Partners, part I Architectural Assistant

My intention in this statement is to address how the great culture has been destroyed by human force behind. In this case that I would like to take China as a precedent.
Over the past sixty years, China has made one of the most dramatic transformations for urbanization of its vast rural areas, which has been highly recognized by many international observers. However, some people believe that these transformations are unsustainable, because they have been destroying cities across every generation by the constantly shifting political movements. Comparing with the new commercial-and manufacturing – based towns, the mature historical cities hold an older urban fabric but haven’t been faring so well. So they will be rapidly destroyed at a large scale to make way for new developments.

In addition, the rocketing land prices have boosted urban renewal and destructed the vernacular of the building fabric, sometimes they are even more than several hundreds of years old.

In my opinion that the 1300 Bulgaria is a great and timeless contemporary sculpture. It represents several generation’s faith and history of state. I hope Bulgaria don’t make the same mistake as we did. There is no argument that it should be best protected.

Robert Seymour

I agree that Starchev’s sculpture should be retained and fully repaired. It is a striking piece of contemporary sculpture + represents an important celebration in Bulgaria’s history.

Christina Greser
se-g architects/director

I know the site with the monument from a visit to Sofia in summer 2013. My first impression – despite the derelict state of the monument – was very positive! The piece is a strong document of Post War Bulgarian Art Work and reflects very well the changes of time, even in its current state. To demolish the sculpture would be an act of violence against the more recent Bulgarian heritage and a crime against well recognized sculpture/works of art.
This must not be replaced with some irrelevant “new” monument of lesser quality!!!