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The lily pond will feature a restored drinking fountain with an animalist sculpture of a bear, Source: City of Sofia

Sofia will bring its largest park back to its former glory

Sofia will bring its largest park back to its former glory

Its last major renovations were in 1986 and a lot of the infrastructure needs restoration

Yesterday, local authorities in Sofia presented their plan to restore and renovate the Borisova Gradina (the Knyaz Boris Garden) – the oldest and most famous park in Bulgaria’s capital. The re-development will happen in three stages, with the first one focusing on walkways, lighting and CCTV, the second one, focusing on public buildings like toilets and the third one – on the finer details like park ornamentations and special features like the famous lily pond.

The project will focus on a total of 32 hectares and it calls for 120 new lamp-posts 130 new cameras, more than 25,000 new bushes and trees, as well as an expansion of the irrigation system.

Furthermore, many of the park’s ornamentation, sculptures and decorations that have been stolen or otherwise destroyed over the years will be reconstructed using archive photography.

A before and after shot

Many of the sculptures that were present in the park and are now gone will be restored,
Source: City of Sofia 

Spreading out from the Rosarium

The Knyaz Boris Garden was established in 1882, just three years after Sofia became the capital of Bulgaria after liberation from Ottoman rule. Back then, there were almost no paved streets in the city and to the dismay of many citizens, the construction of park infrastructure began in 1884.

At first, much of the area was used as a sapling nursery, which could be both used to populate the park and sell greenery to the population. The park’s contemporary look took shape in earnest in 1906, when the Alsatian Joseph Frei took over management.

He rearranged the paths and created the now-iconic lily pond and a Rosarium. The Rosarium, in particular, grew to cover 7,000 square metres with over 1,400 species under the park’s next manager Georgi Duhtev.

The parks’ last major reconstruction, though, was in 1986 and many of the sculptures, the rosary, alleys, ponds and water fountains have deteriorated or have been lost.

In 2018, City authorities re-established the Rosarium, complete with new park furniture and lamp-posts. Now, they are looking to build outwards from there and bring much of that fresh yet historic flare back to the rest of the park.

With that attitude of celebrating the site’s rich history, comes the idea of restoring much of the sculptures based on archival photography. The sculptures themselves are born out of a niche movement in Bulgarian Sculpture called the Animalist movement. It aims to reimagine animals as playground furniture and recreate lifelike exotic and domestic animals from bronze and stone.

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