• Mosaic, Entrance Foyer, Sports Palace / Ministry of Youth and Sports, Iliya Iliev

Iliya Iliev, mosaic

Entrance Foyer, Sports Palace / Ministry of Youth and Sports

Stone/smalt mosaic, 25 sq. m, 1986

The Sports Palace in Sofia features a set of two natural-stone-and-smalt mosaics made in 1986.

Ilia Iliev

Ilia Iliev
Photo: personal archive

Iliya Iliev was born in 1931 in Burgas, Bulgaria. In 1954, he graduated with a degree in architecture from Sofia’s Higher Institute of Architecture and Civil Engineering, which is today’s University of Architecture, Civil Engineering, and Geodesy – UACG. He worked from 1955 to 1959 as an architect-designer in Burgas.

Between 1959 and 1966, Iliya Iliev pursued studies in “Monumental Decorative Painting” under the guidance of Professor Georgi Bogdanov at the National Academy of Art in Sofia, which was at that time called the “High institute for fine arts “Nikolai Pavlovich.” Starting in 1969, he worked as a composition lecturer at the National Academy of Art. He became an associate professor in 1985 and eventually a professor and the head of the department for “Mural Painting” in 1990.

In addition to his studies, Iliya Iliev undertook specialized training in Paris in 1970 and had a creative residency in Finland. In 1989, he became a member of the International Association of Contemporary Mosaicists (AIMC) based in Ravenna, Italy. A couple of years later he served as a visiting professor at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in the United States.

Iliya Iliev’s artistic work primarily focuses on monumental painting, easel painting, and monumental mosaic art. He uses materials such as marble, granite, stone, and glass (often artistically molded) and incorporates various natural forms into his creations.

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Mosaic in the entrance foyer

The first one is located in the entrance foyer, which gives viewers a precious opportunity to take in the work as soon as entering the building.

The large size of the panel and the short distance to the mosaic have a strong spatial impact. The work represents a huge arcade (depicted height: 2.5 m) belonging to a stadium, with an expanse of steps and stands leading up to it.

The stands and the curve of the arcade create an effect of further expanding the interior. A large second double door leading on to the building’s interior is integrated into the mosaic, which, when open, heightens this effect. The space in the mural is seemingly as real as the space of the foyer.

Mosaic in the adjacent foyer

Located in an adjacent foyer, spanning its two levels, the second mosaic depicts a colonnade, arcade and balustrade looking onto a seemingly infinite seascape. Iliev has created a visual illusion of immense depth, which has the effect of extending the interior out, in the direction of the seascape. The composition is simple and rhythmic, with a clear structure.

The architectural space itself is supported and enriched by the structural elements of the mosaic (columns, arches, a balustraded parapet), whose depicted dimensions are equivalent to their real-life ones. The capitals of the depicted columns end at the bottom of the plaster cornice framing  the foyer’s ceiling, creating the illusion that the columns are load-bearing. The colour scheme tends to the natural: sparkling blue, white and green shades predominate. Individual tesserae are grouped in rows following the direction of the shapes, highlighting their specificity. The technical execution is flawless.