• Fountain with mosaics in front of the National Palace of Culture

The fountain with mosaics in front of the National Palace of Culture

The fountain with mosaics in front of the National Palace of Culture by Ivan Radev and architect Atanas Agura, 1981

The fountain with mosaics is part of the architectural theme of the park in front of the National Palace of Culture. It is the culmination of a series of fountains leading to the imposing main building. The theme of the mosaics relates to their surrounding space so they are an intrinsic part of the fountain sculpture.

The absence of actual figures and clearly defined shapes and themes in the design allows the creators more artistic freedom than they would have had otherwise. The content and messages of any work of art would have been subject to the guidelines and regulations imposed by the communist party.

The shape of the fountain space is a polygon, which stands out when observed from above. From this perspective, the eye is naturally drawn to the fountain itself while the mosaics serve as a background. The mosaic makes an impression only when observed from eye level. The material of the tesserae (natural stone) fits perfectly with the rest of the decoration. The abstract stone composition is executed in a single muted color palette, once again allowing the viewer’s attention to shift to the shiny metal spheres of the fountain.

Ivan Radev

Ivan Radev (1921-2009)
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ivan Radev Rusev, known as Ivan Radev, was born in the city of Shumen. In 1943, he enrolled at the National Academy of Arts, specializing in painting in the studio of Professor Boris Mitov. He graduated in 1948 under Professor Iliya Petrov. Ivan Radev worked for the magazines “Picture Gallery,” “Industrial Aesthetics,” and “Decorative Art.” From 1958 to 1971, he taught the discipline of “Spatial Design” at the National Academy of Art. Ivan Radev was the capital’s chief artist for 10 years and created over 120 designs for museums, exhibitions, interiors, and fairs in Bulgaria and around the world. Among his leading works are the design of the space around the National Palace of Culture (in collaboration with architect Atanas Agura) in 1981 and the interior, museum props, and exhibition design of the Earth and People National Museum.

In 1981, Ivan Radev received the title of “Honorary Citizen” of Shumen. On the 1300th anniversary of the Bulgarian state, the artist donated paintings and sculptures to his hometown of Shumen. Ivan Radev died in Sofia in 2009.

Atanas Agura

Architect Atanas Agura
Photo: Pressphoto BTA

Architect Atanas Agura was born in Sofia in 1926. Since childhood, Agura had a passion for drawing buildings and landscapes, and thanks to his parents’ guidance, he directed his focus towards architecture, which became his vocation and profession. In 1944, the future architect graduated from the First Sofia Male Gymnasium. The turbulent and uncertain times of the Second World War put a heavy burden on the family of Engineer Dimitar Agura. After completing his military service, Atanas Agura was admitted to the State Polytechnic with a major in Architecture. After several interruptions in his education due to the political turmoil of the time, he graduated with highest distinction in 1956.

Architect Atanas Agura was one of the most prominent creative personalities in Bulgarian architecture in the second half of the 20th century. His favorite area of expertise was urban planning and the design of public buildings, and his professional career can be divided into two stages. The first stage (1957–1997) includes design and managerial activities at institutes such as “Hranproekt,” “Zavodproekt,” “Glavproekt,” and “Softproekt,” while the second stage (since 1997) was associated with his private design firm “AAA Architectproject” Ltd. Architect Atanas Agura is the author and co-author of over 90 urban planning and architectural solutions. He participated in the development of urban plans for the central parts of cities such as Blagoevgrad, Burgas, Veliko Tarnovo, and others. Since 1972, he has been actively involved in the activities related to the new urban plan of Sofia and its center. He designed several separate ensembles and areas in the capital, including the 1975–1976 formation of the square in front of the National Theatre “Ivan Vazov.” On the eve of the celebrations commemorating the 1300th Anniversary of the Bulgarian State, he was appointed by the Council of Ministers as the chief designer of the surrounding space of the National Palace of Culture. Together with Architect Alexander Barov (the author of the building) and Valentina Atanasova (the head of the park-building team), they developed general and detailed plans for this monumental project. In the following years, he realized several other urban planning and architectural projects, including the redevelopment of a part of Sofia’s boulevard “Vitosha,” the reconstruction of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in “Garibaldi” Square, the memorial complex “St. George the Victorious” in the “Levski-Gerena” Sports Complex, Hotel “Etar” at Veliko Tarnovo, and many others throughout the country.

For his contributions as an architect, Atanas Agura was awarded the title of “Honored Architect” in 1982, and in 2001, he was declared an honorary citizen of Sofia.

The architect passed away in Sofia in 2008.

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