• Mosaics in Sofia Airport, “Terminal 1”

Mosaics in Sofia Airport, Terminal 1

Mosaics in Sofia Airport, Terminal 1

The construction of the airport near “Vrazhdebna” district began in 1937. The large passenger terminal (Terminal 1) began to be built in 1938 based on the project of architects Nikolai Marangozov, Petko Tsvetkov, and Tsvetan Dobrev.

The building design is restrained and lacks excessive opulence. Its architecture stands out with clear shapes and balanced proportions. The exterior paneling is of white stone complemented by pale balanced colors. The building was officially opened in 1947 but was not fully completed until 1949.

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Mosaic Map of Europe and Mosaic Map of Bulgaria by Ivan Penkov, 1949

In 1949, artist Ivan Penkov finished his work on the two stone mosaic panels decorating the building. The mosaics depict maps of Bulgaria and Europe with their major cities. On the “Map of Europe” mosaic, each city is represented by a distinctive building; Sofia is portrayed by the airport building itself. In the “Map of Bulgaria”, the cities are marked by representative buildings or leading industries. For example, the symbol of Sofia is the patriarchal cathedral “St. Alexander Nevsky,” Russe’s the railway station near the port, Troian’s pottery, and Burgas’ an anchor, and Kystendil’s fruit. The artist adds details where they are needed for a factual representation but otherwise omits them. The colors are balanced and muted. By combining geographically accurate facts and artistic vision, the artist created mosaics with both a utilitarian and aesthetic function. The year of the mosaics’ completion (1949) is depicted on the map of Europe. Some of the Bulgarian cities’ names were edited later (i.e. Shumen was written as Kolarovgrad, a name the city received in January 1950), which is evidence for editing of the mosaic’s authentic look after its creation.

Ivan Penkov

Ivan Penkov
Photo: UBA

Ivan Penkov was born in the city of Kazanlak. In 1919, he was admitted to the State School of Drawing in Sofia, currently known as the National Academy of Art, where he studied under professors Petko Klisurov, Boris Mihailov, Anton MitovHaralambi Tachev, Zheko Spiridonov, and Stefan Ivanov. In 1922, he organized a joint exhibition with Dechko Uzunov, a friend and fellow student. Between 1922 and 1924, he studied painting at the Munich Academy under Professors Meyerhofer and Hengeler before returning to Bulgaria to continue his studies at the Academy.

Penkov’s work in scenography was paralleled in his painting, and he was invited to work as a decorator in the “Ivan Vazov” National Theater. By the 1920s, he had become one of the most influential theater artists in Bulgaria. He graduated from the Art Academy in Sofia under Prof. Dechko Uzunov in 1933 and taught scenography at the Academy from 1939 to 1955, during which time he founded the “Scenography and Theater Costume” studio. In 1948, he became a full professor in the Applied arts department of the Academy of Arts. Penkov also served as chairman of the Union of Bulgarian Artists in 1931 and 1946. In 1953, Penkov was appointed director of the Institute of Art Studies at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences and was a member of the Scientific Council. He died in 1957.

Penkov’s artistic repertoire extended to various mediums such as painting, graphics, book layout, scenography, and monumental painting. In addition to paintings, illustrations, costume and set designs, Penkov created stained glass, mosaics, murals, wooden dolls, and iron works in private and public contexts. Among his emblematic works are murals in the Burgas Chamber of Commerce and Industry (1929), which he completed with Nikola Marinov; stained glass windows in the Bulgarian Embassy in Belgrade (1939); stained glass windows for the Rectory of the Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” (1932–1933); the stained glass panel “Themis with the scales of Justice” in the Central Court of the Ministry of Justice in Sofia (1940); the stained glass panel “Coinage in Medieval Bulgaria” in the Bulgarian National Bank (1940); the stained glass panel in Hall 15 and the foyer on the 3rd floor (1940), the mosaic “Themis” (1941), and another stained glass panel “Themis” in the Court House in Ruse (1940).

Gallery: “Map of Bulgaria”

Gallery: “Map of Europe”