Urban inspirations we pass by – the domes of Sofia (first part)

“Urban inspirations we pass by” is a rubric for the architectural elements and details around us. Without a surprise, we will first look up to the domes of Sofia

Elegant and imposing, with different shapes and colors, the domes in Sofia dominate the city streets and deserve our admiration. Over the top of banks, insurance companies, temples and even residential buildings, some of them are embellished with sculptures, while others end up in the sky with bizarre towers and sharp spires. The domes are a beautiful architectural sign of the Bulgarian progress during the late nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century (weakened during the wartime years between the 1912-1918 wars but restored after the end of the Great War in the 1920s). A sign of the cultural and economic progress of the individual entrepreneur, banker or insurer as well as of the entire society, for which Atanas Burov wrote “Our unity and cohesion is our strength.” The same Burov, who described the Bulgarian banks as filled with gold in 1913. To find the spirit of these times we will look up to some of the preserved domes of Sofia along the route of historicalroutes.bg.

Hotel Imperial
The spirit of the old Imperial Hotel is related with the stories of the enterprising Balabanov family and the great gift of architect Kiro Marichkov. The family factories and affairs were led by Ivan Balabanov, when at the end of the second decade of the 20th century it was time for their next building in Sofia. The project was entrusted to architect Marichkov. The hotel was completed in 1920, and its magnificent architecture is worthy of any European capital, not only because of the corner dome built over a circle, finished with a spire and combined with a pediment. If we look at the details of the pediment, underneath it we can see a delicate face of a woman (to see the face, click the arrows on the photo).

Bank of Sofia
The Bank of Sofia is one of our favorite buildings, which inspired the first ever publication of historicalroutes.bg – one of many banks in the capital, which had their important role in the economic growth of Bulgaria in the early 20th century. And besides, they were many, all the banks were given the necessary image to be real urban “palaces” of Sofia. This dome reflects the common architectural ideas for a corner building and also the the style of architects Fingov & Nichev & Yurukov, but again it has its own personality and beauty. The dome is parabolic and steep, and the metal casing is varied by the alternating windows. The sculpture of the ancient Roman (banker) god Mercury, the protector of money, eloquence and trade, is at the foot of the dome. This sculpture by Marin Vassilev remains among the unforgettable “guardians” of buildings in Sofia.

Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
The building of the Bulgarian Literary Society, inherited by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, is one of the first national “temples” on Tsar Osvoboditel Boulevard. The year is just 1892, there is still nothing like the the yellow pavement (the “golden” cobbles)  in the center, and Sofia is still Konstantin-Irechek’s “Bulgarian Venice” because of its “muddy canals.” Still, the architect Herman Meyer’s building is crowned with a dome with ideal shape, a worthy symbol of science and its importance for the future of the young state. Later, in the twenties of the 20th century, the northern wing was added with its identical hemispherical dome.

Българска академия на науките

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Perhaps the most famous building in Sofia is the Alexander Nevski Cathedral, built to be a monument to the Bulgarian Liberation in 1878, and next to the Basilica of St. Sophia so that the most important temple of the ancient Ulpia Serdica lies next to the most important temple of the new capital Sofia. The project was developed by the world-famous Russian architect Alexander Pomerantsev and the construction continued from 1904 to 1912. The monumental cathedral influences with its bell tower, domes and semi-domes, which create completely different images of the building from the streets of Oborishte, Moskovska or 11 August. The central dome is laid on a tambour, framed by artificially decorated arches with columns. In fact, each arc comprises four arches with different stone decorations. The large dome reaches a height of 46 meters and is gold-plated to be an unforgettable view during day and night.

Храм-паметник "Александър Невски"

Chamber of Commerce and Industry
The former Chamber of Commerce and Industry is one of the less known architectural beauties in the capital, maybe because it stays away from the busy life on Georgi Rakovski Street and the garden in front of the National Theater. The building is located at the quiet crossroads between the streets Georgi Benkovski and Slavianska since 1912 (probably the construction continued in the following years and in the 1920s another floor was inserted). Even this brief tour along the domes is a confirmation of the inspirational and energetic work of Fingov & Nichev & Yurukov Bureau. And in this case, they took advantage of the corner position of the building and crowned it with a dome. This time the dome rises vertically at first, then becomes steeper before it ends with another delicate tiny tower and a spire. The delicacy of the tower can be compared to the crown, which instead of precious stones have round windows that repeat the larger windows from the lower part of the dome.

The second part coming soon!