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Author: Ivan Ivanov


Mussman's Plan for Bulgarian capital of Sofia

Late in last interwar decade, a Nazi-backed architect named Adolph Muesmann drew up a comprehensive urban plan for the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. It was based on amalgam of ideas, but primarily on Ebenezer Howard's Garden City Project. Muesmann sought to spread out most of the city's population in peripheral settlements of small family-owned garden houses. An expanded road network for increased auto traffic, as promoted in Nazi Germany itself, would link the separate suburb agglomerations.



General Considerations of Mussman's Plan

As to theoretical aspects of the architectural and town-planning process, it should be mentioned that in the early 1920s Arch. G. Nenov published "Guide for Development of Public Amenities" (1924) and Arch. T. Trendafllov "Modern Town" (1925), two books which represent important landmarks of Bulgarian town planning development thought and the spread of the European dimensions in our practice. Even in 1923, a re-fixing of the aims of both town-planning theory and practice was to be observed - attention focused not on regulation but rather on Master Plans. In 1931, a commission was appointed at the municipality to prepare the necessary conditions and materials for the elaboration of the master plan of Sofia.

In 1934, a new period started in the development of the capital. Likewise from that time Arch. Mihaylovski wrote, "after the coup d'etat of 19 May 1934, a considerable change in both the state and municipal rule started". Appointed competent mayors undertook the municipal management. The "Decree of Sofia" from 1934, reorganized all the municipal departments and services. According to Art. 1 of the new Decree and in spite of the objections of architects and engineers, in 1935 Adolf Mussman, Professor at the Dresden Polytechnics, was entrusted with the elaboration of the general town-planning scheme of Greater Sofia, without any competition held. The reason for not announcing a competition was "not to waste more time and not to spend too much money".

The town plan drawn in 1933 and including all the adjacent villages was used as a base for the new project. In 1934, the building area of the city was 29.9 sq. km and together with the neighbouring villages and the forests, it approximated 57 sq. km. The population enumerated 287 096 people. The plan was presented to the municipality at the end of November 1937 and approved by the government on 21 April 1938. It was subjected to serious criticism by both population and experts. The motivation of the objections varied in character. Some of them were strictly professional and were related to the fact that the author was not acquainted well enough with the peculiarities of the Bulgarian reality and of Sofia in particular. Professor L. Tonev published a brochure, "Great Mistakes of Mussman's Plan".

The discussions in the press and in the Municipality Council were stormy. T. Trendafilov showed some sharp criticism to the recurrent plan. Despite the fact that the plan of Mussman was not realized because of World War II, it itself and all the discussions it caused had an exclusively fruitful influence on the attitude to town-planning issues of both professionals and citizens. That was how the spirit of modern West European town planning with all its concepts, criteria and standards, came in touch with the town planning problems of Sofia.

Moreover, on the eve of World War II Sofia in no way differed from any other middle-sized European city, with all the positive and negative aspects of comparison measurement.



Addendum: The problem of Urbanization in Modern Cities is complex and multilayered. Moreover, in a historical perspective the Sofia Municipality agglomeration is an ideal example for regional development and town planning. Consider the facts from 20 000 population in liberation year 1878, today in 2010 the Sofia Metropolitan is close to 2 million population. Large segments from this town growth have been poorly documented or clarified, least so as we have envisaged the progress reports at our disposal. What we mean is that urbanization shouldn't be only a plethora of financial considerations, communication facilities or even water and electricity networks. Its kernel is management and regionalization as defined by space-time components, some 100 years ago elaborated by Ebenezer Howard's Garden City Project and the later International Federation for Housing and Planning.

We have already tried to make a start on this topic with our short introduction on T. Trendafilov and his life-works cf., "Trendafilov, T. Scientific Organization of Work. Sofia, 1929" from the booklist. Arch. T. Trendafilov, doyen of urbanization and management in Bulgaria, left a considerable written heritage to the late comers in the field. He was long years Chief Advisor at the Sofia Municipality Council, and together with this job he administered also jointly with his brother Vulko Trendafilov a "technical rationalizations and consulting firm", prototype of early management thought in this country. Communism made the workload of the Trendafilov's estate redundant and recently there have been revival of interest towards the "prophets of Bulgarian management", per se.

Monitoring managerial processes in this country is sidewise activity while we are risking to remain always in the periphery of "hard-line" academic science. In some way, our free lance job in essay writing have been a financial disaster for the author of these lines. The fact that we have many thousands pages of undelivered information doesn't make us more eligible in the face of our amateur comrades. Finally, those half-a-dozen books from T. Trendafilov and his colleagues, the archives of journal "BIAD" and others await to be refurbished.

For the urbanization sub-branch of those predicaments, whatever the thing we dispose of database that accounts roughly several folders (N.B., materials are from datelines in the 1920s and 1930s):

Several yearbooks of progress reports from the Ministry of Regional Development and Road Building. Those are very thick volumes and in large octavo with many statistical data and timely photographs;

Same yearbooks issued from the Sofia Municipal Council with hatch years 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938 and 1939. Ibid;

Full currency of the politico-cultural-administrative journal "Serdica" (with minor omissions in the war years 1941-1944, which were deliberately not printed). This illustrated monthly is real achievement for the Bulgarian publishing milieu and the press as a whole. Those unrelated to the matter should have in mind that the journal continued its periodicity for some time after the Great War mainly as exponent of Government Printing Office. It was privatized by the State in 1950;

Scattered monographs on architecture, engineering science, etc. which are original contributions from bulgarian authors. It is difficult to name positive authorities but even from that period the Bulgarian technical thought was looking for its re-establishment, ditto.

/to be continued/.


Picture 1: Sample illustration on the text above.

(i). This is how a low resolution plan of Sofia (1938) looked like. More precise vision of the same plan is available on French and German (Baedeker) plotters.



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