Bold Freedoms, Embodied In Architecture

The Spacious And Tranquil Bulgarian Architectural Project Looming Above The Land

It’s safe to say that architecture continues to reside at the forefront of visual, spatial and political discussions around the public/private in modern societies. Observation House, designed by I/O Architects’ Viara Jeliazkova, Georgi Katov and Stefan Apostolov, encapsulates this age-old strict dichotomy of the public/private by presenting its fallacious foundations.

Trumping the aspect of transparency over and above the privacy of enclosure, Observation House resembles a modern-day fortress, covering an area of 980.0 square metres upon a hill in North-East Bulgaria. One of the principle architects of this project is Georgi Katov. He initiated I/O architects in 2004 with Viara Jeliazkova as a long-distance collaboration between Sofia and Tokyo, where Georgi had been granted a scholarship by the Japanese government to work at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Now the company have 15 buildings to their name, “and 7 of them are nominated for the EU contemporary architecture Mies van der Rohe Award,” Georgi proudly tells us.

Stunning photographs by Assen Emilov conveys the project’s structural integrity amid the sweeping agricultural landscape. Panoramic 360 views mark Observation House as a combination of the fresh outdoors with the protection and luxury of a spacious interior. Replete with a cavernous entrance hall, an elegant pitched-roof, master-bedroom, guest-suite, sauna and massage rooms and a large swimming pool, this fanciful feat of architecture is sure to impress.

To find out more, we had a chat with Georgi Katov:

The Plus: What inspired Observation House?
Georgi Katov:
We were inspired by the surrounding territory and the connection it has with the lifestyle of our client, who was born in that area. His business is there and he decided to run it there with all the benefits of the natural rural life. It’s in a remote agricultural area with mostly traditional or pseudo modern architecture.

TP: Tell us about your creative process – the good bits and the frustrating parts.
We try to work very thoroughly with the specific context of Bulgarian cities, nature and society. It is very interesting and inspiring yet also a frustrating peripheral situation. The underdevelopment of the local architectural practice brings a lot of freedom and difficult explanations.

TP: What about Observation House you most proud of?
The invented 360 degree view, which was not there when we started, and also the complex load-bearing structure of the roof which permits it; the bold and precise use of the materials. The freedom it embodies.

TP: What at the moment characterizes Bulgarian architecture?
The nearing change I hope! I hope there will be more architecture in the big public buildings which are built with EU funds. Until now the quality of architecture is a privilege of private projects. Politics do not understand the power of architecture to transform.

TP: What’s next for you?
We have just submitted a competition project for a library in Varna. We are also finishing the building of two more houses and starting to make a bigger apartment building.


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