The Buzludzha Memorial hovers above the Bulgarian countryside as an imposing reminder of the country’s past. January’s Brutalist Building of the Month reminds us why Brutalism has for so long been associated with socialist ideals and just how impressive it can be. Photography by Xiao Yang.
Located on a rocky mountain peak in central Bulgaria over 200 kilometres from the nation’s capital, the Buzludzha Memorial is a significant presence on the rural landscape. The monument was unveiled in 1981 to commemorate the foundation of the Bulgarian Social Democratic Workers Party, which took place on the same mountain top 90 years earlier in 1891.
Designed by Georgi Stoilov, a former mayor of Sofia and Minister for Architecture and Public Works, the saucer-shaped building housed a large events space and museum. An adjoining 70m (230ft) tall tower displays a large red star visible across the valley. Intent on creating a timeless monument to socialism, Stoilov cited both classical and modern influences in his design – most notably the Roman Pantheon and Western Brutalism. Construction took place over seven years with a total of 6,000 people working on the site and 70,000 tons of concrete being poured. The interior space of the memorial was decorated with large and colourful mosaics depicting the heroes of communism and scenes from Bulgaria’s history. During its eight years of use the Buzludzha Memorial was visited by over two million people, usually on tours organised by their school or employer, and was one of the most important symbols of socialist power in Bulgaria.
After the fall of communism in 1989 maintenance of the memorial ceased completely. Over 33 years of abandonment it has been vandalised extensively and fallen victim to the harsh weather of its exposed mountaintop home. In recent years it has gained notoriety for its eery state and impressive design and there have been campaigns both nationally and abroad to fund its preservation. The Buzludzha Memorial serves as a striking reminder of Bulgaria’s communist past and the decaying memory of that time.
The Buzludzha Memorial is featured on our Brutalist Calendar 2024 for January. Since 2019, our annual, limited-edition monthly wall calendar is a celebration of some of the most awe-inspiring and influential examples of Brutalist architecture around the world. This year's calendar features stunning photography of Brutalist architecture from Buenos Aires to Bulgaria. Sign up for the newsletter below to be informed of the release of next year's calendar.