At the end of the 1960s, the team comprising architects Ivan Bitrakov, Yakim Petrov and Georgi Papagalov won a competition to design a new exhibition building in the city of Kazanlak. Over the course of more than ten years, the project underwent a series of changes and names until in 1981, the building officially opened its doors as the Kazanlak Art Gallery.
Dubbed by the media at its opening “The White-Stone Beauty of Kazanlak” , the building is a lesson in using natural materials and creating generous open spaces that are in no way inferior to the boldest examples from the period in Europe and the world.
The massive stone facade conceals the surprise that visitors discover inside. The interior space is truly impressive – open, spacious, and unexpected. In the centre of the building, there is an atrium that is “sunken” a half-level lower than the entrance, around which spiral staircases wind, leading visitors up gradually, half a level at a time, into each of the exhibition halls. The interior space is dynamic and creates the opportunity for many intersecting visual connections. The spiral movement concludes with a ramp featuring deep and shallow steps that gently guide the visitors out.
The attention to detail in the design and execution is impressive. Stone is the primary material and can be traced from the limestone on the facades, through the white stone on the floor, the red stone that highlights the staircases, to the carefully carved exterior cladding stone, laid in the “sunken” forum where unique square mosaic panels with local accents of white marble are laid with an open joint.
The wooden elements also share a common visual language – the window frames and entrance doors have characteristic rounded fittings around the windows, and the enlarged hemispherical door handles invite visitors to touch and to enter the gallery.
With its beautiful architecture and rich cultural heritage, the gallery and museum attract hundreds of tourists every year.