An open international contest has been launched to overhaul the landmark Strannopriemnitsa Hotel at the Etar open-air ethnographic museum in Bulgaria (Deadline: 15 January)
Open to local and international architects and multidisciplinary teams, the single-stage anonymous competition seeks ‘expert, transparent and motivated’ proposals for a 2 million BGN revamp of the hotel which hosts visitors to the popular Balkan Mountain attraction.
The project is part of an ongoing upgrade of the sprawling Etar museum, which opened in 1964. The museum, around 8km south of Gabrovo, today features more than 50 historic buildings along with various exhibitions focusing on traditional rural Bulgarian life.
Etar Museum Hotel, Bulgaria
According to the brief: ‘The open-air ethnographic museum Etar, as the largest group tourist destination in Gabrovo and among the most visited in Bulgaria, has been also undergoing a rapid development – it has updated its cultural calendar and has attracted both experienced professionals and young generation team members.
In this context, the redevelopment of Strannopriemnitsa Hotel as an integral part of Etar will contribute to the renovation and modernisation of the complex. It allows for improvement of the functional links in the museum, for optimisation of the spaces and for additional new functions, which will both enrich and popularise the work of the museum. On the other hand, the reconstruction should preserve the spirit of the authentic Bulgarian architecture, skilfully combined with the Classical Modernism of the building. The reconstructed building should also provide spaces suitable to the current needs and future intentions of the ethnographic museum.’
Gabrovo is a major city in central northern Bulgaria located at the foot of the Balkan Mountains and famous for its architecture influenced by the Bulgarian National Revival movement. The seven-hectare Etar museum was created in the 1960s as a new cultural and educational attraction centred around the 1780 Karadzheyka water mill.
The open-air park features many Bulgarian revival houses along with restaurants and various displays focussing on the country’s unique customs, culture and craftsmanship. In recent years the museum has expanded its cultural and academic output, upgrading existing buildings and holding a competition earlier this year for a new branding strategy.
Etar Museum Hotel, Bulgaria
The latest competition, organised by Urbanistas and backed by the Municipality of Gabrovo, aims to upgrade and reconfigure the Strannopriemnitsa Hotel, which is a key venue for visitors to the museum. The hotel currently features around 61 beds in five single, 22 double and two quadruple rooms as well as one suite.
International applicants are encouraged to team up with local firms to compete and all submissions must be completed in Bulgarian. Judges include Delcho Delchev of Transformatori Association; Martin Hristov, deputy chair of the Chamber of Architects in Bulgaria; and Teodora Uzunova from Etar.
The overall winner, to be announced in late January, will receive a 10,000 BGN prize and be invited to negotiate for the design contract. A 4,000 BGN second prize and 2,000 BGN third prize will also be awarded.
How to apply
The deadline for applications is 15 January
Visit the competition website for more information
Q&A with Svetla Dimitrova
The director of Etar discusses her ambitions for the competition
Why are you conducting a competition for the reconstruction of the hotel part of the Ethnographic Open-air Museum Etar?
The Ethnographic Open-air Museum Etar is among the few institutions of this kind that have a hotel as a part of their building stock. The hotel itself is built in the style of the architecture presented in the museum. We believe that this competition will give us the chance to receive and to choose among the best redevelopment projects. A competition, organised with clear criteria and transparent procedures is an opportunity for architects from different places to participate. We would be glad to have representatives from other countries even though the competition was announced as a national one. When you compete and you are not eligible according to the initial rules, you have the urge to give your best. If there are more project proposals, the jury will be busier and more satisfied.
What is your vision for the new image of the hotel?
The new hotel will combine accommodation, residences and offices for the museum administration. These functions should not interfere. The outer appearance cannot be changed because the building is part of an ensemble declared as cultural heritage of national importance. The building has five floors and it can be approached from different levels due to the different heights in the terrain.The total floor area is nearly 3,500m². We expect the winning project to provide a new environment where hotel guests can feel cosy in a different and authentic atmosphere. In addition, the museum staff should be provided with good working conditions. Wood is a dominating material In the interior of the building. It can be seen in floors, ceilings and furniture. The interior has to prompt the architectural style of the Bulgarian Revival period, and at the same time to offer all the modern comforts. Energy efficiency is a very important element of the redevelopment because it will reduce maintenance costs of the building and make it warmer in winter and cooler in the summer.
Etar Museum Hotel, Bulgaria
What kind of architects and designers do you hope to participate in the competition?
We hope to have both notable names in architecture and design, and still uncovered talents. The participant or at least one member of the participating team should be a fully certified architect in their relative country of work and all the documentation should be translated into Bulgarian. The Ethnographic Open-air museum Etar is very popular because it organises many events and is the only one of its kind in Bulgaria. Every year more than 200,000 people come to visit. In 2015, the 13 millionth visitor was welcomed. The museum is a member of the European Association of Outdoor Museums, and this year Gabrovo was included in the UNESCO World Organisation of Creative Cities. I think it would be challenging and prestigious for every architect and design professional to take part in the competition.The ambition of the museum is to demonstrate a new style of management and promotion of cultural heritage that could become a model used by other museums in the country. The competition for reconstruction of the hotel building is part of this strategy.
What other design options are set on the horizon and how will the designers be chosen for them?
A project for reconstruction of one of the biggest museum buildings is being developed. It has to be transformed into multifunctional halls for exhibitions and work with different audiences. We plan to rebuild a former school in a place where museum artefacts can be stored and easily viewed by students and specialists. There will also be laboratories for conservation and restoration. We want the yard of the school to be turned into outdoor exposure site for water-powered installations. At the beginning of December, the results of the Museum’s Graphic Identity Contest and Logo will be announced, and the implementation steps will have to be planned. There are several houses whose second floors will be turned into showrooms for expositions. Challenges are many, but the selection of good specialists is the most important step in their implementation.
Etar Museum Hotel, Bulgaria
Q&A with Mila Yolova
The co-founder of Urbanistas discusses her ambitions for the contest
Which are the most interesting facts about the hotel, that you as organisers came across?
Maybe we should start with the fact that it is a hotel that is managed by the administration of the one and only in the country Open-air Ethnographic Museum – Etar which is a cultural heritage site of national importance. Although it was built 10 years after the museum back in 1981, it is now an inseparable part of the whole ensemble – functionally and aesthetically. It’s designed in accordance with the so-called mountain architectural style of the Bulgarian houses during the Revival time and also reflects the landscape forms of the environment where it is situated. Another thing is that the hotel and its plot are part of the territory of the Natural Park Bulgarka where some rare habitats of conservation importance exist.
Historically, the interior plans were elaborated after the building was finished. They also include plans for every piece of furniture. Luckily, the original hand-drawn plans are well preserved, so we could get an idea of the original look and inward scale of the building. An essential part of the whole interior is the presence of different elements designed in natural materials like rugs, carpets, tapestry, wooden chairs and tables, coffers, wooden ceiling frames and covers. All of them were made by local craftsmen especially for the hotel building. Some are still there in relatively good condition, others have been replaced by new ones in the same style.
A very interesting moment was our meeting with one of the hotel’s last living architects, Tatyana Kondareva, co-author of the interior plans. She said that the team did not have much time to work because the hotel had to be opened for the national celebrations of the 1,300th anniversary of the country’s founding. It was in the 80s when the tourist industry in Bulgaria was centralised due to the Communist regime and the hotel’s maintenance was funded by the state. After the transition towards a market-led economy, the hotel could hardly earn enough and started losing its glamour. From this moment on, it is the museum that has been obliged to provide financial support and proper management for the building.