Relief Freedom

Plovdiv, center, west side of the Central Post Office building

By In 70s, Relief

Relief Freedom
Plovdiv, center, west side of the Central Post Office building

In 1970, a decision was made to completely renovate the building of the Plovdiv Central Post Office. The project under the name “Postal Palace” was assigned to architect Zhelyazko Stoykov. He is one of the successful and famous Bulgarian architects, he received his education in Germany and is the author of emblematic architectural objects and buildings in Bulgaria. Works of art and design were integrated into the building interior and exterior. The interior space offers designer sign boards with author Veselin Hristov; wood carving, wooden elements and grilles for the radiators by Nikolay Kanazirski, mosaic by Georgi Bozhilov and stained glass by Ioan Leviev. The exterior is notable for the large clock (a favorite meeting place before the age of mobile phones) and the exterior relief depicting the figure of a young woman by Viktor Todorov.

The relief.

The approved final project of the relief by Viktor Todorov is entitled “Freedom” and was done after the completion of the internal and external reconstruction of the Post Office. The plastic is made of Vratsa limestone using a large number of separate elements – on the principle of ceramic panels. It is then installed on the facade and enclosed with the building cladding. The monumental work is about 8 meters high and has a highly decorative character. The relief is geometrized and at a certain angle the intensity of the sunlight  acquires a specific contrast. The dynamics comes from the layered break in the plan perspective and Victor’s idea of depicting freedom through a dance element in the figure – the raised hands are a symbol of openness to the world and create a feeling of lightness, easygoing and happiness.

The current state of the relief requires immediate care and action. Part of the cladding of the building fell down and this creates a danger of the collapse of the entire relief and facade. Urgent action is needed.

History of the project.

My father and architect Zhelyazko (Bubi) Stoykov had a close friendship, both professional and as friends. Bubi Stoykov also participated in the realization of the Antonivanovtsi memorial complex, again in the 1970s. He often visited the atelier in Markovo to discuss yet another sculpture project with my father. Their dialogues were interesting and exciting. Sometimes Bubi used to talk about his student life in Germany, and my father fell into lyrical revelations. Those were happy years. When my father was assigned the project for the relief of the western facade of the Central Post Office, there were again many meetings, conversations and reflections.

The initial project had the working title Aurora. For a model, my father and I forged a wooden frame, serving as a base, with a height of several meters. A wire mesh was attached to it to hold the clay. I, being lighter in weight, climbed a ladder and piled up clay, then lightly tamped it down with a quartered wooden bat. This initial concept of the relief was not completely finished, and the approval committee returned it back with some remarks.

This made my father think about the content and format even more deeply, and the deadline was approaching. While one day he shared: “Last night I was at a disco with a company, it was quite noisy and full of young people dancing wildly. I was thoughtful – the deadline for presenting the project for the relief was running out. I sat and watched the crowd. Suddenly, my eyes fell on a girl who had moved off to the side and was also dancing. Her movements were extremely graceful and beautiful. She seemed to have excluded herself from the crowd, but this did not prevent her from attracting the attention of those around her. I was also looking at her in awe… And suddenly an idea flashed. I decided to recreate these graceful and harmonious movements in a frozen moment, embodying the inner, sacred feeling of freedom.”

This way the concept was finalized and clarified, the project was approved by the committee and moved to implementation.

We are obliged to recall one more story, both personal and public, related to this place. The Central Post Office, built in the 1970s, is located on the site of the beautiful and declared cultural heritage building: House of Charity and Public Health “Dimitar Petrov Kudoglu” – the first social health institution in Bulgaria. The architect of this building is Stoyko Stoykov, the father of architect Zhelyazko (Bubi) Stoykov. There was a plan to incorporate the original building into the new one, but that didn’t happen. Thus, the architect’s son, in order to build the new building, had to experience the parting, an emotional farewell with his father’s emblematic building.

See all photos of the relief with the possibility of detailed zooming here: