Tall tales in sofia

Atkins | 15 Sep 2010 | Comments

The St Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world. It is a towering presence, able to accommodate a staggering 5,000 visitors in a single sitting. With a crowded 12-bell tower and décor including Brazilian onyx, it also ranks among the city’s most popular tourist attractions – a striking symbol of the nation’s flowering.

In recent years, the country has developed a reputation for value holidays among Europeans looking for a bargain, from skiing in winter to bathing by the Black Sea in summer. The economic downturn hit visitor numbers in 2009, but the Bulgarian Government expects a strategy of decisive diversification into cultural tourism will improve revenues for the sector from 2.6bn in 2008 to some 7.9bn by 2010.

When Atkins was asked to create a modern mixed-use facility in this changing environment, everyone knew it would be a challenge: how do you strike the right balance between the 19th century grandeur of the cathedral and an emerging 21st century economy looking for opportunity to grow? Creating any major new structure in this context, something that would sit comfortably and confidently with this as a backdrop, was going to require careful planning and construction.

Inspired by the cathedral’s historic arches, the modern Capital Fort development created by Atkins will play a part in Sofia’s expected economic surge – its 135m high-rise tower of office space will become a new landmark for those driving into the city or even touching down at the international airport. The accompanying “L” shaped low-rise office building sits astride a podium proffering a wide range of retail and conference facilities, all accessed via a grand atrium. On completion, Capital Fort is set to be the tallest building not just in Bulgaria, but in all the Balkans.

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