Bringing the Buzludzha back to life

Degree project is a hit with Bulgarian media

Date posted

11 May 2016


TWO final year students have hit the headlines in Bulgaria by turning an old Soviet-era building into an immersive virtual reality experience.

Edinburgh Napier computing students Rafał Czarnowski and Todor Rusanov attracted press and TV attention with an honours degree project focused on the Buzludzha Monument built by the communist regime in the 1970s.

The monument, at the top of a peak in the Central Balkan Mountains, commemorated the founding in 1891 of the Bulgarian Social Democratic party.

An example of the brutalist style common to state-constructed communist buildings, it later fell into disuse and is now practically derelict.

Rafal and Todor wanted to raise awareness about the monument and suggest a new use for the abandoned mega-structure.

They travelled to the site in 2015 to take photos and experience first-hand the size and scale of the monument. A series of spatial measurements was taken, and they secured funding from the University to purchase a VR headset to help develop the project. 

As well as an unguided exploration of the Buzludzha Monument, it is also a small history lesson about the structure, all presented inside a redesigned, conceptual version of the building to show what it could look like if it was ever restored. 

There are also photos of places of interest in Bulgaria displayed on the panoramic corridor wall, with a playable voice-over description to learn more about what they depict.

Rafal said: “We wanted to use the Monument’s unique and unusual architectural form to creatively restore the structure and suggest a new use for it.

Buzludzha VR will allow the audience to explore and sense the monument in a way that would otherwise be impossible in real life.

“Although the project was designed with the HTC Vive VR platform in mind, the downloadable experience from our website can be also viewed on a flat screen, like a regular PC game.”

Watch our students' first appearance on Bulgarian national TV - with English subtitles - HERE