Nicola Nicolov / Liliana Stoinova: Interhotel “Veliko Târnovo”, 1981

  • Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria, Show on map
  • #TOU #Sculptural #Eastern Europe
  • Architect Nikola Nikolov had been working on a new vision for Bulgaria’s old capital from as early as 1957 when he, and a collective of architects from Glavproekt, developed the city’s first then urban plan. Many of the architectural designs of public buildings in Veliko Tarnovo’s centre (erected between the 70s and 80s), done with great ingenuity, passed by the hands of Nikolov and his team.

    Following a national contest (as was the practice for such projects) the work for Interhotel “Veliko Târnovo” began in 1967. However, it would take 14 years, and various setbacks, before the monumental architectural project was completed in 1981; a year which marked the 1300th anniversary of the establishment of the Bulgarian state.

    Setbacks arose due to the extensive construction period, difficult terrain, last-minute adjustments to materials and designs, and the transfer of management from Balkantourist to Interhotel (in 1978). Yet the project persisted and survived its share of hardships. The hotel was equipped with a large banquet hall, restaurants, a communal living-room, swimming pool, spa centre, and conference rooms.

    A group of talented Bulgarian artists (Boyan Brakalov, Petko Petkov, Stefka Koleva, and Ana Tuzsuzova to name a few) took part in creating the artistic synthesis of the hotel. Tapestry and frescos would adorn the foyer, halls, and restaurants–unfortunately, many of which have been removed during renovations in the 2000s.

    The goal of the project was for the hotel to fit into the traditional aesthetic of Veliko Târnovo. Architect Nikolov would mimic old Bulgarian tiles with the hotel’s curved roofs. By extending the small balconies, he achieved a look reminiscent of the old Bulgarian porches. The crown-like caps on the roof were symbolic of the former “land of the Tzars”. To quote the architect, from his personal writings:

    "I started working on this site without thinking much about it. It fascinated me. When I realized that it was a difficult task due to the terrain of the surrounding existing buildings and woody vegetation along the picturesque braided Yantra river, it was too late to go back. I had joined the dance and it was not easy to back out. The large displacement of the terrain has a difference in levels of about 20m along the Yantra and along the entire length of the plot. On top of all that, there is a rock mass of limestone origin. The area is landslide-like, like the three landslides that happened in the area of the local markets. Carefully conceived spaces required to be studied and placed so that they do not become large and the spatial solution is sought not in height but longitudinally. In the foreground I successfully pressed myself with picturesquely dissected volumes to the river bank. Opportunities for the perception of the river and the architectural panorama of Veliko Târnovo, I designed with courtyards, terraces, and the original balconies of the rooms.” 

  • The post-communist-era story of Interhotel “Velika Târnovo” is as murky as have become the waters of the Yantra beneath it.

    The building was privatized in the 90s and became the property of Iliya Pavlov through the company Multigroup. In the early 2000s, it was then purchased by the businessman, Georgi Georgiev.

    While the building remains operational, most of its quarters are either unserviceable or closed entirely. For instance, the swimming pool has been “under renovation” for several years now with no sign of completion. The restaurant/nightclub that once rested neatly at the bottom of the building, along the Yantra river, continues to be in decay since the 90s. A handful of rooms have been renovated, but sadly, a severe lack of attention and resources, as well as effective management, have put the hotel at risk.

    In 2014, it was privately put up for sale. The process was halted. Since 2015, it became owned of the joint-stock company Interhotel AD (which was later declared insolvent). A year after, in 2016, it was leased for a period of three years. Then in 2017, the hotel was declared bankrupt and ownership was passed on to Georgiev’s daughter. Various attempts at selling off the hotel were made (first at 25 million BGN, then at 20 million BGN), with the most recent auction in late 2020, but the attempts remain unsuccessful. As it currently stands, the future of the hotel are unclear. 

    Special thanks to Stefan Spassov