National Exhibition Centre

by nullstellen laboratory in Sofia, BG – 2014

shortlisted competition entry in international architectural competition

“Conceptual architectural project for reconstruction, renovation and façade design of the National Exhibition Centre at 6 Shipka str, Sofia, Bulgaria”


design team: Chrysanthi Asproulopoulou, Tassos Govatsos

assistant architect: Kostis Sinanidis


A contemporary Exhibition Centre has to be more open in order to approach a wide variety of visitors, introducing them to all different perspectives of art. The proposal of the reconstruction, renovation and facade design of the National Exhibition Centre in Sofia has to deliver a wide open art platform to the public.

The elevated ground floor on the existing structure sets a conceivable boundary between the city and the building. An artificial landscape breaks through this boundary connecting these two different levels into one space. On top of this, the dom-ino structure is preserved. Dom-ino allows to reorganise the distribution of the functions in order to achieve the building’s new character.

In order to emphasize the main use of the building, the exhibition lobby becomes a central core, accessible from several entrances around. Attached on this core all the different functions get each own typology and are being placed in a way of creating in-between exterior spaces, like pathways that allow visitors or any passerby walking through the ground floor of the building. On the commercial area specifically, this transitional space also works as a stoa with shops while on the east side is expressed as a courtyard. The functions related to the exhibition are accessible from the main lobby unlike the commercial ones whose entrances are independent. This kind of structure offers generous spaces all over the ground-floor landscape where even big-scale exhibits can be hosted.

Going to the upper levels either by the staircase or the elevators the visitors enter to a central foyer. On each level around this foyer the different uses are reorganised, separated to two categories private and public. All the private offices are mainly placed to the south side of the building preserving the majority of the existing windows while the exhibition spaces unfold to the north side. The necessity of space flexibility and lighting control leads to an exhibition space typology with no openings. Consequently, all the upper levels with the repeated rhythm of closed and opened facade are transformed into a monolithic volume.

Although the organisation of the planview is based on this significant orientation which impose a typical structure to all levels, there are intercalary functions related to the exhibition hall, such as the library and reading-room on the first floor. The library is very important for an exhibition centre regarding to its educational role for the society. That is why the library and the reading-room on the first floor overlays the exhibition space, articulated in different levels without interrupting the circulation in the exhibition. There the visitor can read when at the same time can watch a lecture, a movie screening or a presentation.

On the second and third floors there is a typical organisation of the plan with private section for the rented offices and toilets and the public one of the exhibition spaces and toilets for visitors.

Above (fourth floor), following a similar structure, there is the administrative unit of NEC and a smaller exhibition room. The offices for the administrative unit are transparent to the foyer emphasising the openness of the new buildings character.

The conclusion of a walk through the building is a lounge terrace solarium, where the visitor can have a short drink under the net-shaded areas or sunbathe or even watch a movie screening at night on the open-air amphitheatre, always in relation with the city of Sofia as a background.