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The Compact versus the Dispersed City: History of Planning Ideas on Sofia's Urban Form

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This article reviews the planning history of Sofia since its designation as the Bulgarian capital in 1879. It argues that Sofia's planning has been persistently shaped by two perennial dilemmas—how to reconnect the city with nature and how to define its relationship with the region. In response to these dilemmas, different visions, shaped by both local conditions and dominant foreign theories, were proposed at dif-ferent times. Some promoted a compact city, while others advocated a dispersed form. The case of Sofia demonstrates the significance of the city-nature and the city-region relationships in the evolution of planning thought. It also points to the diffi-culties that arise when local ideas of how to organize these relationships are inspired by international models made for cities with different historic experiences. T his article explores stability and change in the evolution of signifi-cant urban planning ideas over the 125-year-long history of the city of Sofia as the Bulgarian capital. It argues that two fundamental and closely intertwined planning dilemmas—how to reconnect the city with nature and how to define the city's role in the metropolitan region—have provided the framework within which planning debates on Sofia's form have evolved over time. Both dilemmas are, of course, well known from the history of planning in Western contexts. And while the strategies to solve them have shifted over time, the dilemmas have proven to be remarkably persistent, as the case of Sofia illustrates. AUTHOR'S NOTE: The author thanks the journal editor, the referees, Dr. J. Levy, Dr. J. Steiff, and Dr. D. Jeleva-Martins for their help and comments. She also thanks the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), which supported part of this research through the Title VIII Program of the U.S. State Department. Neither of these organizations is responsible for the views expressed.
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History
Journal of Planning
DOI: 10.1177/1538513206301327
2007; 6; 138 Journal of Planning History
Sonia Hirt
Sofia's Urban Form
The Compact versus the Dispersed City: History of Planning Ideas on
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The Compact versus the Dispersed
City: History of Planning Ideas on
Sofia’s Urban Form
Sonia Hirt
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
This article reviews the planning history of Sofia since its designation as the
Bulgarian capital in 1879. It argues that Sofia’s planning has been persistently shaped
by two perennial dilemmas—how to reconnect the city with nature and how to define
its relationship with the region. In response to these dilemmas, different visions,
shaped by both local conditions and dominant foreign theories, were proposed at dif-
ferent times. Some promoted a compact city, while others advocated a dispersed
form. The case of Sofia demonstrates the significance of the city-nature and the city-
region relationships in the evolution of planning thought. It also points to the diffi-
culties that arise when local ideas of how to organize these relationships are inspired
by international models made for cities with different historic experiences.
Keywords: Sofia; planning history; comprehensive planning; postcommunist planning
T
his article explores stability and change in the evolution of signifi-
cant urban planning ideas over the 125-year-long history of the city
of Sofia as the Bulgarian capital. It argues that two fundamental and
closely intertwined planning dilemmas—how to reconnect the city with
nature and how to define the city’s role in the metropolitan region—have
provided the framework within which planning debates on Sofia’s form
have evolved over time. Both dilemmas are, of course, well known from
the history of planning in Western contexts. And while the strategies to
solve them have shifted over time, the dilemmas have proven to be
remarkably persistent, as the case of Sofia illustrates.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The author thanks the journal editor, the referees, Dr. J. Levy, Dr. J. Steiff, and Dr.
D. Jeleva-Martins for their help and comments. She also thanks the International Research &
Exchanges Board (IREX), which supported part of this research through the Title VIII Program of the
U.S. State Department. Neither of these organizations is responsible for the views expressed.
JOURNAL OF PLANNING HISTORY, Vol. 6, No. 2, May 2007 138-165
DOI: 10.1177/1538513206301327
© 2007 Sage Publications
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Hirt / COMPACT VERSUS DISPERSED CITY 139
Sofia’s planning has been significantly influenced by theories that origi-
nated abroad: in Western Europe, the Soviet Union, and, to a lesser extent,
the United States.
1
This is of course true for many cities around the world,
where foreign models of modernization were either imposed by the colonial
powers or, in the absence of colonial rule, voluntarily imported by local
authorities keen to emulate the “progressive” West. In the case of Sofia as
the Bulgarian capital, however, foreign influence has been truly fundamen-
tal. As with other small Balkan states with a history of long Ottoman rule,
Bulgaria has consistently struggled to escape its ostensibly backward past
and to define itself as a “modern,” “European” nation.
2
To that end, it has
eagerly imported Western doctrines, in planning and all else.
Sofia’s case is part of the broader story of the process of diffusion of for-
eign—typically Western—urban planning ideas across the globe.
3
According to Ward,
4
this diffusion tends to fall along a continuum between
two extremes. Where the transmittal of planning ideas occurs in a coun-
try that is directly controlled by a foreign power (i.e., via a colonial
regime), the foreign ideas are imported uncritically with little endogenous
input. Where the transmittal takes place between independent countries
of relatively equal power, the ideas are analyzed critically and adapted
selectively to the local conditions. Bulgaria’s case is intermediate because
the country has not been—since the end of Ottoman rule in 1878—for-
mally part of an empire, but it has consistently depended on foreign pow-
ers, both economically and politically. Within this context, it has very
eagerly and, to a large extent, voluntarily imported foreign urban planning
notions, while adapting them to domestic conditions.
Perhaps predictably, one significant problem with applying the foreign
theories has been that these theories were responses to the specific urban
circumstances that prevailed in the countries where the theories origi-
nated (most commonly in Western Europe). Sofia’s conditions, however,
were rather different from those in the West. To resolve the contradiction,
Sofia’s plans often relied explicitly on foreign-inspired rhetorical postu-
lates, while endowing them with alternative, local meanings. As a result,
the popular foreign theories were modified to fit the local conditions, and
in the process, they acquired a vernacular flavor that sometimes ran con-
trary to the theories’ original intent.
The significance of Sofia’s story is threefold. First, it contributes to the
discussion of two dilemmas that have been central to planning in all parts
of the world—the relationship of the city to nature and its position in the
larger region. Second, it demonstrates the tension that arises when local
strategies addressing these dilemmas are based on foreign models made
for cities with different historic experiences. The literature on the diffu-
sion of Western planning ideas has already pointed to the difficulties of
implementation.
5
But while attention has been focused on the difficulties
arising from the lack of economic or political prerequisites to fulfill the
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foreign-inspired ideas,
6
this study highlights the conflicts arising from the
fact that local conditions exhibited problems substantially different from
those typical of Western cities. Third, and perhaps most important, the
case demonstrates the ambiguous boundary between “local” and “for-
eign” models. Rather than being passive recipients of Western ideas,
Sofia’s planners often paid lip service to the foreign models, while domes-
ticating their essence as they saw fit. In the process, the foreign models
attained a local flavor so distinct that it puts into question whether the
models in their final, modified form belonged to either category—local or
foreign—and even whether the binary categories exist in the first place.
To present the history of Sofia, the article relies on primary and sec-
ondary sources. These include the series of Sofia’s master plans; scholarly,
archival, and media accounts of Sofia’s planning; and related meetings, pro-
tocols, published interviews, books, and articles by the chief actors in the
planning processes. To tell the story of postcommunist planning, the study
also uses several drafts of the latest plan, Sofia 2020, and nearly two dozen
interviews with planners involved in its writing, conducted by the author.
The article is divided into three parts. The theoretical section reviews the
evolution of ideas on the relationship between city and nature and between
city and region. It is followed by an account of the debates on Sofia’s form
during the pre–World War II period (1879-1939), the communist period
(1945-1989), and the postcommunist period (1990-2005). The conclusion
discusses stability and change in the planning notions of how to shape Sofia
and the interplay between foreign ideas and their local interpretation.
City and Nature, City and Region:
An Overview of International Planning Ideas
Urban planning was established as a profession to amend the deplorable
conditions of the nineteenth-century Western city, appropriately labeled
“The City of Dreadful Night.”
7
Conceived over a relatively short period of
time as the unavoidable offspring of the Industrial Revolution, this city
offered its inhabitants not only the promise of employment, but also
crowding, dirt, smoke, noise, and darkness at nightmarish levels that were
unknown to the inhabitants of preindustrial settlements. Predictably, this
city came to be seen not only as the stark opposite of the “lost paradise”
of pastoral rural life but also as the grim antipode of nature itself.
8
The relationship between the industrial city and nature was conflicted
from the start. On one side, the city embodied the core promise of the
Industrial Revolution and, more broadly, Western modernity to free
humanity from debilitating dependence on nature’s whims.
9
The city, in
this view, was the supreme achievement of civilization, while nature was
savage and needed to be tamed for human benefit.
10
140 JOURNAL OF PLANNING HISTORY / May 2007
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Yet, perhaps paradoxically, many observers perceived the severing
of the city-nature link as the core root of urban misery.
11
In their view, cities
were a “blasphemy against nature.”
12
Nature, in contrast, was pristine and
inspiring. Reconnecting the city to nature promised many benefits such as
beauty, ampler sunlight, cleaner air, improved sanitation, and enhanced
public health. Ostensibly, it also provided for moral cleansing of the urban
masses.
13
This “dual-scripting” of city and nature—each category being simulta-
neously good and evil—permeated debates on urban form beginning in
the nineteenth century.
14
The contradiction was resolved by attempting to
engineer a city-nature union that kept only the desirable aspects of each
category—a notion perhaps best articulated by Ebenezer Howard in his
famous “marriage of town and country.”
Almost all significant paradigms of nineteenth- and twentieth-century
urban planning can be read as replays of the debate on city-nature union.
Principally, there are two main approaches through which the union can be
achieved: either to allow nature in the city or, conversely, to let the city dis-
perse amid nature.
15
The latter, as discussed below, inherently mandated a
substantial rethinking of the relationship between the city and its region.
The first influential professional planning movement, called the
Monumental City,
16
was pioneered by Baron Haussmann in Paris, from
where it spread globally,
17
and it followed the first approach. Planners in
this tradition advocated the penetration of the dense urban fabric by
islands of carefully landscaped nature in the form of parks, which were
commonly conceptualized as the urban “lungs.”
18
The replacement of the Monumental City paradigm by avant-garde
movements caused a weak relapse in the history of attempts to unite city
and nature. Futurists like Tony Garnier, for example, explicitly drew
inspiration from technology, not nature. But even they surrounded their
machine-age urban utopias with pastoral greenbelts.
19
Furthermore, when
avant-garde evolved into mainstream modernism, the city-nature rela-
tionship moved back to the center stage. Modernists like Corbusier, the
chief author of the Athens Charter, as well as Sert, Costa, and Niemeyer,
all aspired to unite city and nature.
20
But instead of simply piercing the
urban fabric with individual parks, they planned to concentrate the pop-
ulation in “towers in the park” and reserve 95 percent of urban land for
green space. In so doing, they aimed to convert the whole city into a park
and transgress the city-nature polarity that had frustrated earlier planning
efforts.
21
The idea spread around the globe and acquired the status of
dominant international paradigm, especially after 1945.
22
If the Monumental and the modernist planners aimed to reform the city
from the inside, Ebenezer Howard looked beyond the city borders. In
Garden Cities of Tomorrow,
23
he conceived a complete program for urban
dispersal, which built on the incipient bourgeois suburban movement.
24
Hirt / COMPACT VERSUS DISPERSED CITY 141
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Howard proposed to solve both the crowding of cities and the desolation
of the countryside by engineering a reunion of city and nature (i.e., town
and country) in pastoral but self-sufficient Garden Cities, which would
house a socially mixed population and would be surrounded by green-
belts. The idea was inherently embedded in a rethinking not only of the
relationship between city and nature but also of the relationship between
city and region. As settlements were to disperse, the old city and its new
neighbors were to form a coherent regional system. And although the city
retained its supremacy, the region became clearly polycentric. On par
with modernism, Howard’s model resonated powerfully across the globe.
25
This regional—and decentralizing—vision rose to further prominence
on both sides of the North Atlantic through the works of such influential
thinkers as the American urban historian Lewis Mumford
26
and the
Scottish biologist Patrick Geddes.
27
Because of its potential to ensure
healthier living and a “more equitable distribution of land values,” the
idea was soon widely perceived as a core goal of planning in the United
States and Western Europe.
28
Soviet architects also made their distinctive
contribution. Among them, the school appropriately labeled as the “de-
urbanists” promoted the “greening” of Russia—the abolition of old cities
and the dispersal of populations into the countryside. The most famous
Soviet scheme was that of Nikolai Milyutin, who proposed the construc-
tion of new, linear urban forms surrounded by greenbelts.
29
American icon Frank Lloyd Wright took the idea to new heights.
30
Wright, who was famous for his deeply professed love of nature, welcomed
the disappearance of all large cities. He proposed a radical dispersal scheme
called Broad-acre City, according to which each household should own at
least one acre and all industry should be spread around vast green lands and
connected by highways. In his view, this would be the only city that could
guarantee individual freedoms and reconnect people with nature.
These early-twentieth-century utopias were taken increasingly seri-
ously through the following decades. Although some of their radical ele-
ments were removed, the idea of greening the city center in a Corbusian
fashion and dispersing populations in the country was adopted as official
policy in many Western countries. The mere fact that midcentury
plans were looking at Greater London, Greater Stockholm, or Greater
Copenhagen points to the shift to regional thinking.
31
The core idea of
such plans was to promote the spread of populations in satellite towns
separated by greenbelts. In so doing, the plans aimed to create a polycen-
tric system of settlements, all of which, because of the elongated form
of the “fingers,” would remain close to nature. And while in Europe the
greenbelts ensured the relative compactness of new settlements, in
America the uncontrolled spread of suburbs produced a system closer to
Wright’s amorphous Broad-acre City
32
(for a summary of the international
ideas, see Table 1).
142 JOURNAL OF PLANNING HISTORY / May 2007
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Regionalist
perspective
Focus on existing
cities; some
regionalist
perspectives
(Chicago 1909)
Strong focus on
regionalism:
transferring
populations and
functions from
central city to the
periphery/region
Density
Moderate
Low to
moderate
Urban form
Relatively
compact
Moderately
to extremely
dispersed
Method of
city-nature
integration
Penetration of
the dense urban
fabric with vast
public parks
(urban lungs)
Dispersing urban
populations
across the
countryside/
constructing
new towns
separated by
greenbelts; mix
of public and
private green
spaces
Concern
over city-
nature
integration
YES
YES
Influential city
plans/theories
Paris 1860s
Washington 1902
Cleveland 1903
Ottawa 1903
Chicago 1909
Canberra 1912
Delhi 1913
Havana 1926
Caracas 1930s
Santiago 1933
Moscow 1937
Berlin 1937
Letchworth 1904
Hampstead 1905
Radburn 1926
New York 1929
Stalingrad 1931
Broad Acre 1932
Moscow 1935
London 1944
Influential
planners/
theorists
Haussmann
Olmstead
Burnham
Todd
Bennett
Griffin
Lutyens
Forestier
Rotival
Brunner
Mordvinov
Speer
Howard
Unwin
Stein
Mumford
Milyutin
FL Wright
Semionov
Abercombie
Chief
concerns
Aesthetical/
some social
Social/some
functional
and
economic
Dominant and
affiliated
international
paradigms
Monumental City
{ Beaux Arts
{ City Beautiful
{ Stadebau
{ Socialist
“realism”
Garden Cities
{ De-urbanism
{ “Disappearing”
city
{ Metrpolitanism
{ Regionalism
{ New towns
Timeline
1860-
1940
1900-
1960
TTAABBLLEE 11
HHiissttoorriiccaall OOuuttlliinnee ooff MMaaiinn IInntteerrnnaattiioonnaall PPllaannnniinngg MMoovveemmeennttss aanndd
TThheeiirr PPhhiilloossoopphhiieess oonn UUrrbbaann FFoorrmm aanndd IInntteeggrraattiinngg CCiittyy aanndd NNaattuurree
143
(Continued)
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Focus on existing
cities; some
regionalist
perspectives
when combined
with Garden
Cities
Focus on re-
urbanization and
rebuilding of
existing cities;
limiting sprawl.
High to
very high
Moderate
Relatively
compact
Relatively
compact
Concentrating
urban
populations in
tall towers/
transforming the
city into a park;
massive public
green spaces
Preserving green
spaces outside
the urban
borders;
providing
human-scale
green spaces in
the existing city
YES
YES
Industrial city 1917
Radiant city 1935
New York 1930s-1950s
UN complex 1947
Brazilia 1957
Islamabad 1960
Tokyo 1960
Dhaka 1961
Livable city 1961
Design with nature
1969
Pedestrian city 1971
Seaside 1978
Kentlands 1988
Poundbury 1988
Portland 1997
Garnier
Corbusier
Moses
Niemeyer
Costa
Doxiadis
Tange
Khan
Jacobs
McHarg
Gehl
Duany
Zyberk
Krier
Calthorpe
Functional/
technical/
some social
and
economic
Ecological;
some social/
aesthetic
and
economic
City Efficient
{ Futurist city
{ Functional city
{ Modernist city
{ Urban renewal
City Sustainable
{ Smart growth
{ New urbanism
{ New
regionalism
{ Neo-
traditionalism
{ European
Union spatial
plans
1920-
1980
1970-
2005
144
Regionalist
perspectiveDensityUrban form
Method of
city-nature
integration
Concern
over city-
nature
integration
Influential city
plans/theories
Influential
planners/
theorists
Chief
concerns
Dominant and
affiliated
international
paradigmsTimeline
TTAABBLLEE 11
((ccoonnttiinnuueedd))
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Hirt / COMPACT VERSUS DISPERSED CITY 145
Jane Jacobs astutely pointed out what united most “green” (or “de-
centrist,” as she called them) visions. Whether they were driven by “love”
of nature or sought to develop equitable regions, they promoted the dis-
persal of human activity “throughout large territories, dovetailing into
natural resources.”
33
In so doing, however, they promoted the consump-
tion of ever-larger pieces of nature and helped create the problems we
today associate with sprawl.
34
The late twentieth century was marked by a global shift in planning
zeitgeist.
35
The main impetus behind the change was the realization of the
limits of using natural resources—a realization that was especially painful
for the planning profession since it had historically supported exploiting
these resources via urban dispersal. Anthropocentric views of nature were
increasingly challenged by views of nature as having an intrinsic value.
36
Planners became interested in designing in harmony with nature rather
than in taming it.
37
Planning models focused solely on improving human
well-being were trumped by a new leading paradigm of sustainable develop-
ment.
38
Although sustainability is a multifaceted concept,
39
which includes
economic and social-equity elements,
40
its emphasis is clearly on the bal-
ance between humans and nature.
41
Related to the sustainability paradigm, a New Regionalism also rose to
prominence. The “old” regionalism—the one of Howard, Geddes, and
Mumford—was a response to specific conditions: crowded but wealthy
cities versus green but poor periphery. But the massive twentieth-century
suburbanization of Western cities caused a role reversal: the city became
less crowded but poorer; the periphery more sprawling and richer. It also
became increasingly clear that dispersal had unforeseen costs, not only
ecological but also social.
In reaction to the dispersed nature of today’s metropolis and the problems
of ecological degradation, traffic congestion, and inequities between wealthy
suburbs and poor cities, the New Regionalism, as well as the other dominant
Western planning ideologies that aspire to promote sustainable development
(such as Smart Growth and New Urbanism), advocate compact urban forms
and the reurbanization of existing cities.
42
In this sense, these new models
represent a 180-degree reversal of the earlier planning agendas for urban dis-
persal.
43
Compact urban forms, as proponents of the new models argue,
promise many benefits in efficiency (e.g., compact forms utilize existing
infrastructure to its full potential), ecological protection (e.g., compact forms
require less car use and thus reduce pollution), and social equity (e.g., com-
pact forms can foster greater social integration). Programmatic policy docu-
ments at national and international levels also broadly sustain these views.
44
Planning in Sofia evolved under the clear influence of all the foreign
ideas described above. Yet local judgment also reflected local conditions,
sometimes resulting in interpretations that took the original meaning of
the ideas in different directions.
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Sofia and Its Planning, 1879-1939
Sofia was elected as the Bulgarian capital in March 1879, after the
country gained independence from Ottoman occupation. Unlike other
European capitals that have been permanent seats of power through
medieval history, Sofia was a town of little importance through the five
hundred years of Ottoman rule. Thus, despite the city’s ancient history,
most of its fabric has been built since the late nineteenth century, follow-
ing dominant Western, and later Soviet, planning doctrines.
45
The first
generation of Sofia’s planners were all foreign-born architects or engi-
neers; the second, Bulgarian architects educated in Western Europe, most
notably Germany, Italy, and France. All were deeply imbedded in the
intellectual wells of mainstream European urbanism.
46
As a result, early
proposals for reshaping Sofia aimed at erasing its Ottoman heritage, and
emulating, in modest form, the main Western urban planning ideas of the
time—the Parisian boulevards and the Viennese Ring Road.
47
The debate regarding whether to preserve or disperse the existing city
seems to have started in the very year of 1879. At the time, Sofia was not
only small and poor but—because of its narrow, curvy streets and its many
buildings inherited from the Ottoman era—also deemed “oriental”.
48
It was
hardly a capital city worthy a state intent on joining the European main-
stream. Thus came the first de-urbanist idea: to abandon the city and build
a brand-new twin on pristine green fields under modern, “European” princi-
ples. The idea was ultimately rejected by the Bulgarian Prince A. Battenberg,
who feared the old town would fall into disarray.
49
Over the next sixty years, Sofia grew exponentially in population and
size. In 1879, its territory was only three square kilometers.
50
By 1939, it
had expanded to forty-two square kilometers by the annexation of fifty-
three adjacent villages.
51
The population rose from eighteen thousand to
four hundred thousand, making Sofia the fastest-growing Balkan capital.
52
The economic profile of the city also changed. From 1904 to 1921, the
number of factories quadrupled.
53
By the early 1930s, industry employed
a third of the city population, and Sofia was established as the nation’s
unrivaled industrial center with 50 percent of the Bulgarian industrial
workforce.
54
Natural growth and the influx of rural migrants seeking
industrial jobs in the city—trends typical for all large European cities at
the time—partially caused this phenomenon. In Sofia’s case, fast growth
was further facilitated by the entry of many thousands of refugees expelled
from territories lost in the Balkan wars. These dramatic changes made
Sofia stand in the eyes of its contemporaries as a city whose fast growth
was comparable to that of North American and Bavarian industrial cities
in the mid- to late nineteenth century.
55
With fast growth and industrialization came predictable problems
reminiscent of those that had overwhelmed Western cities since the
146 JOURNAL OF PLANNING HISTORY / May 2007
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eighteenth century. Central Sofia became more crowded and polluted.
56
And although there were many plans to reshape its streets,
57
none
addressed the urban problems comprehensively. Under these conditions,
foreign ideas for uniting the city with nature attracted increasingly favor-
able attention among the local planners. The views of Howard and Wright,
in particular, gained notoriety through the work of T. Trendafilov and G.
Nenov, who published variations of Garden Cities in 1912 and 1924.
58
A
few years later, Sofia’s chief architect, Todor Goranov,
59
praised dispersal
as the correct “system adopted by all English and German cities.”
The first master plan for Building Greater Sofia was prepared from
1934 to 1938 (see Figure 1). The plan was put together under the
leadership of the German Nazi-backed architect A. Muesmann, whose vic-
tory in an international competition occurred under dubious conditions,
most likely having to do with Bulgaria’s alliance with Germany.
60
The plan
was prepared at the height of Garden Cities popularity and incorporated
its chief elements.
61
It aimed to convert Sofia into a conglomerate of
Garden Cities.
62
According to Chief Architect Goranov,
63
Greater Sofia
was to acquire a “star-shaped form,” in which the urban areas, extending
like fingers from the center, would be separated from each other by green-
belts (or urban “lungs”). The “lungs” held many virtues: beauty, health,
and even protection from foreign gas attacks. The city center was to be
alleviated from congestion by dispersing some civic functions among the
new garden districts. Greater Sofia was thus to attain a polycentric form
(Figure 1; for a summary of Sofia’s plans and their relationship to foreign
ideas, see Table 2).
64
The new Sofia would offer its citizens twice the existing green space.
The dramatic increase in greenery was to be achieved first by creating sev-
eral large new public parks, but also by raising the amount of open space
required per lot and limiting multifamily housing. Unlike some leftist fol-
lowers of Howard’s theory, Muesmann strongly believed that private land
and home ownership served to connect people to “nature” and “our roots”
and would build healthy national values.
65
Thus, he proposed that the new
building block of Sofia be the quaint single-family house with a large
yard—an idea that presented a stark contrast to the apartment blocks in
the existing central districts of Sofia, where the bourgeoisie lived.
There were several ways in which the plan’s “green” vision did not fit
local realities. First, unlike British and German cities, Sofia showed few, if
any, signs of upscale suburbanization—its upper classes were steadily
entrenched in the center.
66
Judging from the City Council’s debates on the
plan,
67
Sofia’s elites were happy to accept the Garden City theory in princi-
ple, particularly when it came to building parks, but were uncertain of why
people of means would be expected to give up living in the city altogether.
This was linked to another problem. As in other growing cities in poor
nations, from Istanbul
68
to Rio,
69
Sofia’s outskirts were growing as shanty
Hirt / COMPACT VERSUS DISPERSED CITY 147
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Local interpretation
of foreign ideas as
exhibited in local
planning strategies;
implementation of plan
Monumental City idea
for creating parks is
maintained; Garden
Cities idea receives a
peculiar mixed
interpretation: Sofia is
to disperse and shrink at
the same time; plan is
not implemented but
certain ideas are carried
on in later plans.
Monumental City idea
for creating parks is
maintained; Garden City
idea is rejected;
Functional City,
especially in terms of
modernizing
infrastructure, is
endorsed and linked to
equalitarian ideology;
plan is mostly
implemented.
Density
endorsed
in plan
Low to
moderate
Moderate
Urban
form
proposed
in the plan
Moderately
dispersed
Relatively
compact
Method of regional
re-organization
and city-nature
integration proposed
in the plan
Moving certain
functions to periphery;
dispersing middle
classes in garden
towns; clearance of
poor far-out areas to
cut further need for
infrastructure;
dominance of single-
family living with
yards; penetration of
the dense urban fabric
with vast parks
(i.e., urban “lungs”).
Moving certain
functions to periphery;
penetration of the
dense urban fabric
with vast public parks
(i.e., urban “lungs”);
providing common
green spaces between
housing blocks
Concern over
strengthening
the region
Strong
Moderate
Concern
over
city-nature
integration
YES
YES
Local constraints,
goals and ideas
City is polluted and
lacks parks; center
is overburdened;
yet, housing for the
poor is in far-out
areas, and city is
already too
dispersed; there are
no funds to sponsor
further urban
dispersal.
City needs war
rebuilding but has
limited funds;
dispersal in garden
towns and single-
family homes with
private yards is a
“bourgeois” idea.
Dominant
international
paradigm
endorsed in the
local master plan
Garden Cities
Monumental City
(only partially)
Functional City/
“Socialist”
reconstruction and
modernization
(some
Monumental City)
Time of
writing/
main
author(s)
1934-1938
Muesmann
1945 Tonev
TTAABBLLEE 22
MMaasstteerr PPllaannss ooff SSooffiiaa:: FFoorreeiiggnn IInnfflluueennccee aanndd LLooccaall IInntteerrpprreettaattiioonn
148
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Similar to Tonev’s,
plan keeps close to
Functionalist ideals
with communist flavor;
later, updated in
Siromahov’s terms.
Full embrace of the
ideas of the Athens
Charter with a
pro-Soviet communist
interpretation; massive
spatial expansion
implemented
Sustainability/regionalism
strongly endorsed
and taken to mean
compact urban forms
Sustainability/regionalism
strongly endorsed
and taken to mean
dispersed urban forms
Moderate
High to
moderate
Moderate
Low to
moderate
Relatively
compact
Substantial
territorial
expansion
Relatively
compact
Relatively
dispersed
Moving certain
functions to the urban
periphery; providing
common green spaces
between housing
blocks
More substantial
moving of functions
from center to
periphery; massive
common public
spaces; Industrial
construction
Strengthening few
nodes in periphery;
preserving green
spaces outside city;
limiting suburbia
Substantial
strengthening of the
urban periphery;
providing more green
spaces in private
yards; promoting
suburbia
Moderate
Strong
Moderate
High
YES
YES
YES
YES
City needs to be
modernized; must
be socialist city with
equal conditions for
all citizens.
Must become
polycentric city
with modern urban
periphery like the
Soviet examples
City has infill
reserves; dispersal
not fiscally/socially
ecologically sound
City is dense, has
strong center and
weak suburbs; is
unlike Western
cities but must
become like them
Functional City/
“Socialist”
modernization
Modernist City/
“Socialist”
modernization
European Union
spatial planning
City Sustainable
New Regionalism
European Union
spatial planning
City Sustainable
New Regionalism
1959-1961
Neikov
Siromahov
1998-2003
A: Motev/
Alexandrov
B: Stajnov/
Mihajlovich
149
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150 JOURNAL OF PLANNING HISTORY / May 2007
Figure 1: Part of Muesmann’s Plan, Titled “Planning Scheme of Greater Sofia according to the
New Plan from 1938”
Source: Reproduced from copies of the original plan available at the National Library in Sofia,
Bulgaria.
Note: The dotted areas are the green spaces (or the urban “lungs”) that separate the urbanized zones
(i.e., the “Garden Districts”); the latter are shown in dark hatches. The scheme not only envisioned
that a few urbanized areas be constructed in the periphery of Sofia but also designated several exist-
ing built-out areas for wholesale clearance and conversion to greenbelts. The plan was embedded in
Western rhetoric for the virtues of Garden Cities but had difficulties in reconciling its verbose
endorsement of urban dispersal with its proposals for the actual “shrinking” of parts of Sofia.
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towns inhabited by poor rural migrants. Sofia’s periphery also housed the
even poorer war refugees. The very idea of dispersal thus ran contrary to
what Sofia’s elites, including the local planners, perceived as a pressing
problem. At issue was the fact that the residents of Sofia’s outskirts were so
destitute that they had made their huts where land was cheapest—as far
from any built infrastructure as possible.
70
The city was widely perceived as
already too dispersed, and its authorities doubted that resources could ever
be found to service the already-built far-out areas or to fund any further
dispersal. Thus, the plan’s task, which was defined well before Muesmann
arrived, was paradoxical: to disperse the city by moving out some business
and civic functions and yet to shrink the total urbanized areas.
71
This paradox was resolved in that the plan proposed to concentrate
growth in selected built-up areas while clearing all development from other
outlying districts and making them into greenbelts. The idea of urban
clearance attracted heated controversy, including the disdain of leftist
intellectuals. Desperate citizens almost attacked City Hall, protesting that
their neighborhoods would be “converted into mighty forests, as if Sofia’s
future is in raising wildlife.”
72
At the end, the plan had few allies on either
the left or the right, and concrete steps to implement it were not taken.
73
Planning Communist Sofia, 1945-1989
After the communist victory in 1945, Muesmann’s plan was discarded as
bourgeois-fascist. A new plan, under the lead of Lyuben Tonev, was adopted
in 1945.
74
Tonev was Muesmann’s sharpest critic. In 1939, he wrote a piece
on the “biggest mistakes of Muesmann’s plan,” where he claimed that the
urban dispersal idea was not fit for Sofia, since it was already too spread out;
building satellite towns was not fiscally sound, since Sofia has less resources
than Western cities; and clearing housing occupied by the poor was antiso-
cial. After 1945, he added another charge: that single-family housing was
contrary to socialist ideals, since “it is the yard that makes the bourgeois.”
75
The major task of Tonev’s plan was rebuilding. Sofia had experienced
substantial war damage (twelve thousand buildings were leveled by
bombs
76
), yet there was no Marshall Plan on the horizon nor immediate
Soviet aid. Because of the limited funds, the focus was on infill and
improving the efficiency of the existing infrastructure. Sofia was to stay
within its borders of forty square kilometers. Dispersal of any type was no
longer on the agenda.
But behind this shift, some of Muesmann’s main ideas—those for a green
and polycentric Sofia—were carried on.
77
Like his predecessor, Tonev
sought the relocation of downtown functions to neighborhood nodes. He
also advocated creating radial greenbelts extending from the center toward
the outskirts and separating the urban districts, but without clearing any
Hirt / COMPACT VERSUS DISPERSED CITY 151
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poor built-out areas. The main difference was in organizing the greenery.
In line with the prescriptions of the Athens Charter, the new building block
of Sofia was no longer to be the single-family home, but the group of apart-
ment buildings around a shared green space.
78
If Muesmann overestimated the need for Sofia’s spatial growth, Tonev
underestimated it. After the mid-1950s, migration toward Sofia intensi-
fied as a result of the building of large industrial facilities, which attracted
thousands of provincial workers. Tonev’s plan foresaw a population of up
to eight hundred thousand in 1975, but by 1955, the population had
already reached six hundred thousand. In 1956, the Council of Ministers
required a new plan. Two teams were selected to develop alternative
plans, one led by Lyuben Neikov and one by V. Siromahov.
Neikov’s team kept close to Tonev’s idea for a modernized but compact
city. It sought to keep Sofia in its borders and further utilize infill oppor-
tunities. Neikov explained his views in a textbook published a few years
before the plan. He claimed that “modern [socialist] planning rejects the
unbridled expansion of cities.” Under capitalism, he argued, the formation
of bourgeois suburbs was an unfortunate process that exacerbated the
tensions between center and periphery. But socialist planning aimed to
provide good living conditions to all urban dwellers and thus could not
endorse the chaotic growth of settlements with antiurban character.
79
Siromahov offered an alternative philosophy, also ostensibly grounded
in Marxist thought. Indeed, the main problem of capitalist Sofia might
have been the disparity between the bourgeois center and the poor
periphery. And indeed the growth of suburbs or garden towns may be yet
another failed capitalist recipe. But if the socialist state were to build a
new type of urban periphery, which offers the working class excelling liv-
ing conditions in modern socialist blocks, the conflict between center and
periphery would be resolved in full harmony with socialist values.
Siromahov thus proposed a significant expansion of the urban borders.
Large new estates were to be built upon former farmland by using mod-
ernist design principles (see Figures 2 and 3).
80
In 1961, Neikov’s vision was chosen as Sofia’s new master plan.
81
Justification of the Council of Ministers’ final decision came in the typi-
cally vague language used by communist bureaucracy. According to
Tonev,
82
who was one of the key consultants to the Council, the plan pro-
vided for the “correct socialist reconstruction of the city by building up
the existing urban territories.” But the decision was most likely grounded
in economics—a new urban periphery would require too many resources;
Neikov’s vision of a compact city was thus deemed more realistic.
In the meantime, building methods using factory-made panels were
imported from the USSR. This changed the economic equation, as the
new technology allowed for massive economies of scale. Building a new
periphery was no longer beyond Sofia’s means.
152 JOURNAL OF PLANNING HISTORY / May 2007
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Hirt / COMPACT VERSUS DISPERSED CITY 153
In 1963, a plan update was adopted that embraced the once-rejected
Siromahov vision. Following the Soviet lead in mass-produced housing,
the update proposed several large estates comprising thousands of hous-
ing units around new civic nodes. Sofia was to finally become polycentric.
For the next twenty-five years, a quarter million new units were built
upon thousands of hectares of farms. Today they house two-thirds of
Sofia’s population.
In line with the Athens Charter and the communist commitment to col-
lective spaces,
83
the new districts provided massive amounts of public
greenery between buildings. This by itself required urban expansion. But
the building method also mandated the conquest of new lands. The
Figure 2: Neikov’s Scheme of Sofia from 1961
Source: Reproduced from copies of the original plans available at the National Library in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Note: The urban residential zones are the darkest areas, which are shaded diagonally and cross-
hatched (see the first two boxes in the legend). In between are the green spaces (shown as lightly dot-
ted; see the fourth category in the legend), which broadly follow the outline of Muesmann’s greenbelts.
Neikov rejected Muesmann’s rhetoric for urban dispersal, promoted Sofia as a compact city, and
showed just a couple locations for potential territorial growth.
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154 JOURNAL OF PLANNING HISTORY / May 2007
economies of scale could only be achieved if the giant cranes lifting the
panels could function on vast clean areas.
84
As one of the designers of the
new estates noted, “We could not have stayed within the borders of the
existing city—the cranes and the lines of panels required expansion.”
85
From 1961 to 1989, Sofia went through a series of plan updates, but a
new master plan was never adopted. Thus, the end of socialism found the
city with a much outdated plan.
Post-Communist Plans, 1989-2005
The year 1989 brought radical changes to Bulgaria and its capital city.
The early and mid-1990s were a period of severe economic crisis, dwindling
Figure 3: Siromahov’s Plan from 1961
Source: Reproduced from copies of the original plans available at the National Library in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Note: This plan shows a substantially larger Sofia with several additional new residential zones, espe-
cially along the northwest and southeast periphery. Like Neikov, Siromahov stayed away from “bour-
geois” notions of quasi-rural dispersal as exacerbating the conflict between center and periphery. But
unlike Neikov, Siromahov proposed a strong decentralization scheme under which modern socialist
housing estates would develop as equal to the center. Like Neikov, Siromahov showed the residential
zones in dark, diagonally and cross-hatched tones (see the first two boxes of the legend) and the green
spaces as dotted.
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incomes, growing class segregation, and a sharp political turn to the right.
The Bulgarian economy crashed, inflation ranged from 40 to 80 percent
annually, and GDP fell by a third.
86
And although conditions in the capi-
tal were always better than those in the rest of the country, in 1997 Sofia’s
poverty rate reached 37 percent.
87
Economic recovery started in 1998 (current Bulgarian GDP growth rates
are 5 percent). By then, most of the state assets and enterprises, including
the massive home-building companies that erected the socialist housing
estates, were broken apart and privatized (by 2000, the private sector share
of GDP reached 70 percent starting from 9 percent in 1990
88
). The state
largely withdrew from housing production. As of 2000, more than 90 per-
cent of all new dwellings were privately built.
89
Simultaneously, land that
had been nationalized by the communist regime in 1947 and 1948 became
eligible for sale and/or was returned to its prewar owners.
Under those conditions, two areas of Sofia have changed most visibly.
The first includes downtown and a few upscale neighborhoods near it
(e.g., Lozenetz and Iztok), which have experienced substantial infill in the
form of upper-middle-class housing or small- to medium-scale commercial
development. The second are the urban fringe areas, particularly those
along the southern periphery, in the outskirts of the mountain Vitosha.
The Vitosha district in fact experienced a 50 percent increase in the
number of dwelling units in less than a decade.
90
In Vitosha and other sim-
ilar outlying areas, the dominant unit is the upscale single-family house
with a yard. Since the late 1990s, the outskirts have also attracted a sub-
stantial number of large commercial operations, including hypermarkets,
warehouses, entertainment complexes and office parks.
91
For the first
time in Sofia’s history, then, one may truly speak of notable upper-class
residential suburbanization, and commercial decentralization.
The first attempts to provide a new plan for Sofia began immediately after
the end of communism. In 1990, the municipality organized a national
planning competition, in which twenty-six teams took part. Of those, four-
teen teams sought urban dispersal, eight by building autonomous satellite
towns separated by greenbelts and the rest by expanding Sofia’s borders and
directing new low-density residential growth toward the green areas in the
mountain outskirts. Despite the fact that no population growth was pro-
jected, some entries went as far as to advocate expanding the urbanized
areas by 40 percent to allow for low-density living “amid nature,” or even
to erect an entire large new “mirror center” to counterbalance the existing
downtown. Almost unanimously, the proposals sought to decentralize
downtown functions to peripheral districts or autonomous satellite towns
and thus create a polycentric metropolis.
92
Because of the unstable economic and political conditions in the early
1990s, however, the preparation of the master plan was terminated. The
process was reinitiated in 1998, after the stabilization of the economy,
Hirt / COMPACT VERSUS DISPERSED CITY 155
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when the parliament finally adopted a law on the preparation and
approval of a new master plan.
93
The new master plan, Sofia 2020, took five years to prepare, from 1998
to 2003. In 2003, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations argued that
implementing the plan would cause harm to the mountain areas surround-
ing Sofia and mounted a legal challenge to the Environmental Impact
Assessment that followed the plan. The courts ruled against the environ-
mental coalition, and the Municipal Council adopted the master plan. Yet as
of 2006, the plan still awaits the approval of the National Parliament.
The planning process went through many stages and was organized as
an urban design contest.
94
Once the basic data was compiled, a nation-
wide competition was held in 1998. Thirty-four teams took part. As in the
early 1990s, around half of the teams proposed developing Sofia in new
territories on green fields.
95
A jury awarded several entries. Then an
expert team synthesized the ideas from the winning entries and split
them in two to produce two competing scenarios: A and B.
96
According to
municipal documents, the scenarios differed in which economic forecast
they used: Scenario A assumed less economic growth and promoted infill;
Scenario B counted on higher growth and favored spatial expansion.
97
In
this sense, the process recalled 1961, when the plan was the outcome of
a competition between Neikov’s vision of a compact city and Siromahov’s
vision of a dispersed city (see Figures 4 and 5).
The two alternatives shared the goal of transferring functions from the
central city to the periphery (i.e., by relocating certain major adminis-
trative buildings) and thus creating a polycentric metropolis. They dis-
agreed, however, on the extent to which this should occur. The team
behind Scenario A, led by Motev and Alexandrov, argued that while both
the center and periphery might benefit from some functional reorganiza-
tion, no further residential dispersal was necessary. The existing areas, in
their view, included vacant territory sufficient to allow the building of
260,000 new dwelling units—far more than necessary in the conditions of
minimal population growth. Thus, they recommended a set of policies to
encourage medium-density residential reconstruction and infill.
In contrast, the team behind Scenario B, led by Stajnov and
Mihajlovich, promoted the benefits of “dispersed living amid nature, since
it is an expression of new forms of spatial organization that correspond to
information society.” Suburban housing, they argued, is appropriate for
the growing upper middle class. It would enable Sofia to catch up with
trends in the cities of the developed democracies.
98
These excerpts from
interviews with the team leaders illustrate the contrast in visions:
Team leader, Scenario A: “The thesis that our group advocated was that Sofia needs
to stop expanding. It has grown enough and from now on it must only become better
organized. Under socialism, the city already incorporated too many vast new terri-
tories, which currently it can barely manage. . . . From now, the focus must be on
156 JOURNAL OF PLANNING HISTORY / May 2007
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Hirt / COMPACT VERSUS DISPERSED CITY 157
improving the assets we already have. This is the right, the sustainable thing to do—
both economically and environmentally. And it is, I believe, the philosophy of
Western cities at the moment.”
Team leader, Scenario B: “Currently, 93% of the population of metro-Sofia lives in
the City. Only 7% lives outside of it. Now we all know that all over the world, par-
ticularly in the developed democracies, cities have much more developed and often
elite peripheries. People who can afford to leave the compact city in order to live in
a more natural environment have already done it. So our long-term goal is to create
the prerequisites that will enable part of the city population to move out so that
Sofia can catch up with the global trends. . . . Thus, our alternative is the dispersed
city. We want the region around Sofia to be inseparable from it and adopt functions
that would relieve the pressures now piling upon the compact city. There will be sec-
ondary centers of activity in what is now the periphery. Then the region around the
city will be equal to the city itself. Dispersed urbanization is the regional and more
equitable approach. And this type of new regional thinking is well known in the
West. . . . We want to encourage new types of dwellings, in a new type of environ-
ment of a totally different character, and encourage a lifestyle that is closer to
nature. People are totally fed up with this over-urbanized environment that is now
offered in the compact city—an environment that contradicts the basic tenets of
sustainable development. . . . Our people crave to live amid nature. In socialist
times, the government had interest in cramping people in high-density housing
estates because this would save it money. But in a market economy, in an informa-
tion-type society, in a democracy, the compact city is no longer the right choice.”
Figure 4: Metropolitan Sofia according to Scenario A
Source: Based on Stolichna Obstina, Obsht Ustrojstven Plan na Grad Sofia i Stolichnata Obshtina:
Faza Predvaritelen Proekt, Etap 2, Scenarii za Socialno-ikonomichesko i Teritorialno Razvitie na
Grad Sofia za Perioda do 2020 g (Sofia, Bulgaria: Stolichna Obshtina, 2001).
Note: The darkest areas are dominated by residential uses (the lighter shaded areas are ostensibly
dominated by civic, business, or industrial uses).
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158 JOURNAL OF PLANNING HISTORY / May 2007
The debate between proponents of the two scenarios was resolved in
2002 when the latter—the urban dispersed model—was adopted as the
basis of the plan’s final draft.
99
Following the ideas of Scenario B, this draft
recommended the following:
Dispersed living amid nature, an expression of new forms of spatial organization
inherent to the information society and enabled by advanced communication tech-
nology, should be encouraged.
It is not necessary to utilize the whole potential of the existing territory. The growth
of residential areas should be related to the growth in the standard of living rather
than population growth. The already overpopulated existing urban areas should only
be renovated, keeping in mind that the correlation between high urban density and
poverty is so obvious that it needs no further proof.
Behind the difference in visions—one for a compact city that was dis-
missed, and one for a dispersed city that was endorsed—lurks a theme
Figure 5: Metropolitan Sofia according to Scenario B
Source: Based on Stolichna Obstina, Obsht Ustrojstven Plan na Grad Sofia i Stolichnata Obshtina:
Faza Predvaritelen Proekt, Etap 2, Scenarii za Socialno-ikonomichesko i Teritorialno Razvitie na
Grad Sofia za Perioda do 2020 g (Sofia, Bulgaria: Stolichna Obshtina, 2001).
Note: The residential zones (darkest shading) expand farther, especially along the mountain outskirts
to the west, north, and east of the city. Scenario B was formally endorsed—a testimony to the fact
that the urban dispersal idea, dressed in a peculiar interpretation of Western ideas of regionalism and
sustainability, has gained new supporters.
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Hirt / COMPACT VERSUS DISPERSED CITY 159
that seems to penetrate Sofia’s history. Both visions aimed to position
themselves within the framework of popular current international ideo-
logical tenets, in this case regionalism and sustainability. These ideologies
were, however, endorsed with contested meanings. The authors of A
linked them to compact form, while the authors of B linked them to dis-
persed forms. But how can such contested interpretations co-exist? How
can the authors of B claim that sustainability means dispersal, in conflict
with common international interpretation? The first logical explanation—
that they are unaware of dominant international ideas—can be easily
refuted. Based on the interviews, it is clear that they are highly educated
individuals with a firm grasp of current planning theory. A more plausible
explanation was offered by one of the advocates of dispersal:
Obviously, we are familiar with this new trend in the West—to try to limit growth of
the urban areas and encourage people to come back to the compact city. But we are
simply not there! . . . We are all for sustainable development and regionalism. But
what those things mean there, they may not mean here.
Tapping into popular rhetoric for sustainability and regionalism, the
authors of the dispersed city model thus endowed the concepts with a
meaning different from the one common in the international planning lit-
erature: equitable regionalism for them meant transferring people from the
center to the periphery; sustainability meant dispersal “amid nature.” This,
however, is exactly the interpretation of regionalism and sustainability that
prevailed in Western thought earlier in the twentieth century. That this
interpretation is strong in Sofia is not surprising, if we take into account
that today’s Sofia displays conditions similar to those of Western cities in
the early twentieth century. Despite the incipient residential and com-
mercial decentralization, Sofia is substantially more compact than most
Western cities.
100
Downtown is densely populated
101
and is a thriving busi-
ness node.
102
Housing demand in the center is strong, as evidenced by the
fact that housing prices there exceed those even in the most fashionable
new suburbs.
103
Thus, Sofia today is far from having a weak center and a
sprawling rich periphery—the context within which Western notions for
the benefits of compact forms developed. In a sense, today’s situation recalls
the 1930s, when local conditions also exhibited problems diverging from
those typical of Western cities. In the 1930s, the foreign theory of dispersal
could not be easily reconciled with the fact that Sofia already had a periph-
ery, which, from the viewpoint of its elites, was too spread-out and too poor.
In the 1990s, the foreign theory of urban revitalization could not be easily
applied to a city that had not lost much of its vitality to suburbanization. In
both cases, local plans paid lip service to foreign ideas and used them as
sources of legitimacy but reinterpreted their core meaning.
Because of the divorce between influential foreign ideas and the local
context, current debates in Sofia offer us a rare glimpse into a condensed
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160 JOURNAL OF PLANNING HISTORY / May 2007
history of Western planning thought. We observe the simultaneous juxta-
position of contested interpretations of fundamental planning concepts
for the correct relationship between city and nature and city and region.
In Western thought, there has been a clear evolution as one notion has
over time taken precedence over the other. In the early twentieth century,
the prevalent idea was that urban forms should disperse amid nature and
the central city should distribute resources to the surrounding settle-
ments. In the early twenty-first century, the dominant idea seems to be
the opposite—that human settlements should be compact and the central
city strengthened. In a city like Sofia, however, which is heavily influ-
enced by Western ideas in all aspects of life but has local conditions closer
to those of Western cities in the past, the polar visions exist contempora-
neously, side by side. Both visions seek legitimacy using Western rhetoric.
But while one builds on current Western ideas that favor compact form,
the other carries on historic Western notions of the virtues of dispersal.
The fact that it was the dispersal vision that was formally endorsed shows
that foreign ideas, no matter how well known or progressive they may be,
cannot be easily forced upon a local context that does not exhibit the con-
ditions that led to the maturation of these ideas.
Conclusion
This article reviewed the evolution of planning ideas on Sofia’s form and,
more particularly, the influence of foreign theories and their interplay with
local conditions. The evidence suggests that Sofia’s planners broadly fol-
lowed the main international paradigms and, much like their colleagues
abroad, struggled to define the relationship between the city and nature
and the city and its region. These two fundamental notions—of city and
nature and of city and region—in fact provided the framework within
which debates on Sofia’s form occurred. There was a remarkable consis-
tency in attempts to promote the emergence of a polycentric city—efforts
that were typically frustrated by the government’s inability to invest suffi-
ciently in the urban periphery. There was also a consistency in efforts to
integrate city and nature, although strategies of how to achieve this varied.
All plans advocated more parks. But while those prepared under right-wing
governments (in the 1930s and 1990s) championed single-family living
with large yards, those prepared under left-wing regimes (1945-1989) pro-
moted shared green spaces.
Sofia has strived to modernize itself using ideas that originated in the
“developed” countries. But these ideas were not absolutes, but malleable
concepts that could be given multiple, even conflicting, meanings depend-
ing on the local economic and political context. Sofia in the 1930s and
1990s provides obvious examples: the first when the Garden Cities idea
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Hirt / COMPACT VERSUS DISPERSED CITY 161
came to mean both urban dispersal and shrinkage, and the second when
current notions of regionalism and sustainability were equated with sub-
urbia. The midcentury plans, albeit to a lesser degree, also did their share
of molding classic foreign planning models with a Marxist twist as to jus-
tify either socialist rebuilding or expansion.
Of course, following foreign dogmas when they do not fit the local con-
ditions may be a recipe for disaster. In this sense, Sofia’s planners should
be lauded for not following international ideas slavishly but for adapting
them creatively. Yet in my view, the latest plan of Sofia holds few promises
for urban betterment. As Nedovic-Budic
104
argued, East European cities
have many qualities that their Western counterparts have lost but would
like to reachieve in the future. They have vibrant centers, are relatively
compact, and are less class-segregated. Clearly, under these conditions,
Western ideas to strengthen the city center and restrict sprawl have a lim-
ited appeal. However, as residential and commercial decentralization are
on the rise globally, it is important to realize that compactness and a
thriving center are advantages that can be lost. Postcommunist planners
have the unique opportunity of observing the results of planning policies
that encourage urban decentralization—consequences that are painfully
visible in many sprawling Western metropolises, especially in the United
States. While there may be some benefits in encouraging the transfer of
some functions from the city center to the periphery, postcommunist
planning should not repeat Western mistakes of the past.
Notes
1. Dobrina Jeleva-Martins, “Bulgarskoto gradoustrojstwo kato krustoput na Iztochnia i Zapadnia
Avangard,” Arhitektura 2 (2000): 21-24; and Dobrina Jeleva-Martins, “Bulgarskoto gradoustrojstvo po
putya na modernizma,” Arhitektura 2 (1994): 36-39.
2. A. Yerolympos, “Urbanism as Social Engineering in the Balkans: Reform Prospects and
Implementation Problems in Thessaloniki,” in Urbanism Imported or Exported: Native Aspirations
and Foreign Plans, ed. Joe Nasr and Mercedes Volait (Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2003); and Roumen
Daskalov, Mezhdu Iztoka i Zapada: Dilemi na Bulgarskata Kulturna Identichnost (Sofia, Bulgaria:
Lik, 1998).
3. Joe Nasr and Mercedes Volait, “Introduction,” in Nasr and Volait, Urbanism Imported or
Exported.
4. Stephen Ward, Planning the Twentieth-Century City: The Advanced Capitalist World
(Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2002); and Stephen Ward, “Reexamining the International Diffusion in
Planning,” in Urban Planning in a Changing World: Twentieth-Century Experience, ed. Robert
Freestone (London: Spon, 2000).
5. Nasr and Volait, “Introduction.”
6. A. Yerolympos, “Urbanism as Social Engineering,” and C. Hein, “The Transformation of
Planning Ideas in Japan and Its Colonies,” in Nasr and Volait, Urbanism Imported or Exported.
7. Peter Hall, Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Planning and Design in the
Twentieth Century (New York: Blackwell, 1988).
8. Christine M. Boyer, Dreaming the Rational City (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983).
9. Maria Kaika, City of Flows: Modernity, Nature and the City (New York: Routledge, 2005).
10. G. Marsh, “The Study of Nature,” in American Environmentalism: The Formative Period,
1860-1915, ed. D. Hall and D. Howe (New York: John Wiley, 1871/1973).
© 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
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11. Boyer, Dreaming the Rational City.
12. See William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York: Norton,
1991).
13. Fredrick Olmsted, “The Urban Planners as a Civilizing Force,” in American
Environmentalism.
14. Kaika, City of Flows.
15. Talen also points out that a focus on reforming the existing city versus a focus on creating new
towns in the city periphery is a key axis that divides the main planning schools of the twentieth cen-
tury into two types. See Emily Talen, New Urbanism and American Planning: The Conflict of
Cultures (London: Routledge, 2005).
16. Hall, Cities of Tomorrow; and Jonathan Barnett, The Elusive City: Five Centuries of Design,
Ambition and Miscalculation (New York: Harper & Row, 1986).
17. E.g., see E. Pinheiro, “Europa, Francia and Bahia: Diffusion and Adaptation of Urban European
Models” (Paper presented at the Conference of the International Planning History Society, Barcelona,
Spain, 2003); and A. Almandoz, “Longing for Paris: The Europeanized Dream of Caracas Urbanism,
1870-1940,” Planning Perspectives 14, no. 3 (1999): 225-40.
18. Boyer, Dreaming the Rational City.
19. Barnett, The Elusive City.
20. James Holston, The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brazilia (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1989); and Barnett, The Elusive City.
21. Le Corbusier, The Athens Charter (New York: Grossman Publishers, 1933/1973).
22. Hall, Cities of Tomorrow.
23. Ebenezer Howard, Garden Cities of Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Reform (London: Faber and
Faber, 1898/1946).
24. Robert Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia (New York: Basic Books,
1987); and Robert Fishman, Urban Utopias in the Twentieth Century: Ebenezer Howard, Frank
Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982).
25. David Gordon, Planning Twentieth-Century Capital Cities (London: Routledge 2006); see
also, e.g., C. Garnaut and A. Hutchings, “The Colonel Light Gardens Garden Suburb Commission:
Building a Planned Community,” Planning Perspectives 18 (July 2003): 277-93; B. Izaskun and D.
Landa, “Urban Models and Transferences in Caracas” (Paper presented at the Conference of the
International Planning History Society, Barcelona, Spain, 2003); and D. Mittner, “The Influence of the
Garden City’s Idea in Israel and Egypt” (Paper presented at the Conference of the International
Planning History Society, Barcelona, Spain, 2003).
26. Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1938).
27. Patrick Geddes, Cities in Evolution (London: Williams & Norgate, 1915/1949); Stephen
Wheeler, “Planning for Metropolitan Sustainability,” Journal of Planning Education and Research
20, no. 2 (2000): 133-45; and Robert Fishman, “The Death and Life of American Regional Planning,”
in Reflections on Regionalism, ed. Brice Katz (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2000).
28. Mary Sies and Christopher Silver, “Conclusion: Planning History and the New American
Metropolis,” in Planning the Twentieth-Century American City, ed. Mary Sies and Christopher Silver
(Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1996).
29. Richard Stites, “Utopia in Space: City and Building,” in Revolutionary Dreams: Utopia
Dreams and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).
30. Frank Lloyd Wright, The Disappearing City (New York: Payson, 1932).
31. E.g., P. Self, “The Evolution of the Greater London Plan, 1944-1970,” Progress in Planning 57,
no. 3-4 (2002): 145-75; and Wheeler, “Planning for Metropolitan Sustainability.”
32. Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias.
33. Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Random House, 1961),
19-20.
34. Stephen Wheeler, “The New Regionalism: Key Characteristics of an Emerging Movement,”
Journal of the American Planning Association 68, no. 3 (2002): 267-78; Fishman, “The Death and
Life of American Regional Planning”; and Sies and Silver, “Conclusion.”
35. Hall, Cities of Tomorrow.
36. E.g., Holmes Rolston, Environmental Ethics: Duties to and Values in the Natural World
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988); and T. Regan, “The Nature and Possibility of an
Environmental Ethic,” Environmental Ethics 3 (1982): 19-34.
162 JOURNAL OF PLANNING HISTORY / May 2007
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37. Ian McHarg, Design with Nature (New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1971).
38. Martha Conroy, “Moving the Middle Ahead: Challenges and Opportunities of Sustainability in
Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio,” Journal of Planning Education and Research 26, no. 1 (2006): 18-27;
and M. Whitehead, “(Re)analyzing the Sustainable City: Nature, Urbanization and Socio-environ-
mental Relations in the UK,” Planning Perspectives 40, no. 7 (2003): 1183-1206.
39. According to the UN’s Brundtland Report from 1987, sustainable development is development
that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet
their own needs.”
40. Scott Campbell, “Green Cities, Growing Cities, Just Cities? Urban Planning and the
Contradictions of Sustainable Development,” Journal of the American Planning Association 62, no.
3 (1996): 296-312.
41. U. Wikan, “Sustainable Development in the Mega-city,” Current Anthropology 36, no. 4
(1995): 635-55.
42. Like sustainable development, new regionalism is a concept with many different meanings.
Some British scholars, for example, have used it to promote the foundation of new regional political
bodies in Scotland and Wales (e.g., Wheeler, “The New Regionalism”). This article discusses only the
more popular meaning of the term, which implies the overcoming of regional disparities and the pro-
tection of unspoiled open spaces via promoting compact forms, reurbanizing existing cities, and build-
ing more active links between city and suburbs. See Sonia Hirt, “Toward Post-modern Urbanism:
Evolution of Planning in Cleveland, Ohio,” Journal of Planning Education and Research 25, no. 1
(2005): 27-42; Emily Talen and Gerrit Knaap, “Legalizing Smart Growth: An Empirical Study of Land
Use Regulation in Illinois,” Journal of Planning Education and Research 22, no. 4 (2003): 345-59;
Wheeler, “The New Regionalism”; Wheeler, “Planning for Metropolitan Sustainability”; Congress for
New Urbanism, New Urbanism: Comprehensive Report & Best Practices Guide (Ithaca, NY: New
Urban Publications, 2001); and P. Healey and R. Williams, “European Urban Planning Systems:
Diversity and Convergence,” Urban Studies 30, no. 4/5 (1993): 701-20.
43. Wheeler, “The New Regionalism.”
44. European Environment Agency, Environment in the European Union at the Turn of the
Century (Brussels: European Environment Agency, 1998); American Planning Association, PAS
Report 479: Principles of Smart Development (Chicago: American Planning Association, 1998);
President’s Council on Sustainable Development, Sustainable America: A New Consensus for
Prosperity, Opportunity, and a Healthy Environment for the Future (Washington, DC: Government
Printing Office, 1996); and United Nations, Agenda 21 (New York: United Nations, 1992).
45. Jeleva-Martins, “Bulgarskoto gradoustrojstvo.”
46. Camden Staddon and Bellin Mollov, “City Profile: Sofia, Bulgaria,” Cities 17, no. 5 (2000): 379-87.
47. See Dobrina Jeleva-Martins, “Horizontalna organizacia na grada: Sinhronen analiz,”
Arhitektura 3/4 (1991): 25-28.
48. Peter Tashev, “Urbanization in Bulgaria,” in International History of City Development, vol. 8,
Urban Development in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria, Romania and the U.S.S.R., ed. E. Gutkind (New
York: Free Press, 1972); and Peter Tashev, Sofia: Arhitekturno i Gradoustrojstveno Razvitie: Etapi,
Postijenija i Problemi (Sofia, Bulgaria: Tehnika, 1972).
49. Dobrina Jeleva-Martins, “Izbrani fakti i komentar za purviya regulacionen plan na stolicata,”
Arhitektura 2 (1999): 38-40, and 3 (1999): 38-40.
50. A. Ishirkov, “Naselenieto na Sofia,” in Jubilejna Kniga na Grad Sofia (Sofia, Bulgaria:
Knipegraph, 1928).
51. Gyorgi Labov, Arhitekturata na Sofia (Sofia, Bulgaria: Tehnika, 1979).
52. John Lampe, “Interwar Sofia versus the Nazi-Style Garden City: The Struggle over the
Muesmann Plan,” Journal of Urban History 11, no. 1 (1984): 39-62.
53. D. Jurdanov, “Sofia kato industrialen center,” in Jubilejna Kniga na Grad Sofia (Sofia,
Bulgaria: Knipegraph, 1928).
54. Lampe, “Interwar Sofia.”
55. Stolichna Goliama Obshtina, Izgrajdaneto na Golyama Sofia: Kakvo Predvijda Musmanovia
Plan (Sofia, Bulgaria: Stolichna Goliama Obshtina, 1938), 6.
56. See Lampe, “Interwar Sofia.”
57. Atanas Kovachev, Zelenata Sistema na Sofia (Sofia, Bulgaria: Pensoft, 2005); Sonia Hirt,
“Planning the Post-communist City: Experiences from Sofia,” International Planning Studies 10, no.
3/4 (2005): 219-39; and Jeleva-Martins, “Horizontalna organizacia na grada.”
Hirt / COMPACT VERSUS DISPERSED CITY 163
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164 JOURNAL OF PLANNING HISTORY / May 2007
58. Jeleva-Martins, “Bulgarskoto gradoustrojstvo po putya na modernizma.”
59. Todor Goranov, “Pulni avtentichni obyasnenya po Musmanovia plan,” Zora 5669, May 19, 1938, p. 30.
60. Lampe, “Interwar Sofia.”
61. Dobrina Jeleva-Martins, “Doktrinata na modernizma: Interpretacia na Musmanovija plan na
Sofia,” Arhitektura 5 (1998): 36-39.
62. Ivan Ivanov, “Rech na stolichnia kmet Ingener Ivan Ivanov po gradoustrojstvenia plan na Sofia,
izraboten ot professor Musman, proiznesena pred Stolichniya Obshtinski Suvet na 18 maj 1938 g,” in
Izgrajdane na Budeshta Golyama Sofia: Kakvo Predvijda Musmanovia Plan (Sofia, Bulgaria:
Stolichna Golyama Obshtina, 1938); Stolichna Golyama Obshtina, “Izgrajdaneto na Golyama Sofia,”
41; and Adolph Muesmann, “Gradoustrojstevenite problemi na Sofia,” Spisanie na Bulgarskoto
Injenerno-Arhitekturno Drujestvo 17/18 (1936): 169-72.
63. Goranov, “Pulni avtentichni obyasnenya,” 30.
64. Sonia Hirt, “Centralization or Decentralization: Sustainable Development (or Not) in Planning
the City of Sofia, Bulgaria,” in Sustainable Planning & Development (Southampton, UK: WIT Press,
2003), 847-57.
65. Stolichna Goliama Obshtina, “Izgrajdaneto na Golyama Sofia,” 29; and Lampe, “Interwar Sofia.”
66. Lampe, “Interwar Sofia.”
67. Stolichna Goliama Obshtina, “Izgrajdaneto na Golyama Sofia,” 49-70.
68. E.g., K. Karat, The Gecekondu: Rural Migration and Urbanization (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1976).
69. J. Pino, “On the History of Favelas in Rio de Janeiro,” Latin American Research Review 32,
no. 3 (1997): 111-22.
70. Lampe, “Interwar Sofia.”
71. Stolichna Goliama Obshtina, “Izgrajdaneto na Golyama Sofia,” 13-15, 43.
72. Protokoli ot Sreshtite na Ingener Ivanov s Grajdanska Delegacia Dokladvashta Opozicia kum
Musmanovia Plan (Sofia, Bulgaria: Sofia Archives, Source 1K, part 3, Archival Unit 482, July 27, 1938), 6.
73. Hirt, “Planning the Post-communist City”; and Lampe, “Interwar Sofia.”
74. “Naredba-zakon za izmenenie na Obshtija Gradoustrojstven plan na Sofia i Stolichnata
Goliama Obshtina,” Durjaven Vestnik 29 (1945).
75. Jordan Tangurov, “Modernata arhitektura 1944-1990,” Arhitektura 2 (2000): 46-48; and
Lyuben Tonev, “Golemite greshki na plana Musman,” in Po Putya na Bulgarskoto Gradoustrojstvo
(Sofia, Bulgaria: Izdatelstvo na Bulgarskata Akademia na Naukite, 1959/1987).
76. Peter Tashev, Sofia: Arhitekturno i Gradoustrojstveno Razvitie: Etapi, Postijenija i Problemi
(Sofia, Bulgaria: Tehnika, 1972), 30.
77. Jeleva-Martins, “Doktrinata na modernizma.”
78. Lyuben Tonev, “Za Generalnia Plan na Sofia ot 1945 godina,” Arhitektura 7/8 (1992): 26-36;
and Tonev, “Golemite greshki na plana Musman,” 436-38.
79. Lyuben Neikov and Boris Samodumov, Uchebnik po gradoustrojstvo (Sofia, Bulgaria: Narodna
Prosveta, 1952), 177-81.
80. See Kovachev, Zelenata Sistema na Sofia; D. Mushev, “Za stolicata i nejnite proektanti,”
Arhitektura 7/8 (1992): 21-23; and Labov, Arhitekturata na Sofia.
81. “Zakon za priemane i prilagane na Obshtija Gradoustrojstven Plan na Sofia,” Durjaven Vestnik
89 (1961).
82. Tonev, “Golemite greshki na plana Musman,” 442-45.
83. David Crowley and Susan Reid, eds., Socialist Spaces: Sites of Everyday Life in the Eastern
Bloc (Oxford, UK: Berg, 2002).
84. Peter Lizon, “East Central Europe: The Unhappy Heritage of Communist Mass Housing,”
Journal of Architectural Education 50, no. 2 (1996): 104-14.
85. Mushev, “Za stolicata i neynite proektanti.”
86. Gyorgi Andrusz, “Structural Change and Boundary Instability,” in Cities after Socialism:
Urban and Regional Change and Conflict in Post-socialist Societies, ed. Gyorgy Andrusz, Michael
Harloe, and Ivan Szelenyi (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1996).
87. Robert Buckley and Sasha Tsenkova, Strategia za Razvitie na Grad Sofia: Predvaritelna
Ocenka (Sofia, Bulgaria: Stolichna Obshtina, 2001).
88. A. Yoveva, D. Dimitrov, and R. Dimitrova, “Housing Policy: The Stepchild of the Transition,”
in Housing Policy: An End or a New Beginning, ed. M. Lux (Budapest, Hungary: Open Society
Institute, Local Government and Public Reform Initiative, 2003).
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89. A. Elbers and S. Tsenkova, “Housing a Nation of Home Owners—Reforms in Bulgaria,” in
Housing Change in East Central Europe, ed. S. Lowe and S. Tsenkova (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2003).
90. Nacionalen Statisticheski Institut, Sofia v Cifri (Sofia, Bulgaria: Nacionalen Statisticheski
Institut, Stolichno Teritorialno Bjuro, 2001); and Nacionalen Statisticheski Institut, Statisticheski
Sbornik—Sofia (Sofia, Bulgaria: Nacionalen Statisticheski Institut, Stolichno Teritorialno Bjuro, 1993).
91. Sonia Hirt and Atanas Kovachev, “The Changing Spatial Structure of Post-socialist Sofia,” in
The Urban Mosaic of Post-socialist Europe: Space, Institutions and Policy, ed. Sasha Tsenkova and
Zorica Nedovic-Budic (Heidelberg, Germany: Springer/Physica-Verlag 2006); Staddon and Mollov,
“City Profile: Sofia, Bulgaria”; and G. Genov, P. Slavejkov, and H. Ganev, “Urbanizirani teritorii,” in
Sofia: 120 Godini Stolica (Sofia, Bulgaria: Academichno Izdatelstvo Profesor Marin Drinov, 2000).
92. Dobrina Jeleva-Martins, “Sofia i selishtata: Budeshte za minaloto,” Aspekti 6 (1995): 14-20;
and Alexander Alexandrov, “Noviyat Generalen Plan na Sofia mejdu vchera i dnes,” Arhitektura 7/8:
(1992): 30-48.
93. “Zakon za izmenenie na zakona za podgotovka, priemane i prilagane na Obshtija Ustrojstven
Plan na Sofia,” Durjaven Vestnik 41 (1998).
94. Hirt, “Planning the Post-communist City.”
95. N. Karadimov,
Konkurs za budeshteto na grada: dumata na jurito,” Grad v Polite na Vitosha
2 (2001): 2-6.
96. Peter Dikov, “Scenarii za socialno-ikonomichesko i prostranstveno razvitie na Sofia i
Stolichnata Obshtina v perioda do 2020 g,” Arhitektura 4 (2001): 29-31; and Vesselina Troeva, “Vajen
etap ot podgotovkata na Obshtija Ustrojstven Plan na Sofia,” Arhitektura 4 (2001): 32-33.
97. Stolichna Obstina, Obsht Ustrojstven Plan na Grad Sofia i Stolichnata Obshtina: Faza
Predvaritelen Proekt, Etap 2, Scenarii za Socialno-ikonomichesko i Teritorialno Razvitie na Grad
Sofia za Perioda do 2020 g (Sofia, Bulgaria: Stolichna Obshtina, 2001).
98. Ibid.
99. Stolichna Obshtina, Obsht Ustrojstven Plan na Grad Sofia i Stolichnata Obshtina: Faza
Predvaritelen Proekt, Etap 3, Idejni Proekti za Teritorialno Razvitie na Grad Sofia i Stolichna
Obshtina (Sofia, Bulgaria: Stolichna Obshtina, 2002).
100. According to official data, Sofia has density of 57.5 persons per hectare. This compares to
42.3 in London, 46.6 in Paris, and 48.8 in Amsterdam. See J. Kenworthy and F. Laube, An
International Sourcebook of Automobile Dependence in Cities, 1960-1990 (Boulder: University of
Colorado Press, 1999).
101. As of 2000, the highest residential density in Sofia, 180 people per hectare, was within a
radius of one kilometer of the heart of downtown (see Buckley and Tsenkova, Strategia za Razvitie
na Grad Sofia, 72). Densities tend to decrease toward the periphery with the partial exception of the
socialist housing estates.
102. According to data made available to the author by Colliers International, as of 2003, Sofia’s
center held around half of the total office space in the metropolis.
103. According to data from real estate agencies in Sofia, in July 2005 housing prices in Vitosha
averaged 654 euros per square meter, while in the center (e.g., Oborishte district) they were 769
euros per square meter.
104. Zorica Nedovic-Budic, “Adjustment of Planning Practice to the New Eastern and Central
European Context,” Journal of the American Planning Association 67, no. 1 (2001): 38-52.
Sonia Hirt is an assistant professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia
Polytechnic Institute and State University. She holds a PhD and a master’s degree in
urban planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an architectural degree
from the University of Architecture and Civil Engineering in Sofia, Bulgaria. Her inter-
ests include land use planning theory and history, and comparative planning.
Hirt / COMPACT VERSUS DISPERSED CITY 165
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... The spatial evolution, the conditions of fundamental political and economic transformation, and the restoration of private initiative caused a number of essential spatial issues, including large-scale conflicts concerning organisation of the urban space as a whole and separate neighbourhoods in particular. Various problems of Sofia's post-socialist transformation in broader geographical context have already been approached in international scholar literature: issues of spatial planning (Hirt 2007;Slaev and Nedovic-Budic 2017), emergence of gated communities (Hirt 2012;Smigiel 2014), transformation of residential space (Hirt and Stanilov 2007), challenges to market reform in housing (Tsenkova 2009), unevenness in the development of public transport (Plevris 2019), barriers to cycling in the urban space (Barnfield 2016), etc. ...
... These green areas emerged in the first "modern" master plan of the city that was based on a clear planning visionthe plan by the German architect Adolf Muesmann, elaborated and adopted in 1930 s. It "was prepared at the height of Garden Cities popularity and incorporated its chief elements" (Hirt, 2007) and planned for an extensive green system of the city. ...
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Although the interaction between planning and the market in urban development has been the subject of extensive research, its treatment in the literature is still problematic and controversial. Issues regarding this interaction remain topical for post-socialist urban planners, who are still lacking sufficient experience with planning in market conditions, especially when it comes to practice. The contribution of this study is that it identifies two practical approaches, through which urban planners can coordinate plans with markets. First, when setting planning goals, planners must critically assess the relationship between these goals and market demand. If market demand is distorted by market deficiencies, planning must look for opportunities to counteract and rectify distortions, but if market demand properly reflects the interests of stakeholders in urban development, planning must critically reassess its definition of the public interest. Second, when developing urban plans, planners must employ fiscal (financial, monetary) and market-oriented tools for their implementation. To study these relationships, the paper explores different aspects of development in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, as Sofia is a relevant example of the urban trends in post-socialist cities.
... Друга група са строителните предприемачи, за които вече беше обяснено, че техните интереси се определят от интересите на потенциалните купувачи, желаещи да се заселят във Витошката яка. Според Хърт (Hirt, 2007a(Hirt, , 2007b, новите заселници в южната крайградска зона са преди всичко добре-платени и с относително по-високо образование жители на града, които се стремят към по-висок стандарт на обитаване, който въпросната зона предлага. Тъй като пазарният натиск и в тази зона (подобно на централните градски части) е голям, затова интензивността на застрояване не е ниска, а е средна (максимално допустимата). ...
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The paper examines the problems of the relationship between the Master Plan of Sofia Municipality and the operation of the market in the development of Sofia. According to the paper, planning often allows for two significant weaknesses in its relationship with the market. First, urban planners usually ignore the obvious fact that the driving force of the market mechanism is market demand, which is determined by the preferences of the population. Thus, the market mechanism may conflict with planning objectives only in specific cases, but urban planners rarely investigate when and why such conflicts arise. Second, urban planners underestimate the importance of planning tools that serve to manage the market in line with the goals of the plan. Keywords: urban planning, market-led urban planning, planning-market relationship, instruments of implementation of plans, tools of market management.
... The spatial evolution, the conditions of fundamental political and economic transformation, and the restoration of private initiative caused a number of essential spatial issues, including large-scale conflicts concerning organisation of the urban space as a whole and separate neighbourhoods in particular. Various problems of Sofia's post-socialist transformation in broader geographical context have already been approached in international scholar literature: issues of spatial planning (Hirt 2007;Slaev and Nedovic-Budic 2017), emergence of gated communities (Hirt 2012;Smigiel 2014), transformation of residential space (Hirt and Stanilov 2007), challenges to market reform in housing (Tsenkova 2009), unevenness in the development of public transport (Plevris 2019), barriers to cycling in the urban space (Barnfield 2016), etc. ...
Chapter
This chapter justifies the topicality and relevance of spatial conflicts and divisions in cities from the viewpoint of human geography and other branches of science dealing with spatial facets of urban development such as sociology, political science, and economics. Based on the analysis of publications regarding post-socialist cities, the author outlines the main themes in this well-developed interdisciplinary discourse. The author also stresses that despite its high research potential, we lack a separate domain that generates knowledge about conflicts in cities of East-Central Europe. Particular attention is paid to the global discourse of knowledge on contested and divided cities and the variety of currents and problems raised by scholars. The merits of the current book and its contribution to the process of maturing from conflicts and divisions in post-socialist cities as a prospective direction of future research are highlighted. Issues with high research potential include geopolitically- and ethnonationally-motivated conflicts and divisions, as well as topics related to current disputes about the heritage of multicultural cities, conflicts caused by competing interests in spatial planning under conditions of post-socialist transformation, globalisation, and European integration. Conflicts and divisions caused by post-socialist transformation and its long-lasting socio-spatial consequences make the missing link between post-socialist urban change and global discourses on contested and divided cities.
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El fenómeno de la dispersión urbana está modificando el modelo de ocupación del suelo de las ciudades españolas propiciando así que ciudades tradicionalmente compactas hayan experimentado un crecimiento disperso, que a la larga resultará ser poco sostenible. Como solución a esta problemática se consideran los sistemas policéntricos. Se realiza una comparación basada en el índice de Nelson de la jerarquía urbana de Cantabria a partir de servicios y centros de trabajo, y de las relaciones de dependencia intermunicipal para acceder al comercio y servicios. Los resultados han servido para proponer un sistema territorial equilibrado rompiendo la progresiva tendencia de litoralización de la población y actividades. Finalmente se plantean medidas que fomenten la integración de las políticas de transporte, de planificación urbanística y de ordenación del territorio, basándose en la coordinación y cooperación administrativa y de los agentes sociales, y en la definición de estrategias a medio y largo plazo.
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This book presents cross-national insights into spatial fragmentation in post-socialist cities in Europe. Trying to rethink the heritage of the last 30 years of transformation and grasp current processes taking urban units of various categories as examples, the book exemplifies typical or unique causes of political, social and ethnic disintegration of cities in Central and Eastern Europe. Presenting spatial studies into different cases of conflict in a cross-national context, the authors apply concepts of contested and divided cities, urban geopolitics, cultural atavism, contested heritage, etc. The book is divided into four parts. The first part raises the issue of genesis, development and contemporary discrepancies of cities divided by political and state borders. The second part includes chapters which deal with the impact of ongoing geopolitical divisions, wars, and ideologies on the social and political tensions as well as their polarising effect on urban territory. The third part comprises reflections on controversial relations of ethnic and national culture with urban space. The fourth part deals with socio-economic transformation of post-socialist cities which went through transition of old patterns of spatial planning and attempts to establish more rational and justice spatial order.
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This article makes a case for a relational approach to studying the history of ‘socialist cities’ in Europe as inherently interconnected with various other places through transnational links. It attempts to contribute to historians’ debates about the socialist city and to interlink them with the project of developing a ‘global urban studies’. To do so, it brings several examples from the history of urban planning and urban development in post-war Czechoslovakia which challenge academic representations of socialist cities as specific and disconnected from places across the Iron Curtain. First, based on a review of contemporary professional literature in urban planning and architecture, the article points out some of the channels through which knowledge about and from geographically or ideologically distant places, including the ‘Western’ world, was available to Czechoslovak experts, and, especially, how this knowledge has been reflected in their own debates about housing construction and urban development in Czechoslovakia. Second, one palpable example of exchanges across the borders of the then-divided Europe is depicted through the transnational story of wooden prefabricated houses. So called Finnish houses were produced in Finland, yet they became an integral part of several cities and towns in socialist Czechoslovakia.
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After the Second World War, Hungary adopted the so-called Soviet model, which gave rise to significant changes in the state organisation. “Centralisation” and “democratic centralism” are the keywords which described the operation of government and local bodies in the four decades between 1945 and 1990. Through the change of the townscape of one settlement, this study throws light on how the change in administrative status and the centrally determined settlement policy affected urban development in Hungary, similarly to other former socialist states. Our highlighted example is Berettyóújfalu, whose administrative status changed from period to period in its 19–20th century history. Today, Berettyóújfalu’s townscape is basically determined by three architectural periods: the era of the Austro–Hungarian Monarchy (1867–1918), the period between the two world wars (1918–1944) and the age of state socialism (1949–1989). Out of these periods, the third one was the most significant, as the most important interventions into the townscape occurred at that time. It seems that in Berettyóújfalu, the appearance of urban buildings has not been brought about by economic forces, but expressly by the change in the settlement’s administrative status. It was this change that influenced the town’s architectural character, which consists of two components: the official buildings and the residential building stock. In the era of socialism, the construction of housing estates also falls into the category of public developments, as after the Second World War, the system of state organisation changed fundamentally. Local governments ceased to exist, their role was taken over by hierarchical councils. Consequently, urban policy and urban construction became central duties according to the socialist state concept. The centrally developed industry and the resulting increase in the population was served by building housing blocks with system-building technology. These panel apartment blocks occupied the urban fabric that had been an integral part of the former townscape. In this way, this changed townscape could become a kind of architectural reader on Central and Eastern European history and urban development of the 19–20 th centuries.
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Typically, cities and nature are perceived as geographic opposites, cities being manufactured social creations, and nature being outside of human construction. Through a historical geography of water in the modern city, Kaika shows that this is not the case. Rather, nature and the modern city are fully intertwined, with cities integrating nature at every level of activity. While her empirical focus is on Athens, she discusses other major cities in the West, including London and New York.
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The favelas of Rio de Janeiro, with their teeming masses trapped in misery, constitute the perfect site for investigating how social inequality is reproduced in Brazil. The latest survey of the shantytowns, conducted by the Instituto de Planejamento in Rio de Janeiro (IPLAN-Rio) reported that as of 1991, the city contained 661 favelas housing 962,793 persons in 239,678 shacks. The squatter settlements recreate in miniature but distorted form the entire history of modern Rio de Janeiro. The first squatter settlement was built in 1898 in Rio by Bahian veterans of the military campaign against mystic rebel Antonio Conselheiro. Yet only when the housing crisis of the 1940s forced the urban poor to erect hundreds of shantytowns in the suburbs did favelas replace tenements as the main type of residence for destitute Cariocas (residents of Rio). The explosive era of favela growth dates from 1940, when Getúlio Vargas's industrialization drive pulled hundreds of thousands of migrants into the Federal District, until 1970, when shantytowns expanded beyond urban Rio and into the metropolitan periphery. Even today, the favelas remain an officially unrecognized and illegal part of city. For this reason, many researchers assume that the shantytowns have no written history and that historians must rely on anecdotal evidence from residents for information on squatter life.
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One of the sad legacies of the totalitarian regimes of East Central Europe and the former Soviet Union is the sorry state of the numerous mass housing projects started after the World War II to combat an unending shortage of housing. The state construction companies, from the former East Germany to Russia, monopolized all aspects of residential production. Large-scale standardization, a limited number of available housing types without variety, and poor quality resulted in depressing rows of blocks of flats made out of concrete panels. The inhabitants of these socialist projects had at the time no other choice; unfortunately, they do not have any other choice even today. The continuing housing shortage does not allow a Pruitt-Igoe solution; the panel blocks cannot be demolished and replaced. Instead, solutions are sought for fixing, improving, recycling, adapting, and humanizing these drab, gray, uninspiring bedroom communities. This article is a case study of the Petrzalka housing project in the city of Bratislava. In it, I analyze issues that are common to many of the housing developments in the former Iron Curtain bloc. The capital of Slovakia, Bratislava is located 60 kilometers from Vienna and 200 kilometers from Budapest. The monarchs of the Austro-Hungarian Empire lived in the Bratislava castle (the city at the time was called Pressburg or Pozsony) above the Danube and were crowned in St. Martin's Cathedral. The capital institutions and architecture speak a language of centuries. The southern district of the city, Petrzalka, is situated on the right bank of the Danube and is accessible by bridges and a ferry from downtown Bratislava. Presently, there are some fifty-thousand housing units placed in high-rise apartment blocks. The construction of Petrzalka began in 1974.