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Hand-painted book reconstructs Sofia of the past

There are dozens of people who have written about Sofia - the city that "grows but does not age." The city full of traditions, preserving the memory of past times. The city, which has been developing fast and rapidly becoming a modern European capital. But a new, unusual book gives a different look on the history and architecture of one of the most ancient capitals in Europe. It is the result of architect Todor Voynikov’s long years of work. What makes this book different?

"First, the whole book is painted entirely by hand; there is not a single line in it that has electronic origin. I decided that this would lead to more immediacy,” Todor Voynikov says. “Another characteristic is that it consists largely of the ‘living’ memories of eyewitnesses. My goal was for each of these memories to be turned into an illustration, in order to have a visual book.”

Work on the book started back in 2004. Todor Voynikov created his work on rice paper. The incredible precision with which buildings and streets are drawn is impressive, as well as the exquisite handwriting of the texts. Most of the drawings are copies of photos or existing images and the main idea is to "reconstruct" Sofia of the past and show what the city looked like in different periods of its development.

"The book can be generally divided into two parts: the period before the Liberation (1878) and the period after it," the author says. “In terms of structure, the city is a reflection of two empires - the Roman Empire (later the Byzantine) and the Ottoman Empire. There is nothing in common between Roman and Ottoman Sofia and these were two different cities. I recreated in a three-dimensional way what they looked like. After the Liberation, a typical city emerged, built according to European models. I also tried to create a three-dimensional bird's eye view of what Sofia looked like at the time."

The architect says that he is strongly influenced by Dimo Kazasov's book "Streets, People, Events".

"I realized what Sofia had been through. The bombing of the central part in 1944 destroyed the streets, but in fact the destruction continued long after that, until 1970, because the plan for the Sofia center included the destruction of key buildings. This gave rise to a reaction in me aimed at exploration, preservation, the pursuit of restoration, something like resurrection. Some unpleasant things happened to people too. Part of the Bulgarian elite was ruined, sacrificed. And it is not by chance that the book is full of people - there are 800 of our fellow citizens, citizens of Sofia, and some who are not originally from Sofia but are connected to the city."

In this book, everyone will find something for themselves, depending on personal preferences and interests.

"The city cannot be just a pile of stones, bricks and wood. It must be part of our culture, of our emotions. I want citizens who connect the city to important things of moral nature and who carry it in their hearts to see examples of its spiritual awakening," Teodor Voynikov says.

Author: Desislava Semkovska

English: Alexander Markov

Photos: private library

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