Prof. D. Arch. Rositsa Nikiforova
After many arrangements with his schedule of work appointments in projects and trips, reaching the point of impossibility, on 17 May 2019 in Bulgaria arrived the world-famous architect and visual artist, Jürgen Mayer, who has had projects realized from New York through Europe to Georgia. He works in a space where architecture, sculpture, communications and new technologies meet. He is a lecturer at the Princeton University, Harvard University, the Higher School of Arts in Berlin, the Architectural Association in London, the Columbia University in New York and the University of Toronto, Canada. He is a member of the governing body of the “Bauhaus Dessau” Foundation and holder of the top awards for architecture and design. And I would like to emphasize – he is winner of the Red Dot Award.
At least one of his works is certainly quite well-known – the largest in the world timber-made design structure, throwing its raster shadow over Roman and Mauritanian ruins in the centre of the hot city of Seville.
During his 24-hour stay in Varna by invitation of the Chief Architect of the city Victor Buzev and the non-governmental organization Varna Design Forum, we heard and saw presented long awaited truths about the creative process, the urban spaces, the education in design and architecture. and examples are most convincing when presented by an erudite representative of the “fiery” part of the profession – a practicing architect-designer.
The Bauhaus School
The invitation to Arch. Mayer was in relation to the celebration all over the world of 100 years since the establishment of the Bauhaus School in Dessau, Germany. The School set the beginning of our contemporary perception of the object-spatial world: the world that we live in – from the urban spaces, through the buildings to the cup of coffee. We wanted not just to witness yet another history-focused story about the style from the first three decades of the 20th century with complaints about the endangered heritage, but we expected an up-to-date answer to the question about the vitality of the spirit and principles of Bauhaus and the present-day understanding of an architecture, adequate to its time, adequate to the new technologies and the new requirements of the people.
“I have been in contact with Bauhaus since my childhood years. I was born in Stuttgart, and when I was fifteen or sixteen years old, the Weissenhof estate (Weißenhofsiedlung) was renovated with the purpose of restoring its original appearance. I can remember that back then there was a discussion how much to restore the original estate and to what extent what was added later (in the 1950s and the 1960s) was also part of the history and people’s attitude towards Bauhaus.“
The experimental estate Weissenhof was established in 1927 with the intention to provide a completely new residential concept for everyone. However, attracted by the modern architecture and the residential spaces passing from one into the other, it was initially settled only by intellectuals, journalists, actors, opera singers. The author of the urban planning solution was Mies van der Rohe, who also designed one of the buildings, alongside the great authors of the other buildings: Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Bruno Taut, Ludwig Hilberseimer, Hans Poelzig, Peter Behrens, Hans Scharoun, etc. The complicated historical fate of the estate in the years before and after World War II reached the serenity of a protected national cultural value in 1956 and acquired the circle “Friends of Weissenhof“. In the 1980s, the Federal Government in Bonn and the city administration of Stuttgart granted substantial funds for its reconstruction – that was the specific period of time, quite controversial in respect to stylistics that Jürgen Mayer talked about, having been early on introduced into the responsible architectural profession.
He drew the general conclusion that German architects are worryingly and permanently involved with the Bauhaus esthetics, quite often represented as functional white boxes. „The Bauhaus concept, which carries in itself a multilayer message, has been downgraded to something very trivial, thus shifting the focus from the essence of the movement. Now, 100 years after the establishment of Bauhaus, the discussion about Bauhaus’ multilayer content is raised again: that Bauhaus is much more than simple white “blocks” and rectangular elements. The fact that they have survived over time and have established themselves as a marketing symbol of Bauhaus does not mean that Bauhaus is not much larger both in terms of form and content. Bauhaus is the attitude towards technologies, the attitude towards material, and, most of all, the attitude towards the human being.“ The future belongs to meaningful interpretations of its principles – that was the first thing that Jürgen Mayer told us.
The education in architecture and design
The second takeaway message was the attitude towards the education in architecture and design. It is well-known that the Bauhaus school applied a revolutionary educational scheme with balanced and synthetic involvement of subjects, studied theoretically, through hand work in the studios of great masters, and working on real-life projects together with the tutors.
As a member of the Research Advisory Board, Arch. Mayer takes part in the meetings of the “Bauhaus Dessau” Foundation twice a year on the following topics: the future of Bauhaus in education, the future of Bauhaus in production and preservation of the heritage of the movement in the Eastern part of Germany. There are appropriate ways and methods searched so that the Bauhaus ideas be involved in a common network, and continue existing and developing.
In view of that, in 2019, the Foundation opened the exhibition “Bauhaus Imaginista” first in Berlin, and then it started travelling all over the world. Arch. Jürgen Mayer emphasized an important aspect of the exhibition, showing a network of different architectural schools, where both the lecturers and the students perceive the relation with the technique, material and detail as a main topic.
The lecture presented by Arch. Mayer with outstanding examples of implementations selected by him, was a remarkable continuation of the Bauhaus tradition: the education in architecture and design should be delivered at first hand and in live by the master to the beginner.
Bauhaus relies most of all on a characteristic, which is particularly recommendable nowadays: Carrier of knowledge, and not simply of bulk of information.
The Master’s projects
The direct contact with an architectural celebrity is awe inspiring and brings the unique feeling of the magic nature of creative work.
In his lecture on the projects and implementations of the company J. Mayer H. und Partner, Architekten, Arch. Mayer tried to present the process as something accessible, passing through structures of multiple sets, which we observe in reality, as crystallization of ideas originating there, as a handicraft to bring the idea to a new reality. Within the multitude of letters, the typesetter brings forward different printed texts – as simple as that! Actually, there was huge innovative work behind almost all of his projects. The timber material for the grand designer’s structure on the square in Seville was prepared in Finland, and the ad hoc created new system of metal connections – in Germany, so that everything would be “gathered“ on site in Spain.
The live presentation of the origination of an idea, the motivation, overcoming difficulties of any nature, which are not spared to the stars in the profession either, the non-acceptance and even total rejection of the right of that type of shape creation, moreover, in times of crisis, only reconfirmed the conviction that a staunch character and capacity for hard work are the most critical prerequisites for the successful realization of the talented artist.
Certainly, architecture is an impressive art. With self irony, typical for the top professionals, Arch. Mayer showed an advertising video of a cat’s toilet with an image and a new technology inspired by Metropol Parasol in Seville. And also, an advertisement for a beer with the silhouette of the Court of Justice in Hasselt, Belgium.
The effect from presenting his works was the immediate reaction of his youngest audience in the plenary hall of the Municipality of Varna. Questions of a widest range started pouring – from an interest in his personal perception of himself as an artist to the pragmatic “how an open-air wooden structure is supported“.
Living in a city with historical heritage is traditionally considered both “a curse and a blessing”. There is a balance to be found in maintaining the urban environment, which should meet the daily needs of the citizens, as well as the extreme expectations of the otherwise useful tourists.
At a round table entitled “The Urban Spaces of
Varna“ with the participation
of architects, economists, environmentalists and citizens interested in the
topic, architect Mayer presented in detail the experience of Seville in the selection of
a project for La
– a competition in several
stages between renowned designing companies. The Bulgarian architects, proponents of the
“Bilbao effect” and of the wide-aspect treatment of the local architectural
tasks, supported the idea that world-famous names should step on the territory
of the ancient Odessos. We
can only wait and see.
 This and the further quotations are from recorded consecutive interpretation by Arch. Maksim Nedkov, who has graduated in Germany.
 Introductory presentation of Arch. Mayer before journalists, architects and citizens in the Municipality of Varna; interpretation by Arch. Maksim Nedkov
 incl. at the Goethe Institute in Sofia
The international competition for young architects and students, known as “Effix in the Sea Garden of Varna,” ended on the 15th of August 2016. The event organized by Devnya Cement AD and Varna Design Forum was a great success, as we witnessed increased participation and enjoyed the presentation of many quality projects. (http://effixpavilion.com/).
Having benefited from the excellent collaboration of organizers, and the international composition of the jury, the competition has enjoyed both, an enhanced credibility, and attracted the participation of 95 teams from 34 countries and 5 continents. The Bulgarian participants numbered 21, followed by those from: India – 5, UK – 5, Italy – 4, Iran – 4, Russia – 4, Romania – 3, Ukraine – 3, Georgia – 3, Philippines – 3, Hong Kong – 3, Indonesia– 3, Ethiopia – 3, United States – 3, Sweden – 2, Spain – 2, Hungary – 2, China – 2, Colombia – 2, Peru – 2, Japan – 2. Projects were also presented by teams from Germany, Greece, France, Belarus, Kosovo, Poland, Lebanon, Egypt, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, and Venezuela. In this aspect the competition enjoyed great success. We were pleased to see that comments on the pages of the contest were overwhelmingly positive. Many expressed gratitude for the chance given young architects, through the contest, to learn so much about the topic – “This Great Ocean” (Yassaman Abzade).
The competition gave its interpretation of the contemporary understanding of ”the shape”, how it is a reflection of its creators, and of the public attitudes regarding the subject (the audience award).
The anonymous contest targeted architects under the age of 35 years and students. Our initial intentions were to have an even lower threshold of 29 years of age. The competition confirmed once again, the classic relationship between results and accumulated professional experience.
Having intentionally set rather challenging restriction the contest organizers intended the contest as an opportunity aimed specifically at the young professional in our field. We were full aware of the challenging economic conditions faced by the entire world. The finding of a job, even more so a job where one can be challenged to grow and think, a job which stimulates one’s imagination and creativity is a heavy task especially for the novice in the field. To help in this regard, was the first of three specific objectives of the competition.
The essence of the task was indeed of, “oceanic” proportions. The principal difficulty emerged from the combination of several important requirements. To create both a functional and uniquely impacting shape. To achieve modularity. To use concrete prepared in the laboratories for innovative technology of Devnya Cement. And finally this material to be used as an important shaping factor in the context of the Sea Garden of Varna. Thus, the application of innovative and yet unknown materials, was the second specific objective of the contest.
The third specific objective was the enrichment of the urban environment of Varna, (a basic goal of the Varna Design Forum) which in turn would add to the global enrichment of the creating of shapes globally. Looking at the winning projects and the number of others lauded by the jury, it is clear to see that this year’s competition achieved its goals.
Rositsa Nikiforova, Christo Topchiev 24.09.2016
With surprisingly increased participation and many quality projects on 15 August 2016 completed “Effix Pavilion in the Sea Garden of Varna” – the international competition for young architects and students, organized by Devnya Cement AD and Varna Design Forum (http://effixpavilion.com/).
The good collaboration of organizers and the international composition of the jury, have contributed to enhancing the credibility of the competition and the participation of 95 teams from 34 countries and 5 continents. The Bulgarian participants were 21; participants from India – 5, UK – 5, Italy – 4, Iran – 4, Russia – 4, Romania – 3, Ukraine – 3, Georgia – 3, Philippines – 3, Hong Kong – 3, Indonesia– 3, Ethiopia – 3, United States – 3, Sweden – 2, Spain – 2, Hungary – 2, China – 2, Colombia – 2, Peru – 2, Japan – 2. Projects also have betrayed and teams from Germany, Greece, France, Belarus, Kosovo, Poland, Lebanon, Egypt, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, and Venezuela. In this aspect the competition had a serious success. Comments on the pages of the contest were entirely positive. There was gratitude for the chance young architects through the contest to learn a lot about the topic – “this great ocean” (Yassaman Abzade).
The competition gave its response to a contemporary understanding of the form, of the profile of its creators, of the public attitudes to the subject (the audience award).
Anonymous contest was targeted to architects under the age of 35 years and students. Initial intentions were to put an even lower threshold of age – 29 years. The competition confirmed the classic dependence according to the results of the accumulated experience.
Commenting on this restrictive condition, set by the organizers of the contest, in fact, we explain one of the important intentions – to be opened an opportunity for the expression of the young in the profession. It is known that under the conditions of crisis worldwide, finding a job, the improvement in practical tasks, impingement of stimulating the imagination themes, are increasingly slipping and zipping circumstances for novice professionals. This support was the first specific objective of the contest.
The essence of the task has indeed giant dimensions. The principal difficulty emerges from the combination of several important requirements. To create both functional and unique impact form. To achieve modularity. To use concrete material prepared in laboratories for innovative technology of Devnya Cement. The material as an important shaping factor should be applied in the context of the Sea Garden of Varna. The application of innovative and yet unknown material was the second specific objective of the race.
The third specific objective was by contributing to the urban environment of Varna (a basic aspiration of the Varna Design Forum) to achieve enrichment of the creating of forms globally.
Rositsa Nikiforova, Christo Topchiev