Saving the abandoned Buzludzha Monument in a free VR experience

Todor Rusanov
May 20, 2016 · 4 min read
Free VR Experience created by Rafal Czarnowski and Todor Russanov

Summary of the project
Buzludzha VR
is a virtual reality experience based on the environment of the Buzludzha monument. The structure has been abandoned since 1989 and this led to its ongoing physical degradation. The main aim of this project is to raise awareness about the monument and suggest a new purpose for the abandoned mega structure.

Download (for free) link available at the bottom of the page.

The goal of this collaborative project was to create an immersive and impactful Virtual Reality experience that would raise awareness about the Buzludzha Monument — a structure built on top of a Buzludzha mountain peak in the Central Balkan Mountains by Bulgarian communist regime in 1981. Bulgaria ceased to be a communist state in 1989 and since then, the Monument was abandoned. With no further maintenance, the building quickly began to deteriorate and suffer from acts of vandalism.

Buzludzha in its current state (June 2015)

The project development started back in late June 2015 when we traveled on site to Buzludzha to capture essential photographic material for reference as well as to experience first hand the size and scale of the structure. A series of spatial measurements was also taken to further aid the development process. The photographs proved to be an invaluable asset to have during the modelling stage of the project, which combined with the measurements of the building’s internal dimensions helped establish the right scale.

The end product, Buzludzha VR, is an unguided exploration experience to get to know the Buzludzha Monument and also a small history lesson about the structure, all presented inside of a redesigned, conceptual version of the building, to show how it could look like if it was ever restored. For example, the implemented corridor museum features photographs of the Buzludzha Monument in its current derelict state with the ability to teleport to the place from which a specific photo was originally taken to compare our restored version to its current real-life equivalent. There are also various photos of interesting places of Bulgaria displayed on the panoramic corridor wall, with a playable voice-over description to learn more about what they depict. And so by the end of your gameplay we hope you will have an increased understanding of what the Buzludzha Monument is now, what it used to be, all with an additional grasp of Bulgaria in general.

The redesigned amphitheater can accommodate up to 350 people, which makes it suitable for small concerts and art performances. The grand piano is playable in virtual reality.

We believe that communist symbols and style do not work in the 21st century. Perhaps the presence of these symbols is one of the reasons for the current poor condition of the Monument. We wanted to use the Buzludzha’s unique and unusual architectural form to creatively restore the structure and suggest a new use for it. That’s why we decided to turn Buzludzha into a modern multi-functional complex.

Buzludzha VR allows the audience to explore and sense the monument in a way that would otherwise be impossible in real life. Although the project was designed for the HTC Vive VR platform in mind, the downloadable experience from our website can be also viewed on a flat screen, like a traditional PC game.

Pictures with the architect and the presentation of the project

So far our project has been tremendously positively received all around from Bulgarian media, architects (including the building’s original architect Georgi Stoilov, 87 years old), online social media communities and Edinburgh Napier University.

Watch our first appearance on TV with English subtitles

TV news report and interview regarding our project was broadcast on 10th of May on NovaTV in Bulgaria.

Available for HTC Vive (virtual reality) and Desktop (like a regular PC game). Full system requirements available on the download page.

Help us spread the word about Buzludzha and its current state!
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Web: Rafal Czarnowski
Web: Todor Russanov

Todor Rusanov

Written by

Product Designer | Tech Geek | Athlete | Aspiring Guitarist

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