Rediscovering the abandoned urban spaces in Smolyan – “the heart of Rhodope mountains“

Event objectives:

The purpose of the initiative is for the youth of the municipality to express their position for the creation of the surrounding environment through photos. Through the event we found out about possible solutions in the direction of improving and ennobling public abandoned spaces and dangerous buildings in the regional town of Smolyan. The collected ideas are to be reviewed, analysed and further developed as integrated part in BCV 2050. „PhotoVoice“ is an opportunity for the youth to identify, present and emphasize on the way they see and perceive a sustainable urban environment. What was expected to be built as a result from the event is a long-term vision of how the young people imagine their town and its development.

Key direction followed was the emphasise on the sustainable cities development. 


Participants in the event:

The target group of the event was identified to be students from high school. Two groups from different schools were invited to participate in the event. 


Abandoned spaces:

Second level of water cascade

Public space around Varna Free University

Green public space – Raykovo, Smolyan

Underpass – Raykovo, Smolyna

Public space around the Regional Historical Museum

Abandoned high-rise building

Ruins of a destroyed residential building


Event program:

The event has been conducted in two stages – photo contest and open gallery with a workshop. 

The aim and the task of the contest was for the youth to discover and photograph abandoned public spaces and buildings that have made strong impression on them, and those that could be ennobled to create a better sustainable surrounding environment.

The second stage was an open gallery and a workshop that included all the photographs. The concept behind it was that more people from the wider or immediate community get familiar with how the young people see as opportunities in our town. The open gallery included a workshop that aimed to generate fresh creative ideas and opinions for the development of a sustainable new vision of the urban spaces in our town.


Open gallery and workshop program: 

Getting familiar with the work of +CityxChange project;

Discussion: „The role of the youth in the development, protection and the maintenance of the urban environment. “;

Grouping by teams and setting the task;

Distribution of materials (tracing paper, sticky notes, pencils, pens, markers)

Delivering the task;


Results from the event:

The set objectives have been met. A positive result has been achieved and many fresh ideas and opinions have been gathered. Apart from the target group set, other citizens took part in the event, as well. These have been people from the immediate and the wider community of the different identified spaces. The event received big interest and positive feedback. The students engaged well with the places since the identified ones were spaces of their everyday life. They have been giving quite relevant notes in terms of the lack of pavilions, lack of urban fountains for refill water, lack of lighting at many urban spaces, lack of bins and lack of maintenance in general. The idea of sustainable city was introduced under the form of „green city “concept. Most of the ideas and opinions gathered, suggest bringing more “green life” (trees, flowers, more green urban spaces, etc.) into the town. 

The discussion conducted managed to get them engaged and to hear how they feel about taking part in the development of the urban environment. Many students did not know that they could be able to contribute to this development through different tools (NGOs, youth organizations, etc.). 

The ideas and thoughts are currently being further developed so they are included in the BCV 2050. 


BCV integration:

The main issue the municipality has been facing in the past couple of years is the human migration to bigger cities. Most of the students leave our town once they graduate with the tendency of not coming back. The town is not as attractive to young people. One of the issues that lead to the lack of interest in the town is that it is clearly lacking open urban spaces for people to engage and communicate. One of the aspects that BCV would aim to touch upon is related to the development of such spaces that could make our town more attractive not only to the locals but to people from other parts of the country, as well. 

The ideas and opinions are being further developed into small design interventions that are to be suggested to the local authorities and potentially executed. The concept of regenerating urban spaces is to be integrated in the BCV as one of the key aspects the strategy would touch upon.


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