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Workshop on Vernacular Balkan Architecture: Rhodope Mountains 2018

Location: Dolen , Bulgaria

July 14, 2018 to July 27, 2018

Session dates: 
14 July - 28 July 2018

Application Deadline: 
Friday, May 25, 2018

Deadline Type: 
Exact date

Flyer: PDF icon bhfs_2018.pdf

Discount for AIA members: 
5% discount off the regular admission fee (for applying directly through BHFS)

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



Balkan Heritage Field School, Meshtra Association for Traditional Knowledge and Crafts, and New Bulgarian University (Bulgaria)

Project Director:

Lenko Grigorov - PhD candidate in theory and history of architecture at University for Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy in Sofia. Member of Meshtra – Traditional knowledge and crafts Association. Visiting lecturer at National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts. Former expert in National Institute for Immovable Cultural Heritage/Ministry of Culture, Sofia (2011-16).

Project Description

The Workshop on Vernacular Balkan Architecture welcomes students and volunteers to take part in the documentation, conservation & experimental construction of traditional Balkan residential houses dating mainly to 17th - 19th c. in the historic village of Dolen, Rhodope Mountains. The learning experience on environmental friendly techniques and practices from the past will be supplemented by the unique historic and natural ambiance of the mountainous village and visits to many more historic towns & villages and archaeological & natural sites. 

Major field school topics & activities:   

  • Introduction to the history and typology of traditional Balkan house architecture & building techniques   
  • Training in surveying and recording of traditional houses   
  • Participation in an experimental construction project exploiting traditional masonry techniques and natural materials (earth, stone, wood)   
  • Study trips to historic towns & villages and archaeological & natural sites in the Rhodopes and the Pirin Mountains (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and an optional tour to Greece

The Historical Context

Southeastern Europe, also known as the Balkans, has been a crossroads of human migration and a pivot point of civilizations since the dawn of time. Here, central and eastern Europe have met the Mediterranean and western Asia for many millennia, sometimes resulting in conflict, but above all bringing together a unique blending of cultures, religions, languages, folklore, traditions and crafts. Traditional architecture in Bulgaria is part of the common Balkan heritage. More preserved in the mountain areas, it’s characterized by its harmonic connection with nature, fascinating interior features and picturesque settlement configurations. Bulgarian traditional architecture stems from ancient Thracian and Roman tradition, and has evolved through the centuries within the Byzantine, medieval Bulgarian and later the Ottoman world, coming in contact with many influences in these vast and diverse empires. From the Middle Ages onward, itinerant Bulgarian builders and craftsmen have crisscrossed the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean, spreading their work throughout three continents, but also gathering and exchanging knowledge and techniques as far as Italy to the west, Armenia to the east, Vienna to the north and Egypt to the south. Closely and sustainably interacting with nature, combining functional simplicity, comfort of use and delicate and harmonious aesthetics perfected through the ages, Bulgarian traditional architecture is not only interesting to discover and study, but also very compatible with modern building practices tending toward a sustainable, ecological way of life.

Today, the Rhodope Mountains mark the border between Bulgaria and Greece, but have also acted as an interface as well as a boundary throughout the ages. Here, in Orpheus’ homeland, all the influences that have swept the Balkans over the centuries have accumulated and interwoven rather than wiping away one another, giving birth to a unique amalgamation of architectural traditions and techniques, but also of cultures and beliefs. Here, coexisting with their modern lifestyle, the sturdy mountain people still preserve knowledge and ways of life that have long been forgotten elsewhere. The village of Dolen, an architectural reserve with remarkable authenticity, is a particularly interesting illustration of the rich, multi-layered history of the Rhodopes and the Balkans in general. Within the tiny boundaries of this village, one can discover key elements and processes that have shaped the Bulgarian and Balkan traditional architecture, approach traditions and folklore still carrying the echo of ancient times and feel the magic of the Rhodope Mountains.

Period(s) of Occupation: Late Medieval/Early Modern (17th-19th century)

The field school is targeted for students and young specialists in architecture, engineering and historic preservation as well as artists, but we also welcome anyone interested in traditional masonry, travel and environmental friendly practices of living from the past.

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 2 weeks

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

Accommodation: Participants will stay in comfortable single rooms (shared bathrooms, free wifi) at “The Gates” - a recently opened guesthouse providing a successful fusion between traditional architecture and modern comfort. Cheap Laundry service is available once a week. The working sites are situated within 5-10 min walking distance from the guesthouse.

Meals: Three meals per day are covered by the admission fee. Meals usually take place in the guest house, except the brown-bag lunches (when on site and during the excursions). Requests for vegetarian food are accepted. Participants will have to pay extra for additional days in the hotel, and for any meals and beverages, services or products outside the project package. The cost of BB accommodation for any extra days is 20 EUR per person.   

Admission fee is 999 EUR /approx.1221 USD

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
New Bulgarian University
Number of credits offered New Bulgarian University grants 6 ECTS credits to students for attending this field school. Transcripts of Records (ToR) are available upon request for an additional tuition fee starting from 282 EUR for six ECTS credits.
Starting from 282 EUR for 6 ECTS credits.


Contact Information
Balkan Heritage Field School
Tulovo 7, Floor 5. Apt.7
+ 359 877 725 052; + 359 898 681 366
Recommended Bibliography: 


Stamov, S. Architecture of the Old Bulgarian Villages, 2006

Stamov, S. Legends of Wood and Stone, 2009

Torraca, G. Lectures on Materials Science for Architectural Conservation, 2009



Gunay, R. Tradition of the Turkish House and Safranbolu Houses, 1998   



Georgiev, G. Earthen architecture in Bulgaria

Bulgarian Architectural Reserves

The Cultural Corridors of Eastern Europe – information on vernacular architecture


Balkan Vernacular Architecture  

ICOMOS Principles for the recording of monuments, groups of buildings and sites (1996)