Location: Dolen , Bulgaria
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:
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)
Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 2 weeks
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.
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)