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A creative view of the urban-rural gradient in the Rhodope Collar

18.09.2023, chief asst. dr. urb. prof. dr. Angel Burov

The international collaborative workshop of the NeRu project made a creative reading, through mapping and storytelling, of the main features and perspectives of rural areas in the municipalities of Bratsigovo and Kuklen. The workshop was organized by a team from UASG - Department of Urban Planning (incl. Asst. Dr. Urb. Angel Burov, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Arch. Milena Tasheva-Petrova, asst. urb. Magdalena Kircheva and as. Urb. Mila Yolova) and the Centre for International Activity and Mobility (Lyudmila Gribneva), as well as a team of PhD students from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, led by arch.Inna Valkanova.

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A total of 30 undergraduate and postgraduate students (architects and urban planners), 10 lecturers (from 6 European universities from Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland) and 2 experts from practice (Idea Consult and Fundacion RIA) took part in the educational creative experiment and synergy, financially supported by the Erasmus+ programme and the Swiss agency MOVETIA. The diverse group exchanged retrospectives and perspectives on the nature of rurality in Europe and what will, could or should be the innovations in rural areas in the near future to address today's most pressing social and environmental issues.

The two weeks of the workshop were packed with a wide range of activities, resulting in a wealth of insights and lessons learned, skills acquired and attitudes competent. As a result, a feeling for the particularities of rural areas in Bulgaria and Europe gave birth to art.
Preliminary online lectures and seminars were held in the week prior to the workshop, contextualizing historical, cultural, geospatial, landscape, urban and architectural issues of a general and comparative nature in Europe with a multi-level focus on Bulgaria and in particular the South Central Region, the regions of Plovdiv and Pazardzhik, the municipalities in the Rhodope Collar, including Bratsigovo and Kuklen.

Field tours and visits to small towns, rural areas, characteristic landscapes and landmarks, specific situations (managed and abandoned lands, public spaces, educational, pro-manufacturing and creative spaces) in the municipalities of Bratsigovo (town of Kuklen) and Kuklen (town of Kuklen) were carried out. Braccigovo and its surroundings, the villages of Byaga, Isperikhovo, Kozarsko, Zhrebichko and Rozovo) and Kuklen (the town of Braccigovo and its surroundings, the villages of Bega, Isperikhovo, Kozarsko, Zhrebichko and Rozovo). Kuklen and its surroundings, including the industrial zone of Kuklen and the village of Yavrovo).
The interactive meetings with local stakeholders took place during the second edition of the Culinary Festival in the town. Bratsigovo and a culinary workshop in the village of. Yavrovo, as well as during two parallel seminars on 12 September with presentations by experts from Heritage Bratsigovo, the Institute of Soil Science, Agro-technology and Plant Protection "Nikola Pushkarov", lecturers and PhD students from the University of Applied Sciences (Principal Assistant Professor Dr. Urb. Angel Burov and Arch. Desislava Dimitrova-Marinova) and some of the academic partners in the project (Associate Professor Dr. Arch. Sidalia Ferreira Silva). The meetings included preliminary discussion of the challenges and potential with the mayors of Bratsigovo and Kuklen, cultural (Chitalishte "Vasil Petleshkov" Bratsigovo and Chitalishte "Probuda - 1923" Yavrovo) and civic ("Heritage Bratsigovo") organizations, representatives of enterprises ("Odelo" and "BG House") and other initiative groups (around the Town History Museum Bratsigovo), various professionals (employees in the municipality of Kuklen), etc..
The practice experts: ic. Stefan Kampelmann from Sonianwood (Brussels, Belgium), Arch. urb. Jan Zaman of Idea Consult (Brussels, Belgium) and Arch. urb. Lucia Escrigas from Fundación RIA (Galicia, Spain), gave presentations on mapping diverse European rural areas in applied research and outlined a broader set of challenges and approaches.

The experimental application of different methods to delineate and represent features and explore potential novelties in rural areas involved multimedia documentation, analytical, synthetic and artistic mapping and expression of the images, sensations, perspectives and narratives collected and interpreted by the students about the past, present and future of selected transects along the urban-rural gradient in the Rhodope Collar.
The mayor of Bratsigovo municipality - Mrs. Nadezhda Kazakova, the municipal councillor arch. Mladen Kitov and local historian Dimitar Dunekov had the opportunity to attend the presentation of the results in a mini-exhibition on September 16th, within the working environment of the teams in the Community Centre "Vasil Petleshkov" in the town of Braccikovo. The event took place in the school's premises in the village of Bratsigovo. This was a good chance for the students to communicate their reading and attitudes towards the selected themes and specific sections of the most curious places collected, as well as to get feedback from local stakeholders and international experts in practice on the guidelines and ideas drawn.

The workshop culminated in the unifying creative act of elevating a collaborative multi-layered artistic image created by students and faculty under the arrangement of Sophia Garner and Zeppe de Blust from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and with the technical assistance of the staff of the Vasil Petleshkov Community Centre.

Source: NERU