CULTURE Mutual Aid

The Buzludzha VR experience

The first time I saw the Buzludzha monument, I thought to myself: “I’ve seen this before…” You may ask yourself: how did a French Communications student learn about this ancient monument in the middle of Bulgaria? It wasn’t through reproduction or a field trip or anything of this kind but through a school project. In a course focusing on how digital tools can be used to promote and develop cultural sites, the Buzludzha, and more especially “Buzludzha VR” was used as an example, and it stayed with me.

Situated on top of a mountain over 1400 meters above sea level, the Buzludzha monument is like something out of a science fiction movie. This UFO-shaped structure was built in the 1970s to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of Bulgaria’s Social Democratic party. After 7 difficult years of construction, the monument was officially opened to the public in August 1981. For the next 8 years, it was used as the headquarters of the communist party.

However, in November 1989 Bulgaria ceased to be a Communist State and the building was promptly closed down. After years of disuse and with no further maintenance, the abandoned structure began to quickly deteriorate and suffer from acts of vandalism. Thanks to the building’s unusual design and unique location, it did not take long for Buzludzha to become one of Europe’s most iconic abandoned sites. It continuously attracts urban explorers from all around the world.

The preservation of the monument would mark the revitalization of an iconic landmark immersed in a singular environment, and offering great cultural, tourism, and socio-economic opportunities for the future. In addition, the project could pave the way for a re-evaluation of other heritage sites in terms of education, conservation and reuse. It is now an immersive Virtual Reality experience that allows the viewer to explore a redesigned and conceptual version of the Buzludzha monument that shows what it might look like if restored.

Buzludzha VR is an unguided, virtual reality experience based on the environment of the abandoned Buzludzha monument. The players can learn interesting facts about the past of the UFO-shaped structure as they reveal and discover artifacts hidden throughout this digital version of the monument. Developed by a team of two, Buzludzha VR aims to provide a unique location-based experience that both educates and entertains.

They can immerse themselves with playful interactions such as playing the grand piano, climbing the 70m high tower, flying a helicopter around the structure or shooting with a wire gun. This way, they can sense the scale of the structure and feel the atmosphere of the surrounding landscape.

Lucile Casamajor

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