The Rescue of KOSMOS cinema

The rescue, the improvements and the commissioning of cinema Kosmos as a building for art and culture is a long-standing cause for Open Arts Foundation. Over the years, the Foundation has organized numerous events focusing on the cinema building. The beginning of our systematic efforts in that direction date from January, 2011.


Komsomol / Kosmos Cinema was voted for elimination in the winter of 2010 for providing a space for multi-storey garage and functional building – perhaps another Mall. This happens in the center of Plovdiv, close to the old, once bourgeois neighborhood with narrow streets and iconic architecture. The specific case with the cinema putted issues extremely important and extremely neglected in the public space.

The building of the cinema itself is a valuable example of modern architecture. Cinema Komsomol was designed in 1960 by architect Liubomir Shinkov and arch. Liubomir Bonev and was completed in 1964. Although too large in comparison to the surrounding secesión or simply plain small houses the building still impresses with its proportionate volumes and specific details.

A few are the architectural details sealed in the mind of every Plovdivian; the curving staircase in the lobby, the pleated “origami” facade on one side followed by a glass wall opening a view to that beautiful staircase from outside. The emblematic value of the cinema is undeniable for the generations who remember the crowds of visitors at the square in front of the building.

The largest and the most modern cinema in Plovdiv with 900 seats in amphitheater was devoid of function in the mid 90′s. Nearly 15 years the cinema has been idle until the end of 2010, when the city council pronounced it completely unnecessary for the Plovdivians and their generations. The City council voted a change of purpose and status of the current property. A great cinema building was pronounced best to turn into a garage. From a public building with cultural purpose it became a private municipal property and a garage on paper.

As a response, a group of active citizens and organizations including Open Arts Foundation and artnewscafe took the lead in saving the cinema. Thanks to the strong civic engagement, from Open Arts and citizens as Penka Popova, Georgi Serbezov Konstantin Bobotsov and Vesselina Sarieva there were organized discussions petition and exhibition to attract the public attention on the issue. They also formed an Initiative Committee and for the first time citizens used their right under the Low for “Direct participation of citizens in government and local government” and they participated in meetings of the City Council. More about the exhibition and discussion at artnewscafe - here! The media followed the case with many special materials some of  which: interview with Penka Popova and Georgi Serbezov, interview with Vesselina Sarieva, coverage of the exhibition.

As a result of the strong public pressure, the cinema was rescued in the summer of 2011 and its status was restored. The whole “Kosmos Case ” was tallied by Konstantin Bobotsov and Viktor Yankov as a good example of the influence of civil society in decision-making at the local level. The document was formally filed at the Centre of Expertise for Local Government Reform of the Council of Europe, see document here.


In November, 2011 Vesselina Sarieva, Victor Yankov and Konstantin Bobotzov presented "The Kosmos case - conservation and sustainable development of cultural heritage" in Goethe Institute Bulgaria in the framework of the the conference Cultural аnd Creative Industries Factor for Sustainable Regional Development. That same 2011 the cinema was included in the official program of the festival Night of Museums and Galleries – Plovdiv. Since then the festival makes the Kosmos building one of its hot points in the official program. Through different artistic projects Open Art Foundation, as a basic  organizer of the Night,  works to establish the cinema as a place for culture. We show the building to our partners, participant and the authorities as a valuable part of the architectural and cultural environment of the city, with great but untapped yet potential.

In 2012, the cinema is one of the accent locations subjects of the topic Soviet Architectural Heritage of the City, part of Open Arts’ project A City Arbor. In September was held an architectural competition Cinema Kosmos – a Place for Culture within the Architecture Forum 2012 (more here). The exhibition part of the competition was then part of the of Night’s program.


In 2013 was organized an initiative for cleaning the building and restoring its original architectural plans. A group of active citizens took part in the process, including young architects who formed soon afterwards the so called Kosmos Collective. The blog of the Night took then an extensive interview with some of the active people on the Kosmos Case – Konstantin Bobotsov, Maria Stoyanova, Hristo Ginev, Vladimir Gigov and Bistra Popova.


In 2013, the building was included not only in Night/Plovidv, but also in another project of Open Arts Foundation – Alternative map of Plovdiv. The cinema is part of the route for emblematic buildings part of the socialist legacy of the city. The building was included in a special tour promoting the map, during Night/Plovidv, 2013.

In the tenth edition of Night/Plovdiv, in 2014, the building was part of a special jubilee program – The Dark Side of Night, curated by Art – Works and Documents Foundation (interview with them about the concept here). The building then hosted projects by Rada Boukova, the Swedish artist Carl Palm and the American artist Craig Heavens. On the opening evening of the festival the American Embassy in Bulgaria organized a small reception in the cinema. During the two nights of festival thousands of people passed through the building.

Cinema Kosmos was again part of a major project in Night/Plovdiv, 2015 when a group of Californian contemporary artists – Mike Boucher, Jason Metcalfe, Sterling Ruby, Max Hooper Schneider and Jen West, curated by Aaron Moulton realized the exhibition AMERIKANAEZOTERIKA. They used the space for screening the video art works by the famous contemporary artist Jen West. That same year, the French artist Maxime Bondu began exploring the cinema and later he made his first steps in the realization of the artistic project The Color of the Kosmos. The project was inspired by the Kosmos building and will be fully realized in Night/Plovdiv, 2016.

Cinema Kosmos is also part of a project develop by Open arts Foundation for Plovidv ECoC 2019. The project is called 4GET and it is part of the official program and the bid book of MF "Plovdiv 2019". It unites 4 emblematic building in Plovidv, all part of the soviet architectural heritage - Kosmos cinema, Lotus Hall, Evmolpiya Department Store and Knoll оf Fraternity Memorial Complex. Each of them is given a specific cultural role in the framework of the project: Kosmos cinema - administrative center and a place for cinema and video art; Lotus Hall - place for debates, presentations and talks; Evmolpiya Department Store - exhibion hall, Knoll оf Fraternity Memorial Complex - a place for art in public space. The implementation of the project is planned for 2018 - 2019.

Ⓒ Никола Михов

Ⓒ archive, OAF

Ⓒ archive, OAF

Ⓒ archive, OAF

Ⓒ archive, OAF

Ⓒ Диан Йорданов

Ⓒ Диан Йорданов

Ⓒ Радина Ганчева

Ⓒ Philip Krus