By Joanna Lewandowska
Considered the oldest living city in Europe, and the sixth oldest city in the world, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, is a city steeped in rich history and culture dating back to 5000 BC and contains remnants of ancient Greek, Roman, Turkish, and Byzantine civilizations. Since the end of the 18th century, the city’s landscape has revolved around a central community hub.
Named in honour of one of Bulgaria’s most celebrated rulers, Tsar Simeon Garden was originally designed and implemented in 1892 by Swiss landscape gardener Lucien Chevallaz for the inaugural Bulgarian Agricultural Exhibition.
Chevallaz had become Plovdiv’s official gardener in 1879, and was sometimes referred to as the ‘minister of flowers.’ After the exhibition, Tsar Simeon Garden was transitioned into Bulgaria’s first city garden and primary greenspace.
Almost ancient history
The garden was intended to embody the artistic spirit of the host city, with shade trees, flowers, and winding walkways interspaced between the structures of the bygone fair. As the gardens evolved over the years, a selection of sculptures and fountains where added as a tribute to Plovdiv’s colourful history. Chief among these was an expansive Singing Fountain (musical fountain), a large water feature at the park’s west end, constructed within a shallow, man-made lake which was also used for canoeing and recreation.
Secondary to the Singing Fountain, the Angler and Bear Fountains, in addition to numerous monuments of Bulgarian cultural leaders, modern sculptural compositions, and plastic arts were added during later developments.
Unfortunately, like many historic sites and monuments, Tsar Simeon Garden was a victim of time and neglect. The ancient trees were overcome with disease, the gardens were choked with ivy and the formally wondrous Singing Fountain was rendered silent due to disrepair. Even the Fountain of Demeter, a tribute to the Greek goddess of the harvest, and the last remaining relic from the exhibition, held more than 120 years ago, sat empty and damaged by corrosion.
Singing a different tune
Fortunately, the city of Plovdiv came to the rescue of the venerable park, greenlighting a comprehensive renovation plan intended to help Tsar Simeon Garden recapture its former glory—starting with the complete revitalization of the beloved Singing Fountain centrepiece.
At the outset of the renovation, the fountain was only an empty concrete basin, fully drained and considered by many to be an eyesore in the park territory. While changing this status and preserving the fountain was a top priority, it was also equally imperative the project team update the fountain with a more present-day look and feel. This ambitious transformation would help maximize the water feature’s visual appeal to nearby pedestrians, helping draw foot traffic into the surrounding
In preparation for the revamped fountain design, the entire lake basin was completely refurbished, with care being taken to preserve its historical outline detailed in archived site plans. The new basin features a graduated slope design, allowing the edges to remain shallow for minimal interactive play while maintaining enough depth in the centre for the fountain infrastructure.