The future of the tobacco houses with "Plovdiv 2019"

"The Tobacco City" is a project about the preservation of a vanishing city through multi-genre artistic actions, installations, exhibitions and research.
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The future of the tobacco houses with "Plovdiv 2019"

The Tobacco Warehouses - Spirit and architecture

The Tobacco warehouses in Plovdiv preserve a special history and potential. Although most of the warehouses are now abandoned, the buildings are not forgotten and the area still fascinates with its unique architecture. The opportunities which may arise from the partial preservation, restoration and transformation of the area into cultural places are important to us and are implemented in the Bid Book of our city under the project "The Tobacco City".

The Programme

The project "The Tobacco City" is part of the Cluster "Urban Dreams" in the project platform Transform of the programme of "Plovdiv 2019", the rest three being Fuse, Revive and Relax. Transform means the re-thinking and re-cycling of forgotten and unused urban spaces, as well as new ways of perceiving them. It is also about new approaches towards education and working with youngsters, transforming citizens' perspectives and opportunities. The Project clusters are:

  • Urban Dreams
  • River of Imagination
  • EdYOUcate

The project was activated within the candidacy of the city /2013 - 2015/ and in the preparation years of European Capital of Culture /2015 - 2018/ and in the title year /2019/ fully developed. Check the details here

Urban Dreams

Artistic intervention in public space.

Through artistic intervention, the project cluster Urban Dreams aims to revitalise and open up dysfunctional spaces, buildings and objects as parts of a “parallel abandoned city”. These will be interventions on a local level but there is an undercurrent connected to the narrative of the transformation of public space in European cities. We will work with local and international partners and artists in order to exchange know-how and best practice as well as to open up a discussion on the European level about problematic architectural heritage in the contemporary context. Abandoned buildings from the recent past, some of them prominent architectural achievements (e.g. tobacco warehouses, Bratska Mogila monument, Kosmos Cinema, Kapana – The Trap neighbourhood) will become spaces for cultural activity and social interaction. We will build on the experience of the recent citizen’s campaign to save and re-cycle the Kosmos Cinema building – an example of how civic action can turn into a successful model for preserving cultural heritage. Our goal is to re-think and re-cycle new spaces for art and culture.

The project "The Tobacco City"

In the very heart of Plovdiv, there is an area that fascinates with its faded beauty and smell of tobacco: the so-called Tobacco City. The unique tobacco warehouses from the 1920s, with few exceptions, are now abandoned, and many of them are in extremely bad condition. Some have been demolished and others restored to become luxury offices and residential buildings. Despite being acknowledged cultural-heritage monuments, they are privately owned, which is a major reason for their uncertain future. This is a common problem in most post-communist countries. The project will be looking for artistic mechanisms not only to focus attention on this specific problem but also to point out the clash between the architectural heritage and the economic interests of the city – a relevant topic in many European cities.

"The Tobacco City" is a project about the preservation of a vanishing city through multi-genre artistic actions, installations, exhibitions, and research. 

In the bid-book of Plovdiv 2019 in 2014/2015 it was foreseen to comprise the following steps:

Stand up for the Tobacco City!

The first step towards re-thinking and preserving the warehouses will be to raise awareness amongst citizens. We have organized presentations, lectures, and discussions about the history and architecture of the area. The first event took place in 2014 when the prominent Bulgarian writer and filmmaker Penka Kalinkova presented her documentary "The Vanishing City". Тhere was also a large-format archive exhibition of images in one of the renovated warehouses "Galero" to show how they looked like in the past. We also organized discussions about the future of the buildings. See all the events HERE. As a second step, the bid book of Plovdiv had in mind to force the launching of a crowdfunding campaign collecting funds for buying at least one of the buildings and transforming it into a centre for culture and arts. Alas, the crowdfunding in Bulgaria is still failing to generate such funds, but the Plovdiv 2019 Foundation made an alternative step forward - from 2018 until March 2020, the team of the European Capital of Culture Plovdiv 2019 moved its activities and set up one of the former warehouses in a zone for culture and art #SKLAD.

Vanishing memories

We are aware that by 2019 some of the buildings might have undergone an “un-cultural” gentrification process. That's why we gave a platform for research projects along with historians, architects, urban planners, and artists to create open-air exhibitions in different parts of the city to “bring the Tobacco City to the people”. Information and research materials are provided online in this interactive webpage where citizens can make a virtual walk, share personal stories, photos and ideas for the future of buildings. See shared ideas HERE and our events HERE.

Window to the World

This project stems from the idea that windows are the eyes of the city. Each window in the Tobacco City to become a small stage or a canvas – for example, a musician to play on the first window, the second to be occupied by a light and sound installation, in the third there to be a theatre scene etc. The project involves spontaneous artistic actions - an invitation for a meeting with owners, politicians, investors, and citizens; building a model for restoration with architects, designers and citizens. These ideas took place and still are in the everyday life of the project theatre performances, concerts, flashmob events, festivals, and seminars are happening here. See our events.

Urban incubator in the tobacco warehouses

A temporary home for art projects (artists will apply with proposals to realize their short-term projects of three to six months - this was in the bid book). #SKLAD is making this real - transforming the interior, creating temporary installations, sculptures, and gardens, preserving the authentic part of the tobacco-production spaces, and converting the warehouses into interactive museums.

Here is the timeline of the up-to-date activities within the project that took place from 2015 till 2020


  • It is citizen participation and initiatives that are a key factor for the development of the project. The Plovdiv 2019 Foundation organizes a public discussion titled "Tobacco City – Possibilities and Expectations". The opinions expressed centre on the transformation, through art mechanisms, of the warehouses' interiors and exteriors.
  • Plovdiv 2019 develops a visual identity and a website, Tobacco City (, where visitors can take a virtual walk around the area, share stories, experiences, and ideas for how the buildings should look.
  • Plovdiv 2019 and its partners organize Shared Space, a one-day event in which a street in Tobacco City is transformed into a common space featuring art installations, a brass orchestra concert, a farmer's market, a gourmet corner, artisans' stalls, and a children's corner.


  • A content-rich bilingual website, (, is publicly presented offering comprehensive information about the activities within the Tobacco City project, the area's history, the best examples from around the world, and a multitude of general ideas about the area's future. The Tobacco City website starts alongside the thematic issue of Nula 32 ("Zero 32"), a medium dedicated to the tobacco warehouses and their history. Information about the project and its visual identity are presented in an exhibition on Plovdiv's Central Square.
  • The Plovdiv 2019 Foundation and the Open Arts Foundation jointly turn a tobacco warehouse into the hosting venue for an educational series of lectures, "Introduction to Contemporary Art", which presents an overview of the tendencies in contemporary art. A workshop follows the discussions.
  • 30 April: An Easter farmer's market and an outdoor Family Day take place in conjunction with the organizers of the first-ever farmer's market in Plovdiv. We turn one of the streets in Tobacco City into a festive social space.
  • October: An international forum-discussion titled "Nontangible Cultural Heritage – Preservation, Control, and Sanctions" takes place in the wake of the devastating fire that swept the area on 27 October 2016.
  • November: The first-ever event dedicated to the Volunteers Plovdiv 2019 programme takes place in Tobacco City.


  • The activities for the revival of Stolipinovo and the knowledge about its past and present continue with discussions, seminars, educational meetings, exhibitions and innovative urban initiatives.
  • A detailed study of the history of the area is the subject of "Stories from the Tobacco City", a book by the theatre researcher and journalist Penka Kalinkova.
  • April: The farmer's market continues partially its operations. On 14 April, a special Easter bazaar of the farmers community is held.
    "Tobacco City" is actively presented also in a project by our partners from the Open Arts Foundation. "Alternative Map of Plovdiv", officially presented in April, seeks to attract attention to Tobacco City’s buildings and architectural monuments and their significance, as well as to our responsibility for preserving this heritage.
  • June: The first edition takes place of the "Industrial Archaeology – The Living City in the Context of Contemporary Concepts of Cultural Heritage". The project is a key part of the Plovdiv 2019 programme with a focus on Tobacco City.
  • Tobacco City becomes a professional scene for hip-hop workshops as part of the "Plovdiv Urban Days Festival – Street Masters", which has been on the programme of Plovdiv 2019 since 2017.
  • November: The City Games take place on 11 and 12 November. "Inception, the Weekend of City Games", attracts 230 participants on the streets between the tobacco warehouses in Plovdiv. A total of three games organised by the Plovdiv 2019 Foundation in partnership with game designers from Milan, Ludz, Vienna and Cologne prompt a rethink of "Tobacco City" as a key project of the programme of the European Capital of Culture.
  • December: A three-language publication marks the tenth anniversary of Bulgaria's and Romania's joining the European Union.


  • Тhe new headquarters of Plovdiv 2019 moved to the Tobacco City sending a strong message and as part of the idea of active interference. SKLAD, the renovated six-floor former tobacco warehouse. SKLAD is the home of creative and educational institutions in Plovdiv and the partners of the European Capital of Culture. As part of the programme of Plovdiv 2019, a public discussions hall, exhibition spaces, repetition and stage halls and co-working spaces started being active. From the summer of 2018, we already hosted international exhibitions, dance festivals, cinema screenings and professionals forums...
  • Thanks to the Plovdiv – European Capital of Culture 2019, "Tobacco City" is becoming part of the European Route of Industrial Heritage (, the largest information platform dedicated to the subject. With support from the EU, the European Commission and "Creative Europe", the website gives information about the locations across Europe which, despite having changed their functions, are now attractive tourist destinations. Tobacco City is represented by footage from the 2017 City Games, which presents it as the right site for exercising creativity and having fun.
  • OPEN CALL FOR URBAN GAME DESIGNERS - Tobacco City. Time Machine! - three-days urban game festival promoted by Plovdiv 2019 - European Capital of Culture. Check the full details - here.
  • Tobacco City. Time Machine! - urban games festival - 16 - 18 November 2018 - See more details HERE


  • Dozens of events - highlights, workshops, discussions, associated and leading projects took place in SKLAD and thus placed the Tobacco City as one of the main cultural destinations for the city in the title year. Check the events here.
  • Urban Games Festival FUSION - a coproduction of Plovdiv 2019 and Marea 2019. Curators: Departament Gier - Poland. The festival takes place from 31 October till 2 November in Matera and from 8 November till 10 November in Plovdiv. Details HERE

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