Text: Magdalena Gigova
Foto: Tsvetan Ignatovski
Anyone who has passed through Prof. Vasil Gerov Square, in the lower part of Lozenets, has inevitably fixed their eyes on the gorgeous house, the headquarters of NEF ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’. Not because it is pompous, but for the Revivalist atmosphere that flows from it.
In the latest ‘Untold Stories’ edition on the Fund’s website, Prof. Valentin Obretenov, a student of the last class of ‘The Water King’, as Gerov, founder of the Department of Hydraulic Engineering at the Technical University was known, revealed details of the amazing life of his teacher.
Today we take you on a tour around Prof. Vasil Gerov’s home, permeated as it is by the spirit of his encyclopaedic mind and unquenchable thirst for knowledge and culture. With its mission to support Bulgarianness and art, NEF ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ is a natural successor to his work. It was with good reason that the scientist’s last will was for the house to become the property of the charitable organisation.
In the three-storey house, details typical of Bulgarian National Revival construction and elements of Western architecture coexist in harmony, without being eclectic. The first floor is faced with stone in typical Bulgarian style, while the French windows add a touch of chic.
In the small but creatively designed yard, guests are greeted by the branching vine planted by the professor. Boxwood shrubs wink playfully in the alleys. Through the French windows, you enter directly into the Prof. Vasil Gerov Exhibition Hall, where the Blüthner grand piano that the polyglot engineer played at impromptu concerts with his university colleagues is still in place. In parallel with his studies of water turbines, the scientist, also a gifted music lover, when living in Nancy, enrolled in courses for the flute, an instrument he perfected at the Conservatoire after returning to Sofia.
The Blüthner company, founded in Leipzig in 1853, is one of the most famous German makers of grand pianos, which are renowned for their unique sound. Until the mid-20th century, their keys were invariably made of ivory.
The fact that Gerov had a command of six languages—French, German, English, Romanian, Turkish and Russian—enabled the teacher to advance in science, perusing foreign sources. At the same time, he translated into Bulgarian and coined fundamental terms in hydraulic engineering.
In the Prof. Vasil Gerov Hall, NEF ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ holds exhibitions of artworks or valuable documentary photographs, and organises other cultural events and concerts.
While working on construction sites in Turkey, seeking subsistence during the global economic crisis, Prof. Gerov mastered the subtleties of building and designed not only his own house, but also the only hydraulics laboratory in Europe at the time, known as ‘The Water Kingdom’.
In Turkey, the engineer also specialised in the masonry of ceramic heaters. According to the recollections of his friend Prof. Sazdov, he himself designed the stove that warmed his home from the second floor.
Ceramic stoves were common in homes before the Second World War. They were robustly constructed with solid firebricks. Traditionally, they were clad in impressively shaped, baked ceramic tiles with a glazed decorative surface. Often the curvatures were specially profiled, so that each stove was unique. Some also featured adjoining seating.
In Prof. Vasil Gerov’s house, the original chandeliers, personally selected by the owner, have been retained to this day. Their designs were among the most popular and modern in the mid-20th century, and attract a great deal of interest on the part of visitors. They were known as ‘polyhedrons’ (from the Greek word ‘polyhedron’, a term meaning that the three-dimensional shape can have multiple facets). This new type of luminaire was produced in the 1950s and 1960s by Venini, a famous designer and owner of a Murano glass company, and became his trademark.
Paintings donated to NEF ’13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ by various eminent artists complement the atmosphere of the exclusive home. You can also read about the artist who created one of those paintings, a Bulgarian of world recognition and incredible destiny, in ‘Untold Stories’: