Kapana Quarter – (in)visible and mysterious

This year Kapana Quarter is the focus-location of quite a few festivals in Plovdiv. 
Here, on "Marukyan Square" (from which the main streets branched off into other smaller intertwined streets),
is the intersection of several projects from The 10th Anniversary Program of the Night of Museums and Galleries

Kapana Quarter (“kapana” meaning “the trap”) emerged as a strategic location at the heart of Plovdiv as early as the Middle Ages. In the past one could see the imposing building of the Kurshum Inn (“kurshum” from Turkish meaning bullet or lead) located at the place where the Central Market Halls are now seen. It was 

one of the busiest commercial inns within the Bulgarian part of the Ottoman Empire

and there was a constant stream of merchants, craftsmen and artisans around the inn, which led to the formation of small intertwined streets around it (like a labyrinth or a trap, hence the name kapana). The streets were named after the kind of craftsmen who lived on Kapanathem – “Abadzhiyska” (Tailors Street), “Kozhuharska” (Tanners Street), “Zlatarska” (Jewelers Street), “Zhelezarska” (Ironmongers Street) and so on. Unfortunately, Kurshum Inn suffered serious damages in the 1928 earthquake and was later demolished in 1933, however Kapana Quarter remained and, thanks to its colorful shops and workshops, it managed to preserve the image of a commercial center for small and medium businesses.
In the following years, the winding streets of Kapana gradually started to impact the planning of the surrounding neighborhood. At some point, 

its survival turned into an urban odyssey

where a series of misadventures followed. By the end of the 60s of last century, it became clear that Kapana hindered the modernization ideas for Plovdiv’s city center planning and should be demolished to make room for a large shopping mall. The mall project started off at full speed, buildings were expropriated and etc. Luckily, at the same time UNESCO actively started to develop its architectural heritage policy. In 1975 the Amsterdam Declaration for cultural heritage was adopted and a civil movement was established three years later in 1978, which consisted of 

architects, prominent writers, poets and artists, who pled to save Kapana.

Actions against drastic urban interventions in the quarter were diverse, including manifestos, demonstrations, workshops for young architects and a documentary on preserving the area, filmed by the local Plovdiv Cinema Club.
All those initiatives led to the creation of the Kapana Collective by the “Proektanska Organization” (Designers Organization), which entirely focused on the improvement and development of the area. Interestingly, at this time Kapana also experienced a kind of renaissance. Skyline plans for all streets were prepared, photogrammetric recordings were made. Every detail of Kapana was diligently documented. One of the most original development ideas was that every street (and buildings on it) would be painted in a color scheme, which corresponded to its name, i.e.  buildings on Zlatarska Street were to be golden, buildings on Zhelezarska were to be painted in cold colors, etc.
1989 was crucial for Kapana, when suddenly all activities towards the preservation ceased. Fluctuating between the agendas of its owners and the new tenants, Kapana fell into an invisible lethargy. It was not until 1994-1995 when a small team of architects working on a French program teamed up with the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture in yet another attempt to create a sustainable development strategy for the locale. The plan naturally would address all key issues, such as construction, business activities, pedestrian zones, accommodation, etc. This plan, however, never saw the light of day. Instead, 

modern buildings were erected, and which did not fit in the architectural identity of the area.

Due to its close proximity to Plovdiv’s main street, people started to use Kapana’s streets for free parking. The daily accumulation of cars on the sidewalks became a huge problem for those living in the quarter, making it difficult to predict the safety of its pedestrians.

Тhe concept and development of the independent “Project 0″ was one of the first initiatives that again drew the public’s attention to Kapana Quarter. Shortly after, ideas for a new vision and overall atmosphere of the neighbourhood began to spread throughout the whole area

Тhe concept and development of the independent “Project 0″ was one of the first initiatives that again drew the public’s attention to Kapana Quarter. Shortly after, ideas for a new vision and overall atmosphere of the neighbourhood began to spread throughout the whole area

The good news is that Kapana once again enters another revival. The plan is to turn the area into the first Bulgarian quarter for creative industries. The first steps in this direction are already taken. After a contest of the Municipality of Plovdiv, small workshops, studios, offices, galleries and workshops, teeming with cultural and artistic activities, begin to reappear in the in the narrow Kapana streets. It is yet to be seen whether this surge and cluster of creativity will be able to give Kapana 

a positive transformation, without damaging its authentic look.

Until then, we invite all guests of the city for the “Night of Museums and Galleries” to deliberately get lost in Kapana slow pulsing arteries and discover the stories that lurk behind its every corner.


Казвам се Даниела и съм един от редакторите в блога на НОЩ/Пловдив. Завърших журналистика в СУ „Св. Климент Охридски“ през 2008-ма. Интересите ми са шарени като калейдоскоп и почти толкова преливащи един в друг. Безусловната обич към книгите ми даде добър начален старт за откриването на енциклопедичния дух на изкуствата. Киното и фотографията се погрижиха погледът ми да еволюира в правилната посока - към детайлите. Съприкосновението с музиката, без която нямаше да стана себе си, се превърна в кислорода за всяко вдъхновение. Харесва ми да наблюдавам спонтанните движения на хората и градовете. В свободното си време снимам балкони и разказвам възможните им истории или мелодии в блог, който създадохме с близка моя приятелка. Ако се случи да ме забележите около вас - ще се радвам да ми кажете „Здрасти“.

© 2019 Open Arts Foundation, НОЩ/Пловдив - www.night.bg