The National Palace of Culture (NDK), which will host most of the events during the Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the European Union, is the biggest congress centre in South East Europe. It is built on an area of 18,300 square meters and has 13 halls, the biggest of which seats 3,380 people.
The construction is initiated by the leadership of the Bulgarian Communist Party in the capital, Sofia. Work on the building starts in 1979. The government sets up short deadlines – the project had to be completed by 1981, the year of the 1300th anniversary of the Bulgarian state.
Nearly 10,000 tons of steel was used in the construction – approximately the same amount as in the Eiffel Tower as well as 335,000 cubic meters of concrete. The project was designed by a team of architects led by Alexander Barov. The design of the landscaping around the palace was by another team of architects and landscape engineers led by Atanas Agura and Valentina Atanasova.
The symbol of the National Palace of Culture located above the main entrance is the work of Georgi Chapkanov. It is a bronze stylized sun with semi-spherical form out of which ears of corn radiate. The central lobby contains the gilded sculpture 'Revival' by the sculptor Dimitar Boikov, which symbolises a welcoming, revived Sofia. Some of the main halls host works by famous Bulgarian artists.
The monument in memory of the soldiers from the First and Sixth infantry regiments, killed in the Balkan wars, stand in the park in front of the palace. Memorial to the victims of communism and a piece of the Berlin wall are also located there. South of the palace, a mosaic made of 38,000 tulips, depicting the logo of the Bulgarian presidency, will blossom next spring. It was proposed by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Bulgaria.
The typical architecture and monumental art during the communist era combines with modern art centres: theatre Azaryan, New Theatre, art bar Peroto. Apart from a congress centre and host to important political gatherings, The National Palace of Culture is also one of the hot spots of cultural life in Sofia. Many world-famous musicians, such as Andrea Bocelli, Jose Careras, Bob Dylan, Sting, Buena Vista Social Club, Nigel Kennedy and many other, have performed there. The palace also hosts the annual film festival, Sofia film fest, Kinomania, Book fair and Sofia International Literary Festival.
The National Palace of Culture is one of the symbols of Sofia and an inspiration for artists of different fields and genres.