New Greenways for Old Railways

New Greenways for Old Railways is a long-term initiative to create a shared concept for the resilient integration of the railway areas of Stochna and Poduyane cargo stations in the urban tissue of Sofia. As an independent multidisciplinary organisation, GRADOSCOPE seeks to facilitate the dialogue between the different parties and to bring together citizens, experts, businesses and institutions in a productive discussion about a widely accepted vision for the sustainable development of the sites. 

As partners of the European Commission’s New European Bauhaus initiative for Bulgaria, we believe that the sustainable redevelopment and integration of urban spaces is based on the active participation of all citizens and organisations in the co-creation of a more sustainable and beautiful future. That is why we are working on the project in active dialogue with the National Railway Infrastructure Company (NKŽI) and BDZ, Sofia Municipality and dozens of experts, citizens and civil society organisations.  



The project started at the beginning of 2022 with initial urban analysis of the sites and their potential for urban integration by the architects Pavel Yanchev and Teodora Stefanova from GRADOSCOPE. They are looking at the wider spatial context, which includes the areas from Stochna Station to Poduyane- Razpredelitelna Station, and seek comprehensive, integrated solutions for the future of the territories. The report of the study can be downloaded HERE.


The initiative continued with an academic collaboration between ETH Zurich, Universita degli studi di Napoli, Politecnico di Milano and the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy (UACEG). Within the framework of the international workshop, architecture and urbanism students from the four universities examine projects related to adaptive infrastructure in parallel, with each university focusing on its local context. For the first time, students from five departments of UACEG in Sofia conducted a joint design studio on the occasion of the university’s 80th anniversary to develop innovative concepts for the reintegration of the land around the railway infrastructure from Stochna Gara to Poduyane-Razpredelitelna Station.

The students propose different future scenarios, including reusing existing buildings for manufacturing, covered markets, shared offices and cultural activation. These public functions are complemented by a new development meeting the social needs of the residents of the adjacent neighborhoods by constructing affordable housing with additional services. Yet another direction was to incorporate the sites into the urban fabric through the development of intermodal transportation hubs with a mixed-use character. Projects sought solutions to connect the north and south communities through the construction of pedestrian and bicycle bridges and series of active public spaces.


The ”Station Sofia” event, which was held in the Stochna Gara building on 2 “Vladayska reka” St. on the 20th of June 2022, provoked institutions and visitors to look at the terrains from Stochna Gara to Gara Poduyane- Razpredelitelna, as areas full of potential. 

Through an interactive exhibition concepts for the development of the terrains were introduced by the students of UACEG. The ideas were discussed with representatives of institutions, students, experts, and public actors.

The day started with a guided walk with the students from the University of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy (UACEG), the international experts and lecturers Anna Nemeth, Martin Gielen, Bert Gellynck and Freek Persyn around Stochna Gara and Gara Poduyane-razpredelitelna. This was followed by three thematic workshops, which started the discussion about a shared concept for the sustainable development of the areas. The proposals of the students from UACEG served as a starting point for the  expert round tables, moderated by the GRADOSCOPE team. More than 40 local experts, including the Chief Architect of Sofia Municipality – Zdravko Zdravkov, representatives from the National Railway Infrastructure Company (NKZI), Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ), urban planners, architects, consultants and students and lecturers from UACEG, participated in the expert discussions on “Ecology and Environment”, “New Economies” and “Accessibility, Public Space and Mobility”.  

The event ends with a presentation of similar projects and examples around Europe from the international experts. Four guest speakers gave presentations from their own experiences with similar urban planning projects that revitalise industrial spaces and experiment with standard planning processes by involving local actors and driving the circular urban development. These are Ana Nemeth from Denkstatt Switzerland, Freek Persin from 51N4E, Marten Guillen from Rotor DS and Bert Gellynck from 1010 Architecture and Urbanism. 

These first steps in the development of the New Greenways for Old Railways initiative took place at the initiative of the Sofia Municipality, in an active dialogue with the National Railway Infrastructure Company and with the support of Argus 01. The summarized results and proposals for the development of the sites can be found HERE.


In September 2022, the New Greenways for Old Railways initiative continued with a three-day forum and neighbourhood festival dedicated to the possible sustainable activation of the areas from Stochna to Poduyane- Razpredelitelna stations in Sofia. Building on the three main pillars of the European Commission’s New European Bauhaus movement – Beautiful, Sustainable, Together, we prepared workshops and discussions over three consecutive days, the aim of which is to co-define a minimum of three pilot projects that will initiate the long term regeneration of the areas. The forum culminated in a neighborhood fair on Saturday, October 1, with community workshops, food & drinks, music & dance workshops,  children’s activities and an expo of local artists, businesses and crafts. The Neighborhood Festival aims to introduce the local population to the railway territories (normally with restricted access) and through the engagement activities to collect their insights, ideas and dreams about the area, to gather their feedback and to engage them for the actual realisation of the pilot projects.

The New Greenways for Old Railways forum happened in partnership with the National Railway Infrastructure Company (NKZI) starting on 29 September, Day 1 BEAUTIFUL with two expert discussions on the topics of public spaces and mobility and ecology and landscape. Institutions and experts discussed what “beautiful” and “sustainable” mean in the context of post industrial heritage, with the aim of formulating together pilot projects which transform the infrastructure barrier into a bridge, linking the northern and southern neighbourhoods through quality public spaces; or to reconnect with the rivers and the vast landscape along the length of the underused railway areas in search of resilient urban solutions.

The second day of the forum on 30 September is named SUSTAINABLE and includes an expert discussion on the new economies. Experts, institutions and businesses from the area discuss environmentally sustainable strategies to develop the capacity of former industrial sites as a driver for Sofia’s circular development. The aim is to structure a pilot project that connects local businesses, cultural actors and residents, with a focus on circular economy and reuse of materials and resources.


Day 3 of the forum was on October 1 TOGETHER and culminated with a neighborhood festival. The event was with free entrance and open for everyone who wished to view and discuss the results of the experts’ work and to join in the process with their own suggestions and ideas. The three topics of the expert discussions were complemented by a citizen engagement workshop on the topics of public space, reconnecting with nature and local production; food, drinks, music and a festival with local artists, craftsmen and businesses.

The neighborhood festival was organized in partnership with Culture Lab, an independent cultural space that houses dozens of studios and art spaces in close proximity to Stochna Station. The event also included several workshops for children and grown-ups. An interactive “Greening Together” workshop consisted of an educational walk through the landscape and collective mapping of the plant species on the online tree map of Sofia with Botanic Lab and OneTree platform. The “Building Together” workshop was organized with other neighbors – the studios of ZALAG DARISE and BOGODOME, which created together with the participants unique and functional urban furniture to beautify the entrance of the station building, and taught visitors about DIY furniture tips, how to reuse and beautify industrial materials into attractive pieces and placemaking techniques. The Children’s Architecture Workshop “Play in the City” challenged the youngest visitors, aged 5-10 years old, to come up with concrete ideas for their dream playgrounds and activities around Sochna Station. The festival concluded with a rich cultural programme organised in partnership with one of the most active artistic organisations in the area- the Foundation Vanishing Point.

These events of the New Greenways for Old Railways initiative are carried out with the support of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), an organisation of the European Union,  in partnership with the National Railways Infrastructure Company and Green Sofia, Sofia Development Association, a project of Sofia Municipality. 


Throughout the project Gradoscope engaged with more than 400 people in different workshops, talks, discussions and exercises. Based on our methodology for co-ideation and co-creation, following all the activities during the expert discussions and citizen engagement activities, three pilot projects to kick-start the long-term revitalisation of the area are outlined.


The gradual revitalisation of the area around Stochna Station with culture and art has been an important theme since Sofia’s participation in the 2019 European Capital of Culture competition. Even before that, many representatives of different cultures and subcultures inhabited the area around the station, where a number of cultural projects such as the Culture Lab incubator, the Culture Zone and the quARTal are still developing today. 

During the discussions organised in the scope of the Forum, artists, cultural managers, experts and neighbours united around the idea of creating a community centre and cultural infrastructure, all agreeing that the beautiful and currently unused building of Stochna Station is fit for purpose. Given the context and history of the building, it is also appropriate that the new function includes a focus on the history and future of rail transport, and houses distinct functions for local communities. 

The issues the idea addresses are:

·      making the area a destination rather than a transportation crossroad we pass through.

·     stops the demolition of a building that has architectural and cultural heritage value.

·     provides public multifunctional space, in an area that is in great need of one, and creates physical space to coordinate the revitalization process of the area.

·     stimulates a continuous human flow that makes the area safer.

How? The decaying building of the Central Station can become a multifunctional space, a place for culture and a space for discussion, innovation and experiment. The revitalisation process needs a central point to coordinate and manage the redevelopment. The cultural programme could be combined with commercial and representative functions. However, the public function of the building could not be fully realised without restoring the plaza space in front of it, making the building physically visible and accessible.

The function of the building could be complemented by the implementation of a railway museum, which would bring together part of the history of the Bulgarian railways. The activity could be complemented by an open park area in which artefacts of railway history could be discovered. Designating areas for research of innovative solutions for the future of rail transport would give the project a contemporary functional significance.

The cultural community centre could have a multi-functional programme that would result in a continuous flow of people, ensuring sustainability and financial viability. Local businesses and artists should be involved in activating the area. The public space could be revitalized through arts festivals or farmers markets. After an initial investment that ensures safety and renovation of the building, an organization should be formed to manage and revitalize it through diverse activities.

Experts involved in shaping the proposal for the Stochna Gara building and the public space in front of it  include representatives from the NKZI, BDZ, NAG, Centre for Urban Mobility, SM District Pouyane, Sofiaplan, architects, urban planners, experts, a transport engineer, a lawyer, the Eco-Community Foundation, businesses and cultural activists active in the area, and dozens of citizens.


Тhe railway park is the project assessed by experts as having the strongest public and environmental impact, and relatively easy to implement. It was also one of the most frequent citizen suggestions. The unused territory  where nature alone has started to return, is additionally crossed by three rivers, and can easily be transformed into Park Stochna Gara – Sofia’s new railway park, just a 15-minute walk from the administrative centre of the capital.


Сточна гара исторически е място за обмяна на стоки и услуги. Тази традиция може да продължи да се развива и да отговори на предизвикателствата на утрешния ден. Научаването на нови умения и споделянето на знания изгражда общности и изпълва със смисъл. А територията около Сточна гара, включваща фабриката за градско изкуство Culture Lab, хладилния завод, артисти и иноватори на свободна практика в района, превръщат зоната в естествено развил се клъстер на креативните индустрии. Тази енергия може да се допълни от нови пространства за тестване и прототипиране (makers spaces), студия за дизайн (градски, архитектурен, ландшафт, интериорен, продуктов), споделени места за работа, лаборатории и иновации, библиотека за материали, семинари и лекции, офиси на граждански инициативи, храни и напитки, базари и изложения на създадените продукти и разработените решения.

Сградата на така наречените ‘магазии’ датира от първата половина на 20 век и е била същинската товарителница на Сточна гара. Днес използвана за складови помещения, тя има специфична централна носеща бетонна конструкция и покривно осветление, носейки духа на пост-индустриалното наследство. 

The issues the idea addresses are:

·     The availability of accessible and substantial public green spaces to meet the needs of residents in the surrounding neighbourhoods.

·     Proposing a temporary function for currently unused areas without changing the land use designation.

·     Can be combined with other collective functions- urban shared gardens, sports areas for different ages- playgrounds, skateboard area, biking.

How? The idea can be implemented relatively easily, without additional landscaping or planting, using the existing natural vegetation on the site. The only important point is to to ensure the safety of citizens by separating the park areas from the active rail transport, and building pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.

The temporarily unused but naturally rich and accessible areas around the railway station could be rented by Sofia Municipality and developed in stages as a public park with the active participation of various stakeholders. Open spaces around the area could be filled with a variety of functions, such as shared learning and green classrooms (together with local schools), shared urban gardens (together with urban gardening organisations), areas for sports, skateboarding and cycling, etc. The park can also be used for a variety of events, concerts and festival activity. It would also address the need for a community space for the neighborhood and an accessible place for children and people with disabilities.

The transformation could be temporary and terminated as the need for the use of the area changes. It may be possible to develop the park in phases – starting with a small test area and then expanding. Therefore, the use of natural and biodegradable materials and surfacing is recommended in the creation of the footpaths and cycleways. Where possible, the park should also create safe pedestrian and bicycle crossings along and over the railroad tracks to be able to overcome the current barrier created by the railroad tracks. 

Experts from the following organisations have been involved in the discussions leading to the Station Park proposal: NKZI, Chief Architect of Sofia Region Poduyane, Deputy Mayor of Poduyane Region, First English Language School, Sofia Water, Green Sofia, Sofiaplan, Sofia Energy Agency, urban planners and architects, representatives of innovative green initiatives in Sofia, such as OneTree, Green Line Sofia, The Collective, Garden for Druzhba, scientific researchers, influencers, representatives of creative initiatives and citizens.


Stochna gara has historically been a cargo station for the exchange of goods and services. This tradition can continue to evolve and meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Learning new skills and sharing knowledge builds communities and fills activities with meaning. The area around Stochna Station, including Culture Lab urban art factory, Hladilen zavod, freelance artists and innovators, make the area a naturally formed cluster of creative industries. This energy can be complemented by new spaces for testing and prototyping (makers spaces), design studios (urban, architectural, landscape, interior, product), shared workspaces and labs, a materials library, workshops and lecture spaces, offices for civic initiatives, food and beverage, bazaars and exhibitions of the products created and solutions developed.

The building of docks dates back to the first half of the 20th century and was the actual loading dock of Stochna Station. Today used for storage, it has a specific central load-bearing concrete structure and roof lighting, carrying the spirit of the post-industrial heritage.

The transformation of the docks building into a “CIRCULARIUM: Zone for Development, Innovation and Experimentation” can address the following issues:

·   The zone retains its productive character but turns towards the future by becoming Sofia’s hub for innovation, prototyping and testing.

·   New and more diverse jobs are created.

·   The retail businesses currently located at Stochna Station site are turning to tomorrow and develop activity that communicates sustainable development principles.

In addition, some of the existing built tissue could be reused as a local center for recycling materials and possessions, repairing appliances and machinery, and developing and testing new products and prototypes. To this end, spaces could be identified where unused materials could be collected, sorted, cleaned, repaired or remodeled to be brought back to the market as a new product. This circle opens up the possibility for many new jobs and activities, and is the basis for developing a business approach that strongly reinforces the principles of circularity and reuse. To these functions can be added areas for lectures, seminars, education and acquiring new skills or practicing a hobby.

The discussions focusing on the redevelopment of the territories through the integration of new and sustainable business models involve experts from BDZ, NKZI, Sofiaplan, Sustainable Cities Fund, Railway Modelling Club – Bulgaria, urban planners, urban activation and strategic planning specialists, railway engineers, a sociologist, a communication expert, a cultural manager, a lawyer, an architect, representatives of private initiatives for temporary activation of unused land in densely populated residential areas, urban redevelopment strategists and many citizens.

You can read the full project report and pilot proposals HERE.


Project Coordinator: GRADOSCOPE



Sofia Municipality

European Institute of Innovation and Technology

The New European Bauhaus

Green Sofia, Sofia Development Association

Argus 01 

Imp-Act Agency

DEVIN Izvorna



ETH Zürich

Universita degli studi di Napoli

Politecnico di Milano

International experts: 



1010 Architecture and urbanism 


EIT Community New European Bauhaus STATION SOFIA_New Greenways for Old Railways is supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union.