Mafia Baroque’: post-socialist architecture and urban planning in Bulgaria



This paper traces the reception of the architectural style known as ‘Mafia Baroque’ within the professions of architecture and urban planning in Bulgaria. The debate within these professions was strongly linked to the general decline of power among former intellectual elites and the specific decline of architects and planners, who were sidelined as arbiters of ‘good taste’ and disempowered as regulators of urban growth. The reaction to this style also highlights the rise in public concern over corruption and organized crime and dissatisfaction with post-socialist urbanization. This paper chronicles the extent of changes in construction and regulation in Bulgaria during the 1990s and argues that planners and architects were challenged not only by their professional marginalization but also by a deeper embarrassment over cultural change. It then relates this debate to broader post-socialist anxieties over insufficient regulation of urbanization and fear of failing to meet Western European goals for economic and political change.