Buzludzha VR

2015-2019 · PRODUCT DESIGNER · REAL-TIME ARTIST

The Buzludzha Monument

This UFO-shaped structure was built in the 1970s and was used as the headquarters of the Bulgarian communist party.

However, in November 1989 Bulgaria ceased to be a Communist State and the building was promptly closed down. After years of disuse and with no further maintenance, the abandoned structure began to quickly deteriorate and suffer from acts of vandalism.

Thanks to the building’s unusual design and unique location, it did not take long for Buzludzha to become one of Europe’s most iconic abandoned sites. It continuously attracts urban explorers from all around the world.

The Project

Embark on an immersive Virtual Reality adventure in the Bulgarian mountains and discover the abandoned UFO-shaped brutalist legend Buzludzha. Sense the scale of the structure and take in the atmosphere of the surrounding landscape.

Learn about the history of the monument and immerse yourself with playful interactions such as the fully-interactive grand piano, flying around the monument, juggling with muffins or climbing the 70m high tower;

Buzludzha VR provides a unique experience that both educates and entertains, and pushes the limits of interaction and real-time graphics in virtual reality.

The Story Behind Buzludzha VR

Buzludzha VR started out in mid-2015 as a joint project between my colleague Rafal Czarnowski and myself. The idea was to create a real-time architectural visualisation of the Buzludzha monument that suggests a new purpose for the abandoned mega structure, and raises awareness about the current state of the monument.

We traveled on site to the Buzludzha monument to capture essential reference photographs and to experience first hand the size and scale of the structure. We took a series of spatial measurements to further aid the design and development process.

We launched the first conceptual version of the project in May 2016 and managed to successfully restart the discussion around the restoration of the monument in Bulgaria. The project was met with a positive reception from across Bulgarian media, the public and Buzludzha's original architect - Georgi Stoilov. Buzludzha VR was featured on some of the biggest Bulgarian TV channels, magazines and newspapers.

The project was rebooted with a different approach towards the end of 2018, after a growing interest to add support for more VR headsets and include more interactivity. Over the following year, we rebuilt the experience from ground up and focused our attention on areas such as:

Overall user experience and mechanics

Quality of real-time graphics

Storytelling

Expansion of the explorable environment

Performance Improvements

Extra layer of interactivity

Throughout the development of Buzludzha VR, the experience was regularly tested at events around the UK, Germany and Bulgaria. Thanks to the invaluable feedback we have received and the observations we have made during the exhibitions, we were able to continually improve the spatial user experience and accessibility of product.

In November 2019, we officially released Buzludzha VR on the Steam Store, 30 years after the fall of communism in Bulgaria.

My Role

Research and ideation

3D asset modeling

Texturing & Material Creation

Environment Lighting

3D Asset Optimisation

Storytelling

User Journey Mapping

User Interface Implementation

Visual Design

Virtual Reality User Testing

Toolkit

Unreal Engine 4

Autodesk Maya

Autodesk 3Ds Max

Substance Painter

Substance Designer

Figma

Photoshop

Illustrator

Ora

Platforms

Steam VR

Oculus

Windows Mixed Reality

Buzludzha VR

Explore the abandoned legend

Reviews

"The experience is immersive and informative from start to finish with many excellently voiced information points and translations that really make your journey through the structure in its reimagined form interesting and engaging. The attention to detail is a testament to the passion behind this project and provides incentive to thoroughly inspect every nook and cranny of the structure for things to see and do."

Wickerman123

Steam User

"This is your only chance to experience the Buzludzha as it no longer exists in its original state. Top-notch graphics, it must have taken a ton of research and work to model it.  All the history and text is narrated really well. Plus detailed toilet interactions you'd never expect like lifting the seat, flushing, washing and drying your hands. The climbing and helicopter flying is icing on the cake."

koochy

Steam User