Buzludzha VR


An immersive virtual reality experience based on one of Europe’s most iconic abandoned structures.

A CG image of the Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria, on a dark background, with the monument's distinctive saucer-shaped building and tall tower sitting atop a grassy hill with a pathway leading up to it.

What's Buzludzha?

The Buzludzha Monument was built in the 1970s and used to serve 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 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 image depicts the real-life Buzludzha Monument located in Bulgaria. It shows the monument perched atop a grassy hill, with a central tower and a flying saucer-like building with a ring of windows around it. In the foreground, there is a large, abstract metal sculpture featuring dynamic shapes and figures, which seems to be part of a memorial ensemble. The sky is partly cloudy, suggesting a bright yet breezy day. The surrounding landscape is a mix of grassy slopes and forested areas, which adds to the imposing and somewhat isolated setting of the monument. The monument itself has a stark, Brutalist architectural style, standing out against the natural backdrop.
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A photo of the Buzludzha monument, June 2015

The Project

Buzludzha VR is an immersive virtual reality experience that allows players to discover the abandoned UFO-shaped brutalist legend Buzludzha and its surrounding landscape. In addition to learning about the monument's history, players can immerse themselves in fun activities such as playing the fully-interactive grand piano, flying a helicopter around the structure, juggling with muffins or climbing the 70m high tower.

Buzludzha VR started out in early 2015 as a joint project between Rafal Czarnowski and me. The initial idea was to create a real-time architectural visualisation of the Buzludzha monument that suggests a new purpose for the abandoned megastructure and raise awareness about its current state.
Product Strategy
3D asset creation
Interaction Design
Visual Design
User Flows
User Testing
Unreal Engine 4 logo Figma logo Adobe substance painter logo
Oculus logo Steam vr logo


We travelled on-site to the monument to capture essential reference photographs and to experience first-hand the size and scale of the structure. We took several spatial measurements to aid our design and development process.

Frontal view of the Buzludzha MonumentMonument exteriorInner corridor
Outer corridorSoulemn hall


We launched the first conceptual version of the project in May 2016 and successfully restarted 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.

We restarted work on the project towards the end of 2018 after a growing number of requests to add support for more VR headsets and include even more interactivity. Over the following year, we rebuilt the experience from the ground up and focused our attention on areas such as:

  • Overall user experience and mechanics
  • Quality of real-time graphics
  • Storytelling
  • Expansion of all explorable environments
  • Performance improvements
  • Extra layer of interactivity

Throughout the development phase, we frequently tested work-in-progress builds of the VR experience at events around the UK, Germany and Bulgaria. Thanks to the invaluable feedback we received and the observations we made during the testing sessions, we could continue improving the spatial user experience and accessibility of the product.

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

The image shows a stylised virtual reality (VR) game menu for "Buzludzha VR." The menu is set against a simplified, artistic backdrop that features a green and white landscape with pine trees and a stylised representation of the Buzludzha monument in the centre. A semi-transparent white dome with a cut-off top overlays the scene, adding a sense of dimension. The game menu options are displayed on green tags with white text and include "PLAY," "SETTINGS," "INSTRUCTIONS," "FAST TRAVEL," "ABOUT," and "QUIT." A VR controller is depicted in the lower right-hand corner, with a green line pointing to the "PLAY" option, indicating the selection. At the bottom, there's a session timer showing "Session Duration: 1 min 2 sec." The overall design is clean and modern with a minimalistic aesthetic.
The image showcases the Buzludzha Monument and its unique architectural design, set against a bright blue sky with scattered clouds. The structure has a circular base with a central tower that stretches towards the sky. It appears to be constructed of concrete with a distinct aged patina, and the building is raised above the ground on what seem like support beams, giving it a hovering effect. In the foreground, there is a symmetrical pathway leading up to the building flanked by two rusted, wavelike metal sculptures. The pathway is composed of large, uniform paving stones, and the grassy hillside surrounds the installation, suggesting a serene, isolated location. On the front of the building, there are inscriptions or plaques, possibly containing information about the structure or commemorations.
The image depicts an interior scene of a modern café with a stylish wooden wall panel design. In the foreground, a person's hand is shown wearing a smartwatch, displaying an icon with a pair of scissors, indicating a cutting or editing action. Surrounding the hand are floating green circular icons with multiplication signs and numbers, showcasing various food items: two muffins, two slices of what appears to be a roll cake, two cookies with a bite taken out, a whole peach, and a bottle of wine. The café has a menu board in the background, a counter with pastries on display, and seating areas with white chairs and round tables. The ambience is warm and inviting, with decorative indoor plants adding a touch of greenery.
The image features the interior view of the Buzludzha auditorium. The ceiling has a concentric circular pattern with a wood finish that draws the eye toward the centre. Below, the seating is arranged in a semi-circular fashion around a central, elevated platform that has a black grand piano as the focal point. The seats are wooden with black padding. The auditorium has a panoramic backdrop of a large mural depicting a mountainous landscape and a monumental building on the peak, possibly indicating the setting's cultural or historical significance. The floor has a circular design that complements the ceiling, creating a harmonious and sophisticated aesthetic. The space appears modern, with spotlights embedded in the floor, and exudes an air of elegance and acoustic consideration.
The image is a virtual reality (VR) simulation of an auditorium's exit stairway leading to a museum. A person's hand, rendered in VR, is pointing to a floating green icon with white text that reads "RETURN TO MUSEUM," featuring a circular arrow symbol indicative of going back. The hand is wearing a VR controller strap around the wrist for interaction within the simulation. The stairway is modern with wooden steps and metal handrails. There is also an “Amphitheatre” sign on the wall in Bulgarian with an arrow pointing to the left, directing towards the auditorium. The auditorium seats are visible in the background, suggesting the user is leaving the seating area. The environment blends realistic textures and lighting with VR interface elements.
An interior scene with a large, curved mosaic wall. The mosaic is intricate, featuring figures that appear to be workers or revolutionaries, depicted in a style reminiscent of socialist realism. The figures are portrayed in various shades of brown, cream, and red tiles, giving a sense of movement and solidarity. The background of the mosaic transitions into a rugged mountain landscape. In the foreground, a VR user's hand is visible, holding a flashlight marked by red star. The ceiling above the mosaic has layered circular wooden panels, creating a flowing, organic effect. The floor reflects the light, suggesting a polished, dark stone material. This setting combines elements of historical artwork with modern VR technology.
The image depicts a dark, curved corridor leading towards a museum, as indicated by the Cyrillic letters spelling MUSEUM on the wall with an arrow pointing forward. The hallway is lined with framed pictures, each illuminated by spotlights from above. The first image in the sequence prominently features a green icon of a hand, indicating interactivity, superimposed on top of a photograph of a location within the Buzludzha monument in its current state in the real world. The green icon appears to be a consistent element throughout the series of photographs, suggesting interactivity throughout the museum. The floor has a reflective, metallic finish that mirrors the curvature of the ceiling, enhancing the depth and perspective of the corridor. The overall ambiance is modern and minimalistic, with a focus on the artwork displayed.
A space with an open view at the top of the 75 meter tall Buzludzha tower. The environment features an arched, transparent ceiling with metal frames, allowing ample natural light to flood the interior. Two simple benches with brown wooden seats and black metal legs are placed against a plain wall to the right. The floor is made of polished concrete, casting soft shadows from the overhead structure. To the left, a set of wooden stairs with a black handrail leads down to another level. Through the transparent ceiling and wall panels, a picturesque landscape is visible, showing rolling hills and wind turbines in the distance under a partly cloudy sky. The design is minimalistic, with a spacious and airy feel.
A virtual reality (VR) simulation where a user's hand, wearing a VR glove or controller, is extended towards the sky. A helicopter, rendered with a high degree of realism, flies in the distance against a backdrop of a clear blue sky scattered with wispy clouds. Below the helicopter, the tops of dense forests and rugged terrain are visible, adding to the sense of depth and height. The hand appears to be reaching out or gesturing towards the helicopter, possibly interacting with the virtual environment or initiating an action within the simulation. The scene conveys a sense of openness and scale, blending virtual interaction with a lifelike landscape.


"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."

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."

Steam User

"I wish there was a series like this in VR. Exploring abandoned buildings while learning about how they used to be before being left to rot. I had literally no interest in this building before finding this, but this was still an interesting and unique experience. Seriously, I cannot stress how much I'd love a series like this with this level of detail and interactivity."

Steam User

"This VR Tour gave me something more to experience about the country and their history, and worked lovely as a complement. I've spent 105 min in one session exploring every nook, listen to every detail and thinking about its past as I would have made in real life. At moments it felt like I was there, the attention to detail is superb in both atmosphere and mechanics wise."

Steam User