The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Center, Gabrovo

Concept & Development

photo: Rosina Pencheva © 2023 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Center, Gabrovo


On May 31, 2020, the world bid farewell to one of the most beloved and popular artists of our time – Gabrovo-born Christo.

Under an agreement signed with him and his brothers – Stefan and Anani Yavashev in 2013, the Municipality of Gabrovo received a donation of 50 posters and committed itself to establishing a Center for Contemporary Art Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

Christo in his studio with preparatory works for The Mastaba New York City, April 15, 2012 — Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2012 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation

True to the artists

The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Center will comprise exhibitions featuring the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, as well as a documentary exhibition on the history of the Yavachev family in Gabrovo and Cristo’s childhood. In order to function as a living organism, the Center will also offer a dynamic program of temporary exhibitions, presenting young artists whose art shares common features with Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects. However, our goal is to go beyond enjoyment of art and taste of history. We aim to create a site of knowledge production and collaboration, evoking the complex process Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects relied on – involving production managers, photographers, film directors, engineers, manufacturers, collectors, urbanists, curators, ecologists and even financiers (the artists couple were known for securing credit lines for their projects, realized in public space, free and open to all). And we are working to make sure some members of their original milieu of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects will be on board.

visualization of the actual space for illustrational purposes: Martina Deneva © 2023 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Center, Gabrovo


Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s art is complex and has many dimensions beyond the typical studio practice – engineering, environmental, urbanism, business aspects (for example, the entrepreneurial approach of Christo and Jeanne-Claude is the subject of analysis and teaching at Harvard Business School). So the activities of the future Center will be of interest to art lovers but also to people from different walks of life and disciplines, for whom Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s way to conceive, plan, and deploy their ambitious projects will prompt inspiration. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s way of negotiating with public and private bodies in order to implement a project of scale, vision and perfect integrity will be used during the realization of the Center in order to create an institution that is true to the spirit of their work.

visualization of the actual space for illustrational purposes: Martina Deneva © 2023 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Center, Gabrovo

Current status of the project

After researching and evaluating various possibilities for using an existing building or constructing a new one, the project team, Gabrovo Municipality and City Council reached the decision to realize the Center in the building of the former Textiles Vocational School (closed in 2009). The building is extremely suitable both because of its architectural features and the availability of spacious high-ceilinged laboratories / workshops, which can be transformed into excellent exhibition halls and production spaces, and because of the connection between the main subject of the school – textiles – and the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

As of November 2022 the building’s ownership was transferred from the Ministry of Education to Gabrovo Municipality. In June 2022 the Municipaluty received a technical assistance grant from the European Commission under the programme Support to New European Bauhaus Local Initiatives, through which consultants of Ramboll Management Consulting have been working with the project team to support the Center’s institutional and business development, a functional analysis, and a brief for an international architectural competition. In the field of art and culture, Ramboll Management are known for the extension to Tate Modern (2016) and the Helsinki Central Library (2018).

Currently the project team is working with the local art, education and business community, with various national and international institutions to identify needs, stakeholders and partners for this project. So far more than 20 focus groups, discussions and meetings have taken place to ensure a truly participatory process with sustainability in mind both in terms of operations and refurbishment of the building.

photo: Rosina Pencheva © 2023 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Center, Gabrovo

The site and the building

The proximity of the building to another cultural institute of international importance – the Museum of Humor and Satire, facilitates the formation of a complex of cultural and touristic interest.

Its total built-up area is about 12,000 sq.m. The larger building used to house all technological labs and workshops for practical training, equipped with various machines and laboratories. The generous dimensions and heights of the interior spaces allow for a variety of new functions. Adjacent to the main building is a smaller one, where the classrooms were. The general condition of the structures is very good and we would like to reuse and recycle many of the original features, fittings, machinery and furniture. The reconstruction aims at reaching a very high level of energy efficiency for the future Center (nearly zero-emission building).

Yet, the building is only the means. The goal is urban regeneration and developing a flagship project of international standing. Hence our understanding for developing the Center and its program is to start now with as many of the activities as possible.

1. Museum of Humor
2. Petrol station
3. Parking lot
4. The building of the former Textile school

Functions, activities, program

Exhibition spaces, dedicated to:
-Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects  
-Christo’s childhood in Gabrovo 
-the textile industry of Gabrovo and the history of the school 
-contemporary art 
Artists’ studios
Residency program 
Fab Lab/Makers’space 
Textile workshop
Video/Photo/Film Studio
Co-working space
Creative Industries Accelerator
Innovation Center/Office
Material library (textiles)
Book Library (contemporary art, public art, textiles)
Institute for Art in the Public Domain and public art and design commissioning program
Summer school for architects, curators and artists
Teambuilding service for mid/high management, based on Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s project realization model 
Workshops and educational activities for all ages
Community space for teenagers and school programs
Creche/Community space for young parents and kids
Workshops, screenings and events
Event space
Cafe and restaurant

Institutional Development

The project is fairly ambitious and it is essential that it:

-embodies the values and work ethic of Christo and Jeanne-Claude

-its development is organic and organized in phases with testing, prototyping and numerous feedback loops, providing for enhancing and scaling of successful activities, redesigning of not so successful ones and abandoning the ones that fail

-relies on the expertise, interest and ownership of multiple stakeholders

-is non-partisan, involving individuals, private and public bodies at local, regional, national and international level.

visualization of the actual space for illustrational purposes: Martina Deneva © 2023 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Center, Gabrovo