SOFIA, Bulgaria — Delcho Delchev came back.
For many of his generation, this is commuting against the tide of emigration from his native Bulgaria into the rest of Europe. But Mr. Delchev, a 34-year-old architect, is one of the founders of a nonprofit group called Transformers that has been trying since 2009 to brighten up this former Soviet outpost with low-budget civic art and design projects.
A few years ago, he returned to Bulgaria, turning down an offer to stay in France, where he had been studying. In some ways, Sofia might not seem like the most inspiring place for an architect. Rows of Soviet-era buildings stack up like dominoes along the landscape, many crumbling. Sculpture from the Communist and czarist eras dominates public spaces, unemployment has been rising sharply, and for months protesters have been gathering in the city’s streets to denounce the latest government, which is viewed as corrupt and out of touch.
But Sofia is also a city with parks and green spaces, and one can see the younger people chafing to break free of aesthetic homogeneity. In a central park downtown, a giant sculpture depicting Soviet soldiers has had run-ins with various graffiti artists. It was recently covered in pink paint, and the name of the Notorious B.I.G., a rapper killed in 1997, is scrawled on one side.
Mr. Delchev decided he liked the broader and more open canvas offered by Bulgaria.
“I thought I would find more fields to work as an architect here than in Europe, because, already there, the situation was very overcrowded,” he said in a recent interview, referring to the wealthier countries of the European Union. (Bulgaria became a member in 2007.) “New buildings were very rare, so I prefer to be in developing countries. Probably because of my soul, I prefer to organize life as I want, rather than just to go to some place that is very arranged and I have less to do as a creator.”