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Why Budapest's Contemporary Architects had to Go Underground to Find Success

This article by ArchDaily's former managing editor Vanessa Quirk first appeared on ArtsCultureBeat, the web magazine of Arts & Culture concentration at Columbia Journalism School’s MA program, titled "The Secret Life of Hungarian Contemporary Architecture."

This time last year, Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán stood at a podium in a pristine new subway station. Raw concrete beams criss-crossed above him; state-of-the art, driverless trains stood silently beside him. It was the opening ceremony for Line 4, a subway line that due to delays, corruption, and disputes had been 40 years in the making.

“The people of Budapest began to accept the thought that only their grandchildren would use Budapest’s new Metro line, or not even them.” Orbán told the crowd. He recounted an old joke that embodied the cynicism that once surrounded the project: Chuck Norris had been on Metro Line 4.

Orbán credited the line’s completion, which occurred only a few weeks before the 2014 parliamentary elections, to “the solidarity and unity that was established in 2010 [when Orbán’s government took power] and has since been maintained.” He didn’t mention how, under his first government (1998 to 2002), he had withheld funds from the project, contributing significantly to its delay. Nor did he mention that his party had fought against the idea that the line, an expensive infrastructural project, needed architecture at all.

Today, though, the line’s stunning architecture is its most noticeable feature. Line 4 is not just a watershed achievement in Hungary’s history, but also a symbol of what it takes to make contemporary architecture in Hungary today. Both literally and figuratively, contemporary architecture had to go underground.

Fovam Station / sporaarchitects. Image © Tamás Bujnovszky Gellert Station / sporaarchitects. Image © Tamás Bujnovszky Kálvin tér Station / PALATIUM Studio. Image © Tamás Bujnovszky Bikás Park Station / PALATIUM Studio. Image © Tamás Bujnovszky

Playing with Balance and the Balance of Play: Hello Wood's 2014 Camp

A shortened version of this article by ArchDaily's Managing Editor Rory Stott appears in HW 1-5, a book by the organizers of Hello Wood about the camp's first five years.

Arriving at Budapest’s international airport on a warm Saturday in July, I confess to being unprepared for my week ahead at Hello Wood 2014. Hungary was the third country and Budapest the fourth city I had been in in 72 hours, and thanks to this (uncharacteristically) chaotic week, I hadn’t had the chance to research anything about the camp. All I knew was what could be learned from the photos of the 2013 camp which I had published almost a year earlier: that is, that the camp is held in an idyllic rural setting, presumably a significant distance from Budapest; and that the quality of work seems unusually high for a week-long architecture workshop, presumably indicating a serious, focused atmosphere at the camp.

The first of these assumptions was absolutely right. But the second could hardly be more wrong. In fact the atmosphere at the camp was so far from being serious that by Tuesday, Gábor Betegh - a friend of the organizers and coincidentally Cambridge University’s new Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy - told me how fascinating it was to compare the “centripetal madness” of the philosophers he knows to the “very centrifugal madness” of the architects at the camp. This remark was made in response to one of the team leaders screeching like a monkey from the top of his team’s half-completed tower.

© Géza Talabér © Anna Vághy Playground / Architecture Uncomfortable Workshop. Image © Géza Talabér © Géza Talabér

Doboz Bar / Péter Szendrő

  • Architects: Péter Szendrő
  • Location: Budapest, Klauzál utca 10, 1072 Hungary
  • Collaborators: Dávid Loszmann, Gábor Korintus, Kristóf Pataricza
  • Area: 492.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2011
  • Photographs: Dániel Dömölky, Zsolt Batár, Tamas Bujnovszky

© Zsolt Batár © Dániel Dömölky © Tamas Bujnovszky © Zsolt Batár

New Visitor Entrance, Benedictine Archabbey Of Pannonhalma / CZITA Architects

  • Architects: CZITA Architects
  • Location: Pannonhalma, Hungary
  • Architects in Charge: Tamás Czigány, Anikó Páll, Györgyi Tóth
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: Tamás Bujnovszky, Tamás Czigány

© Tamás Czigány © Tamás Czigány © Tamás Czigány © Tamás Bujnovszky

O'Donnell + Tuomey's Central European University In Budapest Breaks Ground

Work has begun on O'Donnell + Tuomey's first project in Hungary. The new collection of buildings and restoration projects for the Central European University in Budapest sits within existing courtyards in a dense area of the city. Bringing a total of 35,000m² of new space to the inner-city campus, the project consists of a new library spread across five floors, an auditorium, multiple public spaces, teaching and learning facilities, study rooms, and a café.

Roof terrace. Image Courtesy of O'Donnell + Tuomey / Central European University Internal courtyard. Image Courtesy of O'Donnell + Tuomey / Central European University Internal courtyard. Image Courtesy of O'Donnell + Tuomey / Central European University Lecture Hall. Image Courtesy of O'Donnell + Tuomey / Central European University

In Conversation With Sheila O'Donnell And John Tuomey, 2015 Royal Gold Medallists

When Sheila O'Donnell and John Tuomey, who practice in partnership as O'Donnell + Tuomey, were named as this year's recipients of the RIBA Royal Gold Medal, a palpable collective satisfaction appeared to spread throughout the profession. No one could find criticism in Joseph Rykwert and Níall McLaughlin's nomination, nor the ultimate choice of the RIBA Honours Committee, to bestow the award upon the Irish team. Their astonishingly rigourous body of work, compiled and constructed over the last twenty five years, has an appeal which extends beyond Irish and British shores. A robust stock of cultural, community and educational projects, alongside family homes and social housing projects, leaves little doubt about the quality, depth and breadth of their mutual capabilities and the skill of those that they choose to collaborate with.

Read the conversation with the Gold Medallists after the break.

Ground sketch, Venice Biennale 2012 (Common Ground). Image © O'Donnell + Tuomey Sketch, Glucksman Gallery (Cork, Ireland). Image © O'Donnell + Tuomey Watercolour sketch, Ireland. Image © O'Donnell + Tuomey Sketch Plan of the Saw Swee Hock Centre (London). Image © O'Donnell + Tuomey

Liget Budapest Awards Graeme Massie Architects' Museum of Ethnography Third Place

Recent participants in the Liget Budapest design competition, Graeme Massie Architects have taken home third place for their proposed Museum of Ethnography design. The museum, one of five museums planned for the Liget Budapest development, is located at the very corner of Budapest City Park and is meant to act as a welcoming landmark for the city. Graeme Massie fulfills this requirement in a unique fashion, creating a building that is instantly recognizable, but still manages to blend with its surroundings. Learn more, after the break.

Permanent Exhibition Space. Image © Graeme Massie Architects Children's Museum. Image © Graeme Massie Architects Tower View. Image © Graeme Massie Architects Lobby. Image © Graeme Massie Architects

Liget Budapest Awards Third Place to LEAD's Blue Tiled Museums

Taking home third place in the Liget Budapest competition, the Laboratory for Explorative Architecture and Design (LEAD) has proposed a colorful design for Budapest’s new photography and architecture museums. A stunning shade of blue, the undulating buildings will mark the entrance to Budapest City Park, and provide a new cultural hotspot for Hungary’s capital city. Learn more about them, after the break.

Aerial View. Image © LEAD Library- Museum of Architecture. Image © LEAD Roof View- Photo Museum. Image © LEAD Park VIew. Image © LEAD

GSMM Takes Home Second with Twin Buildings Proposal for Liget Budapest

The Liget Budapest Competition, a call for proposals for five new cultural buildings in Hungary’s capital, has recently announced a few of its winners. Design firm GSMM architetti Giorgio Santagostino- Monica Margarida was awarded second place for their proposal for a paired Photo Museum and Museum of Hungarian Architecture. Inspired by Mies van der Rohe’s New National Gallery in Berlin, these twin buildings aspire to create a cultural focal point in Budapest, and to revitalize for the City Park.

Model Photo. Image © GSMM Aerial View. Image © GSMM Ground View from Park. Image © GSMM Museum of Architecture Entrance Hall. Image © GSMM

Nature Guides Kengo Kuma’s House of Hungarian Music Proposal for Liget Budepest

The Liget Budapest Competition has recently announced its winners, and Kengo Kuma and Associates has taken home honorable mention for their House of Hungarian Music design. Conceived as a house in the woods, the proposal seeks to embed itself in the landscape, having a low impact on the natural environment while becoming a focal point of Budapest’s urban environment.

Reception Area. Image © Kengo Kuma and Associates Atrium. Image © Kengo Kuma and Associates Office Entrance. Image © Kengo Kuma and Associates Aerial View. Image © Kengo Kuma and Associates

ARCVS Takes Second Place in Liget Budapest House of Music Competition

The Liget Budapest Architecture Competition has recently announced the winners for Budapest’s new Hungarian House of Music museum design. Coming in second place is architecture firm ARCVS Projektni biro. Their proposal takes the form of an 8-pointed star-shaped dome, held up by a veritable forest of columns. This uncommon shape provides numerous places, both indoors and out, for education, leisure, and exhibition, establishing itself as a prominent destination for the people of Budapest. Learn more, after the break.

Interior View- Lecture Hall. Image © ARCVS Exterior View- Winter. Image © ARCVS Exterior View- Winter Night. Image © ARCVS Exterior View- Performance Space. Image © ARCVS

BFarchitecture Takes Second Place in Liget Budapest Museum of Ethnography Competition

A few days ago, the winning design for the new Liget Budapest Museum of Ethnography was revealed. BFarchitecture, awarded second place, has just released their design proposal, which weaves the city and park of Városliget together by flowing the public along the Dózsa György út through the procession of the building.

Courtesy of BFarchitecture Courtesy of BFarchitecture Courtesy of BFarchitecture Courtesy of BFarchitecture

AVA's Sculptural House of Hungarian Music Takes Third for Liget Budapest

This past spring, the Liget Budapest competition was launched in the interest of finding new designs for planned cultural buildings in the Hungarian capital. One of these, the House of Hungarian Music, is to be a museum as well as a performance space set in Budapest City Park. Over 170 entries were submitted for the building, and of those, Andrea Vattovani Architecture’s proposal has taken third place. This gently curving and folding sculpture of a building aims to present the history of Hungarian music in an engaging setting, while creating an iconic landmark for the city of Budapest. Learn more, after the break.

Courtesy of Andrea Vattovani Architecture, Segnoprogetto Courtesy of Andrea Vattovani Architecture, Segnoprogetto Courtesy of Andrea Vattovani Architecture, Segnoprogetto Courtesy of Andrea Vattovani Architecture, Segnoprogetto

Hello Wood’s Budapest “Charity Tree” Built from 5,000 Logs

Made from 5,000 pieces of firewood, Hello Wood’s “Charity Tree” installation stretches 11 meters high, 4.5 meters wide and weighs 150 quintals (15,000 kilograms).  Hello Wood worked with Design Terminal and the Hungarian Interchurch Aid to build the tree in one of Budapest’s central squares, and all of the firewood used in the temporary installation will be given to families in need in January.

© Dániel Dömölky © Dániel Dömölky © Miklós Vargha © Dániel Dömölky

Winery in Balaton Highland / SAGRA Architects

  • Architects: SAGRA Architects
  • Location: Szent György Hill, Hegymagas, Hungary
  • Architect in Charge: Sajtos Gábor
  • Design Team: Sajtos Gábor, Gilvesy Robert, Grand Gabriella, Virág Péter
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Sajtos Gábor

© Sajtos Gábor © Sajtos Gábor © Sajtos Gábor © Sajtos Gábor

Budapest Underground Line M4 - Bikás Park Station / PALATIUM Studio

  • Architects: PALATIUM Studio
  • Location: Budapest, Tétényi Way, Hungary
  • Architects in Charge: Zoltán Erő, Balázs Csapó, Dóra Brückner, Zsolt Kosztolányi, Máté Antal
  • Area: 6180.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Tamás Bujnovszky

© Tamás Bujnovszky © Tamás Bujnovszky © Tamás Bujnovszky © Tamás Bujnovszky