Barnabas Laris and Adam Vesztergom, in collaboration with Borbala Gyure, Csenge Csontos, Nora Kohalmy and Mark Antal, recently won the first prize in the Main Square of Ujpalota competition for their project, ‘Urban Meadow.’ The forum or main square of Újpalota, which is the second largest micro district of Budapest, is situated exactly in the center of this residential area, at the junction of the main roads. Most inhabitants of this housing estate cross this square day after day. This town square, however, does not have a view which is framed by public buildings. Therefore, a new community building can achieve a remarkable public function as well as a space-forming effect, simultaneously placed moderately as its volume is more solid than the ones of the commercial buildings. More images and their description after the break.
There are some characteristics defined by the settlement: the centrality and the important gate-away traffic are given. The composition of the buildings here is varied and its visual appearance is chaotic. The café is stuck between the shop and the community house and it squirms like a little brother in the shadow of his bigger companions. The square’s other pavilion-like buildings (kiosks) are also in a rundown condition. Parts from the square are torn off from the great complex. The main elements of the square are connected to the past of this area, and also do have an ad-hoc style. The fountain is located in the crossing of the pedestrian roads but it does not make the people stop while passing by. In spite of the many unfavorable components, there is agile vegetation in this area. It refreshes the mind of the people coming here from the narrow block of flats and crowded public vehicles.
As stated by Martin Heidegger, ‘Wherever a present being encounters another present being or even only lingers near it […] the openness already rules, the free region is in play. Only this openness grants to the movement of speculative thinking the passage through what it thinks. We call this openness that grants a possible letting-appear and show opening.’ In Hungarian language the same word refers to open or clearing up sth, in word for-word translation the word means meadow.
Among the tower buildings and the sector houses of Újpalota, made of concrete panels, there is a remarkable tree vegetation here, thanks to an intense afforestation, started in the 70’s after the construction of this housing estate. Under the foliage level of the extra favorable rich vegetation, there are some consumer zones in rundown condition, which are under-defined and extremely low-exploited. The different functions and the objects float in the green like a strange hull.
The leading purpose of our design was to create a square which is to become a meeting and refreshment point of the neighborhood. We considered the area as a coherent unit in which the several elements are connected. Every different element is part of the whole complex. We took the valuable tree substance of the square as the base for our planning. In the concrete jungle, it plays a crucial visual and emotional role, having an especially great importance in the life of the inhabitants here. We created a built, but still green area, in the middle of a green environment and have opened a space in it, measured to a meadow clearing in the nature. The reconstructed community building is connected to this “public meadow” while creating the only facade of the square.
‘People are crowded close to, nevertheless, away from each other. People here are infinitely closed. Their latitude is very small, they live their live in the triangle of their flat, their workplace and the shop here. They do not really know places aside from this.’ (Gyula Repcsik) The other great challenge of the design was the social background of this location. The main square and also the community building has to be designed in a way that the people who incidentally live next to each other are aliens and faceless and do not really know each other. So they need a square where they can meet, spend longer or shorter time and relax. The collective experiences, the common usage of the objects connect people. That was the reason why we were trying to design a public “experience-place”. The role of the “experience-place” is to convey such impulses which make the users interact. The square must be common and individual at the same time. It must be useable for young or old, married or single. It needs to create a place which the people living here consider to be as their own one, it doesn’t matter if it is an average workday or a special event period. Where there is a chance to contemplate in silence and to be a part of a bustling square.
Green Space Structure
The structure of the whole square was inspired by the washed-out sample of a farewell. The diverse coverage patches have different quality (smooth, rough) and various material (wood, stone, recortane) coverage. The meadow/clearing and the community building attached to it are central elements of this mosaic. Not only their functions, but also their size and location make them emphatic, however, they fit to the whole square, even by form or conjunction. The new community building was created by usage the older one while enlarging it at the same time. The illustrated commercial building is also a proposal to modify the currently existing estate decreasing its local dominance. The main square is a multifunctional area where a water surface (drawn on the site plan) is also placed which is only a few centimetre deep and articulated by pavements. The water grants unique cool microclimate in the hot summer days. When the Days of Újpalota (traditional local festival) is organised this thin water layer is deflated, and a stage and mobile viewing-stand can be built over it. In winter-time on the surface of the water a skate rink can be created as a central element of the local advent fair. In front of the South-West facade of the building there is also a tiny playground in order to keep the children spending their time at the square. We designed bus stops instead of the already existing pavilions only with some kiosks selling newspapers and bus tickets. This kind of reduction of the number of stops really ensures a worthy arrival to this area, which is existing like an open gate that welcomes visitors.
The House (The so called “experience-place”)
The new community building was made with usage of the older one by enlarging it and we used its volume suitable for the ceremony hall. We extended this almost existing volume with newer function-boxes like an entrance hall (lobby), rest rooms and special saloons on the first floor as well as some studio boxes. These simple volumes are covered by slab, which is a passable green roof. The upper level of the roof, which is walk-able, is increasing the community-forming feature of this building. The part of the roof is also suitable for organizing open-air events. While a great number of visitors attend an event, additional toilets help to serve the program so there is no need for mobile toilets. There is also a possibility to store temporary selling pavilions in the building. The ceremony hall is connected to the square via the entrance hall and the stairs start from the entrance hall. From the passage upstairs, there is a nice view to the interior of the ceremony hall. The studio rooms are also placed upstairs. The latter ones can be varied by a mobile wall, united or separated on-demand. The facade of the building is a dull, filmy white insulated copolit glass that filters the internal content to the external surface. The different colored and functioned boxes are sketched under the roof. The building is connected to the square with sliding glass doors that can be joined to the square to increase the consumer area of the café at the same time. The lower level of the roof, as well as the edges, are painted brilliant white.
The entrance hall is linked to the square by opening it in the summer period. The café here is expanded by open-air tables and chairs under the roof-console filling of the building so there is a chance to hold more concerts simultaneously either under the tree, at the square, on the ramp, or on the roof. Between the commercial and the community buildings, there is an interactive playground that was created slightly separately from the main square.
The place covered by a slight water layer can be formed into a skating rink in the winter time. On the other hand, it does not cause any problems when this rink will be out of work. This is because the surface does not have a pool-character. However, the most attractive event in the winter period is to reconstruct it to a skating rink. This place is surrounded by stalls and the entrance hall of the community building is filled with visitors. The selling units of the fair are simple frames, archetypical houses, which have walls that can be folded in or can be opened to serve the people. The view of the newly designed structure appears from the above flats in the winter period, when there is no greenery, as a completely different facade of this concept.
Architecture Designers: Barnabas Laris, Adam Vesztergom Surroundings designer: Borbala Gyure, Csenge Csontos Supporting members: Nora Kohalmy, Mark Antal Location: Budapest, Hungary Project title: Urban Meadow Name of competition: Main Square of Újpalota Status: 1st prize