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.
The Hello Wood Summer School and Festival has expanded over the years to build up a lot of recognition internationally within the architecture community, with previous years having more than 1000 participants from across 70 countries and over 50 universities take part in Hello Wood’s educational event. By looking to the future and adopting an attitude of rebirth, a large part of the tenth anniversary of the festival was about criticism of the stereotypical role of the architect - one that is constrained by expectations and deadlines - while searching for the true superpower of those that want to make a change with a free spirit. Twenty workshops led by a truly global group of professionals helped to celebrate the decennial with their unique takes on the transformation of the architect. As a result of a series of rites and ceremonies that included the building of 20 installations, the week aimed at setting participants free to follow their dreams.
The Central European University’s Budapest campus, designed by O’Donnell + Tuomey and shortlisted for the RIBA International Prize, is under threat of abandonment due to ongoing verbal and legislative attacks by Hungary’s populist prime minister, Viktor Orbán.
As reported by CNN, university officials have spoken publically about plans to leave Budapest, with the university’s board recently approving the opening of a satellite campus in Vienna in 2019. The decision would cast doubt over the second construction phase of the O’Donnell + Tuomey vision.
The ninth Hello Wood International Summer University and Festival has taken place at Hello Wood’s campus in the Hungarian countryside. As part of the week-long Cabin Fever program, students from 65 universities around the world were given the opportunity to build seven contemporary timber cabins in a nomadic, lush countryside, mentored by international architects.
As a result of the week-long effort, the rural area was transformed into a cutting-edge working village featuring cabins on wheels, cabins on stilts, and multi-story homes. The festival is dedicated to the Tiny House Movement, which “makes cabins which give urban dwellers the chance to get away from it all for a while.”
Masters of wooden architecture and design, Kengo Kuma & Associates, expert of portable architecture, Robert Kronenburg, prestigious architectural and design studios, Local Architecture Network (France) and SKREI (Portugal), and International landscape and urban designers, Groundlab will be some of the most inspiring guests at Hello Wood international summer school & festival for the arts and architecture this coming summer. This year promises to be a unique one as the three-year-long architectural experiment and research programme called Project Village—exploring the relationship between communities and their built environment by building its own settlement—comes to its final stage calling new participants to question, respond to, build on, or dissect the existing artefacts, concepts and ideas. In a special year, special participants are needed: Hello Wood calls for team leaders and students to apply to the summer school and festival (1-9 July 2017) and join the continued exploration of building a community settlement, responding to the theme "Shaping Communities: Courtyards." Read on to see some highlights from the past 7 years of this unique annual event.