INTRODUCTION to the ten nominated projects for the Media Architecture Prize 2017 Hungary
With 71 submitted buildings and 65 submitted plans, architecture production in Hungary remains on an active level. However, after two consecutive years of high-quality production the jury saw less reason for celebration than before. Most submitted buildings are realized in the field of private housing, office spaces, hotels, and tourism-related buildings. Some projects focus on healthcare, but most are privately owned. An increase in (semi-)detached residential buildings is noted, but is not matched with more high-quality public buildings and values.
Renovation projects sometimes show a remarkable lack of imagination, as original historical features are sacrificed to a pseudo-historical layer of ‘newness’. This results in a large quantity of castles, railway stations, convents, and historic mansions – all thoroughly researched and documented – in which authentic local, regional, or national characteristics are nonetheless lost. Another observation is the lack of urban connectedness. There seldom seems to be a bigger picture in which the often beautifully executed buildings are meant to fit. The jury beliefs that they could be more effective and better used if there was an stronger master plan to link the urban fabric together, for example, in relation to landscape, public space, or infrastructure design.
On a more positive note, one could say that in more recent buildings, like rural barns, 1970s shopping halls, and post-war houses, the need for transformation, re-use, and renovation as an alternative to new buildings is steadily finding ground in Hungary. In these more recent typologies, architects and clients find inspiring contemporary solutions, without destroying the original character of the buildings. It is here that the jury found the most inspiring projects; for example, the block of flats at Barbakán Square in Pécs by Ferenc Cságoly and Ferenc Keller, where a steady urban concept connects old and new in a convincing way. So does the nursery in Zugló by Gábor Zimborás and Róbert Kiss, which is a wonderful example of urban renovation and multiple use. In another way the office and shopping renovation in Veszprém by Architecture Atelier of Veszprém (György Kovács Zsolt, Jana Beránková, Dávid Kovács) is another good example of renovation and reconnection.
In selecting the final nominated buildings, the judges have been looking for authenticity, quality in execution, and topicality. Authenticity means an original take on the brief, an innovative concept, and a meaningful relation to its surroundings. Craftmanship means professional execution, high-quality detailing and materials, sustainability, and a meaningful relation between tradition and innovation. Topicality means being an inspiration or good example in the debate on topics of current interest or relevance.
In the selection of nominated plans, the jury mostly looked for intriguing ideas and surprising twists, as well as indicators of future talent in drawings or floor plans, new techniques, and a sense of the future needs of society. The attention given to renovation and combining old and new in various ways show promise for the continuation of the high standard of the current building practice in Hungary in this field. If this generation of architects would get the chance to take on major heritage projects, we would hopefully soon see a more innovative turn in restoration issues. Also, the submitted plans show a dedication to cultural and public buildings and spaces that we hope will find clients shortly, as well as raise the debate on the need to implement cultural and social functions in the current building and planning practice in Hungary.
Finally, we were a bit severe in our treatment of Hungary’s architecture production this year, but we are very happy to announce the ten nominated projects, which in our opinion raise the standards yet again and set the bar for next year a bit higher still. All ten show how Hungary’s architects excel in small- to medium-size projects as they strive for innovation through tradition, whether in plot, context, concept, or integrality, and in ways not imagined before.
Hegyvidék Gallery by students of the University of Applied Arts
The local municipality of Budapest’s 12th district has collaborated with the students of the University of Applied Arts to improve public space in the district. This district is part of the ‘Hegyvidék’ main street project, an urban area renewal programme. The result was the Hegyvidék Gallery. The jury values this cultural addition to stimulate the business of Királyhágó Square. The renovation of the existing space shows a contemporary and innovative architectural quality. The minimalist, reduced design is very effective, especially when it comes to interior and exterior communication. The design materializes in three components: the melted slab which connects the three existing levels of the gallery, the white finished walls, which are essential to the function, and the illuminant emissive surface of barrisol on the ceiling. The large glass opening has an additional function as a seat, while connecting the interior and exterior space.
This building is an inspiring example of dealing with the pressure of tourism nowadays. How to accommodate for very specific logistic and recreational needs without losing the local (landscape, architecture, cultural) qualities that attracts tourists in the first place? This project combines the tradition of typical wood craftsmanship in Hungary to the specific needs of tourist flows. It is the pilot project for another seven of these wooden structures, for which funding is at the moment still uncertain, as the lack of time, supervision, and maintenance administration are still unsolved.
It still remains a dream for many to have a refined, private home. This project shows the dedication to the house, the site and buildings materials of the former residents, the new ones, the architects and the builders. The house extension is a continuation of a small, two-family home, designed by an architect for herself and her adult son. This son later became an architect as well. When his family had outgrown the one-room apartment, they did not move and instead decided to expand the property. Cheap materials, simple solutions, recycled raw materials, and energy-saving measures made a dream come true. With the cost-saving, self-built construction method, the price of a nearly 80-square-metre expansion has fallen to one third of the standard acquisition costs.
The Piarist school centre in Nagykanizsa has been one of the most important educational centers in this region for centuries. The complex was completed in the 1920s and is now complemented by the recently opened kindergarten. Its orientation is sober and practical, the horizontal scheme is well-conceived and chiseled, the functional and spatial systems come to make up an integral overall scheme of architecture, that blends in with the context perfectly. Layout and position, as well as the size of the facade openings, offer the impression of houses in a row and create without any mimicry a homely atmosphere.
The entrance and main building of the Palatinus lido has become an emblematic building of the Hungarian modern architecture. It is situated on Margaret Island and was built according to the winning plans of István Janáky and completed in 1937. Archikon studio’s task was to restore the original volumes and the architectural looks, keep the facade in its original state, but add a two-level high pool area. This complex and demanding project managed to preserve the ‘spirit’ of the modern building, which is often quite difficult when it comes to adapting to the contemporary needs (of architectural physics). Despite the many makeovers the building has preserved its character. The architect kept the frame structure, the vertical circulation cores on both sides, and the horizontal circulation axis that opens toward the lido and the outdoor spiral stairs, while bringing back original colours and details at the same time.
Lookout tower László Bedő, Christopher Kovács and Péter Vági
The press-house of Zirc Abbey and its basement was built in a classicist style at the side of Somlóvásárhely. Although the building itself does not have any architectural merits, it is unequivocally significant because of its location. The idea of László Bedő, Christopher Kovács and Péter Vági was to have the new and the old buildings co-exist without either repressing the other, because the “past and present is equally important”. So after careful consideration they decided it could be an ideal location for creating a stop for tourists. In this design the ruin has become the topic of the exhibition, by covering it with the new building, and this poses interesting interactions between old and new in the choice of materials, the plans and the various angles of the building.
Cicvar-grape-seed-processing-manufacture by István Balázs Vass
“Cicvár” meaning “Castle of kitties”. Synthetizing thinking defines the design that wisely uses the existing buildings and the local circumstances for a sensitive completion. In the Tokaj Hegyalja wine area, in a small, but historical village called Màd there is a 250 ha. ancient vineyard with a little 19th century tithe house. Only the wide walls are still standing massively, protecting its history inside, including the cellars, service areas and a grain store. What’s intriguing about this plan, is that it is not a reconstruction, but an “examination of the building’s life”, which not only protects the ruin, but also offers solutions for reuse of organic waste and new takes on the village identity and gastro-tourism position.
Convent in the woods by Ágnes Faragó, Máté Gerges and Anikó Kazsoki
There is a trench in the woods between Nagyvázsony and Pula, the quiet site provides for a calm intimate separation from the world by placing the monastery is placed on a small glade which is separated from the other projects by a thin forest belt and a creek. To support this aspect, and to provide sufficient atmospheric lighting for the interiors, big transparent structures are used. The main structure consists of prefabricated elements using wooden supporting structures and scattered polyurethane insulation. The visible materials are plywood with different coats and polycarbonate for the transparent structures.
Library by Mátyás Bitay
In his thesis, Mátyás Bitay is focusing on a new public library in a Hungarian town, Kecskemét. It is a historical, cultural and theoretical study that gives a wider perspective for his architectural program. His search for answers to what kind of spaces, tools and know-how a contemporary public library needs on a site that is lacking public spaces is highly valid. The goal was to integrate both the building and the institution into its surroundings by creating an open space system with public spaces connected to the surrounding park, and by incorporating the upper levels of the building. Transparent half-level shifts, galleries and atriums, enable separate groups to follow each other.
Seurasaari Open Air Museum by Gyula Takács
Seurasaari island in Helsinki is accessed by a charming wooden bridge, exactly north-south direction. Since 1914 it houses a collection of 78 buildings that have been shipped here from various parts of Finland for preservation. Their informal placement has developed in an organically developed settlement. Seurasaari open-air Museum is freely accessible throughout the year. Gyula Takács’s highly original choice of subject is a plan for new arrival buildings of the Seurasaari Open-Air Museum, by reinforcing the existing elements and adding a few new buildings, inspired by Skanzen houses. The aim is to provide a sustainable development plan to accommodate further tourist attention.