Budapest is the capital of Hungary, and is the industrial, commercial, and cultural center of the country. The city is situated on the Danube River, in the geographic center of the region. With the compromise between Hungary and Austria in 1867, a period of economic prosperity and a population growth of enormous speed began. In 1869 the three towns (Buda, Pest, and Óbuda) that were to be united four years later into Budapest had 280, 349 inhabitants. At the turn of the century, Budapest already had a population of 733,350. In 1871 the first international competition in urban development was announced to restructure the capital. Its program underlined the importance of the Chain Bridge as the central connection between Buda and Pest. A system of boulevards and avenues was realized as the result of the competition and subsequent revisions, and the urban structure of Budapest today is determined by the largescale realization of what was probably the most consistent attempt to create a bourgeois city in Europe.
The Danube is the determining element of the monumental cityscape, its sweep underlined by the closed building facades on the embankments. The architectural treatment of the river-front and St. Marguerite Island, which became an urban park, was seen by many urban planners of the time as a major achievement. The problem of creating well-functioning connections between Pest and Buda was solved by a number of bridges. The Buda side is dominated by the Gellért Hill and the Castle Hill with the neobaroque Royal Castle (1880–91, Miklós Ybl and 1891–1905, Alajos Hauszmann) at its top. The business center is on the (flat) Pest side, whose riverfront is dominated by the colossal neo-Gothic Houses of Parliament (1904, Imre Steindl) and more recent hotels that replace those destroyed in World War II.
The basis of Budapest’s prosperity was the grain-milling industry and the processing and sale of other agricultural goods in the Carpathian basin. Urban development was conducted by the Council of Public Works (1870–1949), a body related to the municipality as well as to the government. The downtown business and residential district was executed during the last three decades of the 19th century. The typical residential unit of Budapest was a block of rental apartments with an interior courtyard. Access to the individual flats was from open galleries in the courtyard. The quality of apartments and the social status of their inhabitants could differ within a one-block area. Upper-middle-class families built summer residences and villas on the green hills of Buda. Low-income families lived on the outskirts of the city, near industrial zones.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Budapest’s architecture showed a pluralism of styles: beside the various neostyles (Stock Exchange, 1905, Ignác Alpár), many variations of Art Nouveau emerged (Academy of Music, 1907, Korb and Giergl), indicating connections with Vienna and other European cities. Ödön Lechner, whose major work was the Postal Savings Bank (1901), and his followers tried to create a national style that aimed to express Hungarian identity, using ornaments of peasant embroideries and Oriental art. Early modern tendencies (Rózsavölgyi Building, 1912, Béla Lajta), and National Romanticism (Calvinist Church, 1912, Aladár Árkay) also emerged. Most of the architects graduated from the Technical University of Budapest, such as the group of National Romanticists known as the “Young Ones” (Károly Kós, Dénes Györgyi, Dezső Zrumeczky, Béla Jánszky, Valér Mende, and others). Their architecture was influenced by Scandinavian National Romanticism (Eliel Saarinen and Lars Sonck) as well as by the English Arts and Crafts movement.
The first social building program of Budapest was initiated by Mayor István Bárczy in 1908. As the result, between 1909 and 1913, Budapest built 25 blocks of flats and 19 colonies of small family houses for 6,000 families in three cycles (Wekerle housing estate, a garden city of Budapest, 1912–13, by Károly Kós and others) as well as 55 public schools. The apartment block on Visegrádi Street (1910, Béla Málnai and Gyula Haász) shows the emerging neoclassicism before World War I that put an end to the dynamic development. The multinational Austro-Hungarian monarchy lost the war and broke up into small national states in 1919. The economy recovered slowly during the 1920s. With most architects and artists of the avant-garde working abroad, the early 1920s was a period of a conservative neobaroque and other revivalist tendencies. A new, functionalist aesthetics could only break through from 1929 on. The Hungarian CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) group, with Farkas Molnár, József Fischer, Pál Ligeti, and György Masirevich as its most significant members, was radical and politically engaged but could realize only a few large-scale projects, such as the housing development (1934) on Köztársaság Square. However, the group built a number of villas for reformminded individuals.
In the 1930s, Budapest’s architecture started to show the impact of Italian rationalism, such as the Church in Városmajor (1936, Aladár and Bertalan Árkay). The real breakthrough occurred around 1935, when a “domesticated” modernism, stripped bare of its social aims, became accepted by a large part of the population. Many apartment and office buildings represent a very high aesthetic and technical quality, such as the Atrium cinema and apartments (1936, Lajos Kozma), the Dunapark apartment building (1937, Béla Hofstätter and Ferenc Domány), and the Financial Center (1939, László Lauber and István Nyíri). In the early 1940s, two large working-class housing estates of detached houses were built in Angyalfōld and at Albertfalva, financed by the Social Security Fund.
World War II did not spare the city; the population, as well as housing, infrastructure, and economy, suffered enormous damages. Reconstruction work, which began immediately after the war, was a long process that included apartments being built on the lots of destroyed houses in Buda Castle by György Jánossy and by Zoltán Farkasdy (among others). In 1948 the Communist Party assumed power and introduced total state control over the production and distribution of goods, including housing. Now, urban and architectural planning took place exclusively in large, state-owned offices with hundreds of employees. During the 1950s, the development of large-scale industry was forced. The quality reached a higher level in works of the planning office IPARTERV, specialized for industrial buildings. An outstanding example of early postwar public building in the International Style was the Trade Union Headquarters (1949, Lajos Gádoros and others).
Between 1951 and 1953, the Communist Party forced the style of “socialist realism,” following Soviet models (People’s Stadium, 1953, Károly Dávid; Institute building “R” of the Technical University, 1955, Gyula Rimanóczy). In 1956 political oppression led to an uprising against Communism. The uprising was crushed by Soviet tanks, but the party was forced to begin a process of liberalization. Elements of a market economy were introduced in 1968. A large-scale building program to eliminate housing shortage had already been announced in 1960. Using traditional technology, housing estates of usually 2,000 flats were built in the inner residential zone. During the second half of the 1960s, four plants producing prefabricated building parts were set into operation, and housing estates of 10,000 flats were built in the transitory residential zone (Kispest, Budafok, Rákospalota, Békásmegyer, and Újpest). In the 1970s the peak decade of the housing production, the state built 105, 907 flats, or 65.7 percent of the whole production. However, both the quantity and the quality of output were met with public dissatisfaction, giving rise to a search for an organic language of architecture as represented by the internationally publicized buildings of Imre Makovecz (funerary chapel, Farkasrét Cemetery, 1977). Efforts were made, by using standardized designs, to satisfy the needs for kindergartens, schools, stores, public health facilities, and other services. In 1970 the Master School of Architects, an important forum for the exchange of ideas that was closed in the 1950s, was reorganized. Buildings such as the CHEMOLIMPEX Office Building (1964, Zoltán Gulyás), the DOMUS Furniture Store (1974, Peter Reimholz and Antal Lázár), the MEDICOR Office Building (1975, Zoltán Gulyás and Peter Reimholz), and the RADELKIS Office Building (1978, Antal Csákváry) are in line with international tendencies of the time. Sports facilities with ingenious structures were built, such as Spartacus Swimming Pool (1983, Ádám Sylvester). Public transportation was strengthened by opening the east-west (1974) and north-south (1984) Metro lines.
The process of significant economic and political change had already begun before the fall of Communism in 1989. Most of the large state-owned planning offices collapsed or became privatized. Foreign capital and international businesses have been moving to Budapest. Transforming 19th-century apartment blocks, banks are settling in the downtown area (ING Bank, 1994, Erick van Egeraat and MECANOO Architects), and high-tech office buildings, such as the Siemens Headquarters (1999, Péter Reimholz and Antal Lázár), give the capital a late 20th-century skyline, at least in its details. New ensembles are developing, such as the Graphisoft plant (1998, Ferenc Cságoly and Ferenc Keller). Shopping malls are introducing Americanstyle commercial architecture into the urban periphery. State-financed housing construction stopped, but private housing is on the rise. The reconstruction process of residential blocks of the inner city has started. Budapest has been developing from an industrial city into a tertiary economy city since the 1960s.
ATALIN MORAVÁNSZKY-GYÖNGY AND ÁKOS MORAVÁNSZKY
Sennott R.S. Encyclopedia of twentieth century architecture, Vol.1 (A-F). Fitzroy Dearborn., 2005.