Pannonhalma Benedictine Archabbey – Reception Building and Forest Road

Location: Pannonhalma, Kosaras domb

Date of completion: 2004

Senior architects: SKARDELLI György, LÁZÁR Ferenc

Interior designers: PLACHTOVICS Vilmos, MÁRKUS Gábor

Landscape designer: HAVASSY Gabriella


The Archabbey has also been reached by the new global “mi­gration”, i.e. mass tourism in the late 20th century. This world heritage site is one of the earliest buildings of Christianity in Hungary, which was extended through the centuries. It is still functioning today, attracting more and more visitors, whose reception was not properly organized at the Archabbey. The new situation practically demanded the construction of a new building, to provide civilized premises for the new functions from the viewpoint of the visitors and the Archabbey alike.

Earlier, tourist buses and cars arrived at the parking lot on Kosaras domb (Basket Hill). Visitors left their cars along Highway 180/1 and walked up to the main entrance of the Archabbey on an 80 to 90 centimetre wide strip, marked by painting on the roadside. The situation was not only inappropriate, but also very dangerous. The chaotic stalls of the ticket office and souvenir vendors at the main entrance of the Archabbey were also unworthy of the place. A development concept was drawn up in 1993 in order to explore and solve the problems and a tourism management plan was prepared in 1998. The latter was approved by the National Tourism Board in 1999. Subsequently, KÖZTI was commissioned to design a new reception building, as the next actor in the series of events.

The new building is located southeast to the parking area, along the main road, by the initial straight section of the road to the Archabbey. Visitors enter the ground floor – with a cash desk, a cash exchange machine, an information desk and a travel agency – and there is a group of toilets for 100 persons, a cloakroom and staff rooms at the basement. The exhibition hall, the souvenir and gift shop are located on the first floor. Visitors can learn about the internal life of the Archabbey from a slide show in the auditorium on the second floor. At the end of this fixed line of functions, visitors arrive to the main entrance through a pedestrian bridge over the highway and continuing on a walkway, ascending the steep wooded slope of the hill. The walkway, raised from the ground and supported by short pillars, meanders through the woods, not only eliminating the danger of accidents, but also creating a special atmosphere for meditation and reflection in order to be prepared for the experience of the abbey.

The building’s relationship with the Archabbey – beyond meeting the required functions – is also symbolical. The size and the significance of the two buildings are quite different. Still, the new building has an important role to play, since it is the first building, where the visitors arrive. Accordingly, it was a fundamental architectural idea to create an “object-like” ó block, where the building and the bridge appear as an organic unit, clearly indicating for the visitors that they enter a different world. The exterior and the interior of the building is characterized by the use of durable materials: stone, metal, glass and concrete. The light coloured limestone with matte finish in the exterior and the rough monolithic concrete surface in the interior diffuse the feeling of timelessness, befitting the reception building of a 1100 year old building complex. Glass, with its water-clear material, appearing in the cracks of the stone-faced wall, is a major component. Smooth metal appears as the frame and the mullions of the glass structure on the elevation and as inlays penetrating the stone facing. The solemnity of the interior is emphasized by the natural concrete surface, delicately relieved by the wood of the furniture and the skirting. The four major materials are complemented by the hardwood of the bridge parapet and the natural beams of its pavement.