Location: Budapest V., VIII., IX. kerület
Date of completion: 2012
Architect: SKARDELLI György
Associate architects: BORBÉLY András, CSÍZY László, GÁSPÁR László, PETRI Dávid
Tájépítészek: MOHÁCSI Sándor, BALOGH Péter István (S73 Kft.)
The construction of Metro Line 4 generated changes above ground level all over the city. After the design tendering process, the winning bidder Főmterv Zrt commissioned KÖZTI’s architect György Skardelli to design the above ground layout and the new image of Kálvin Square. In terms of urban architecture, one of the major changes took place along the Kiskörút (Small Boulevard) section between Astoria and the Pest end of Liberty Bridge at Fővám Square. Kálvin Square is a major important element in this row of urban squares. Kálvin Square has developed through several centuries outside the Kecskemét Gate of the historic town centre. It is located where the highway from Kecskemét joins the city centre. Close to the river transport facilities on the Danube, the market place developed gradually during the rise of the burghers and it was upgraded to an urban square.
In the 19th century, the importance of Kálvin Square was established by the Hungarian National Museum and the neighbouring aristocratic Palace District. Residential buildings were built in the vicinity of the reformed church on the square, including some houses designed by Miklós Ybl. The square and the surrounding rows of buildings were badly damaged by World War II. There were vacant lots around the square for a long time after the ruins had been demolished. Vehicle traffic had gradually increased and the last blow was the construction of Metro Line 3, when the pedestrians were permanently forced underground and had to use the passages.
The square was in a very poor condition. Walking around the square, the sight was terrible and you were lucky, if you did not tumble over some street furniture or plant container, or you were not hit by a car. And this area could not have been defined as a square in terms of urban architecture either: the pedestrians were forced to use the underground passages and it was impossible to walk through the square above ground. The former market place in front of the city gate and the later urban square decorated with an ornate fountain had been gradually downgraded to a traffic junction during the post-war decades.
Designing began with the reconsideration of the square. A new concept had to be developed after completely clearing up the area, taking the new traffic system into consideration – the five-way junction of the square was to be reduced to four ways and Mikszáth Square and Kecskeméti Street were to be connected with a new pedestrian axis. The concept was based on establishing an urban square. The completely cleared area could take on the character of a real downtown square again. It was enlarged by some areas taken back from the vehicle traffic and from the “green islands”, providing complete freedom for the pedestrians to walk across the square without obstacles and barriers. The freely accessible paved areas allow the shops and cafe terraces on the ground floor of the surrounding buildings to move out onto the square. The pedestrians can walk around, change directions and look around or even assemble. The square can be reconquered by the citizens, the pedestrians, the strollers, the window-shoppers, the guests of restaurant and cafe terraces or those who are just waiting for someone. New meetingpoints can be established, facilitated by the several hundred metres long specially shaped cast stone benches along the green areas.
The map of the historic Downtown and the tracing of the Kiskörút (Small Boulevard) are evoked by the K-shaped flagstones of the uniform pavement. This unique pavement, consisting of concave and convex elements, continues as far as Fővám Square and Károly Boulevard through Astoria. The intended uniformity is reinforced by the row of lamp posts, coordinated with the character of the surrounding historic buildings. The lamp posts took over the function of all those other posts above ground level, which had been removed from the square. The number of the stairs leading to the pedestrian subway was reduced, reasonably placed and protected from the rain by peculiarly shaped steel and glass roofs. These unique elements clearly mark the way down to the subway on the one hand and provide a kind of transition between the protected world of the subway and the open-air on the other hand. The vegetation of the square consists of some old trees, smaller trees planted in mobile containers and planting in raised areas, surrounded by benches.