Reconstructions usually generate huge debates all over the world, let them be national historic monuments, old industrial buildings out of use, or outdated buildings built in the past 70 years. Several historic buildings were reconstructed in the past decade in Budapest, such as the Castle Garden Bazaar, the Eiffel Art Studios, or different industrial buildings which had lost their original function after the fall of the communist regime and became almost totally dilapidated. According to Középülettervező Zrt. (KÖZTI), the number of reconstructions greatly increased in the past 15-20 years, not only in Hungary, but internationally as well.
Challenges of reconstructions
Reconstructions are not only the rebirths of historic monuments, real estate developers also consider them trendy. Many of the buildings, built in the past 70 years, have become outdated and have to be refurbished. This is one of the reasons of the great number of reconstructions today, though, owing to their low social esteem, many of these buildings are demolished. Reconstructions have to meet many criteria, from the requirements of the developer through social expectations to the latest heritage protection and cityscape regulations. A reconstruction is not simply a renovation, but it is also the creation of a contemporary piece of architecture, which requires a thorough knowledge of historic architecture and a deep empathy from the architect.
According to the basic principles of reconstruction in the modern era, the old and the new are not mixed, they should be easily distinguished. An excellent example for this is the Castle Garden Bazaar, where the originally missing elements have been designed in a modern style, with up-to-date technical solutions. The open-air theatre, built in the dry moat under the curtain wall, or the elevator booth to the battlements have been born as part of the reconstruction design. This principle is well demonstrated at the GTC White House office complex as well, where the historic former Schlick factory building is surrounded by the new block but it is never overwhelmed by it, despite its size.
Treasures of the nation
Naturally, the greatest attention is paid to the reconstuctions of historically famous buildings. Unfortunately, there is no professional consensus in Hungary, even in the basic principles – says Zoltán Tima. Leading architect of KÖZTI, he believes that our most important historic buildings are national treasures, valuable parts of the national heritage and utilitarian interests should not be considered regarding their reconstruction. The architect has to find the golden mean between the technical, architectural and spiritual aspects. An example for this is the reconstruction of Kossuth Lajos Square, in front of the Parliament, which has become one of the most unified important urban squares in Europe. The design redefined the function of the square, restored the historic hierarchy between its different parts and established the dominance of pedestrian traffic. An important aspect of the reconstruction design was the use of building materials from the historic Great Hungary area.
Historic industrial building transformed into an art center
Largest historic industrial building of Hungary, the Eiffel Hall was one of the most important sanctums of Hungarian railway history, 96 locomotives could be repaired there at the same time. It has been converted into the Eiffel Art Studios, new workshop, storage and rehearsal centre of the Hungarian State Opera House. It was a great challenge for the architects to accommodate new functions in the historic buildings. A very exciting space has been created in the Eiffel Hall, which pays respects to its past: there is a historic steam locomotive in the middle of the hall, one of the two existing of this type, coupled to a period dining car of the Orient Express, surrounded by some of the old rails. The Eiffel Art Studios has a rehearsal stage as big as the stage of the Opera, a studio theatre with 400 seats and – among many other functions – a huge, specially constructed stage set storage area. The breathtaking reconstruction will be opened for the public soon, the official opening has been postponed owing to the pandemic.
Real estate development trends
Participants of the real estate market have also discovered the possibilities offered by reconstruction, the boom of the service industries has visible effect on urban development. Reconstructed more than 15 years ago, the Dorottya Court had been built as a warehouse for military clothing and – after several changes of function – it has been converted into an ultra modern office building. It is especially important as the first example in the Budapest rust belt to demonstrate that historic factory architecture in Hungary is worthy to preserve for the 21st century.