Budapest 100 – 26-27 April, 2014; organised by the Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre
(also known as KÉK), for the fourth time.
It was the first time I attended the event, following the suggestion of my friends, and based on my experiences, I can say it is not just for a select few thoroughly immersed in architecture and urban studies and the like, but it offers a great opportunity for people simply intrigued by what the city they live in looks like from a slightly different perspective: from that of houses built a century ago.
The basic concept is, as one can suppose from the telling title, to put on display hundred-year-old buildings. However, if we give it a few minutes to look after exactly, we discover the programme welcomes all buildings the construction of which is any way connected to a hundred years before the current one.
As one could come by basically all the necessary and interesting pieces information on the website, I wouldn’t want to focus on that. On a similar note, I have to add that the organisers did a fairly good job attracting attention to the event and providing useful supplements such as detailed maps containing all the participants, and this impression of mine was further strengthened when I saw how many people have participated – either as visitors, or volunteers, showing them around.
So, on to the houses themselves.
We had planned to visit about five or six of them, ideally, out of which we managed to do about three after me thoroughly being late for the meet-up, others finding the pace too fast, and so on. Nevertheless, I think it was pretty successful trip.
To start with, we headed for 14 Ferenczy István str., in the heart of the city. There, it was apparent that it the programme didn’t end with merely putting the places on display, but it always included an introduction of some sort, either by a guide or plenty of visuals placed on the walls (or even both), to make the visitor familiar with what they are actually looking at. Besides a collection of old photographs showing the then-contemporary fashion of the ladies, we were told that this house was built by the parents of the second wife of poor Antal Horger, whose name might instantly ring a bell as the malicious and mediocre professor commemorated in one of Attila József’s most famous poems, but less so as an excellent linguist and academic. We can also learn he was nearly shot to death by his wife.
As for the building itself, I can only take on a highly impressionistic view, as I have absolutely nothing to do with architecture, but as I said in the beginning, and as it can be seen by the variety of activities and extras offered, this isn’t mainly concerned with architecture but with culture and its appreciation. However, I really loved the atmosphere of the staircase with its old-fashioned fences and yellow-tinted windows, the sun shining through which made me feel as if I had been in an aquarium.
Staying in close proximity, it is 30 Veres Pálné str. that we approached next. We immediately stumbled into a nice-sized crowd and a commentator of whom we unfortunately didn’t hear that much. In addition of its being close, we arrived here in the hope of catching a bit of the promised chimney pastry (‘kürtőskalács’) which wasn’t yet ready at the time. Anyway, the organisers were giving out some food and drinks, and it was really refreshing to see that people here didn’t act as one might have expected them, and were almost reluctant to take from them. I, personally also like how the pace of normal life seemed to get on well with the event, and how you could actually catch a glimpse from it:
The last destination was a quite famous one, maybe one you would want to stay out of as a civilian: 16 Markó str. is the address of the Palace of Justice (‘Kúria’), which houses the Supreme Court, the Budapest Court of Appeals and Hungary’s principal judicial body. After having been examined for weapons and the like at the entry, we were guided through the whole building and given historical and a bit of behind the scenes-type of information, following which you could do a quiz for presents. (We did not.) The interesting part was that you could actually participate in the audience of some mock hearings, and get an idea how tough and humiliating it can be to stand there, also, what mental efforts it requires to be a successful professional of law. The visit was certainly very informative and thought-provoking, and I wouldn’t like to enter the place again.
by Galambosi Dóra