The spectacular renewal of buildings erected in the past few decades is a new trend in contemporary architecture. Obviously this does not mean that the architectural products of the Kadar-era suddenly were raised among the well know objects of Hungarian art history. These objects badly needed and need renovation and reconstruction, since due to poor manufacturing procedures, due to lack of good quality building materials these houses rapidly lost their novelty, became ugly and obsolete.
Even if the design cast on paper was original and interesting, when it was – the original ideas were covered by boring.
That is why sometimes the value and the beauty of certain houses built in the 30s and in the 40s are only discoved after they are properly renovated. This was very much the case with the block of flats in Szemlőhegyi street. The object was designed by ÁÉTI (a state owned design “institute”) between 1968 and 1972. The three story real estate was by no means considered to be one of the remarkable objects of the Budapest’s most prominent district (Rózsadomb)- it was just one of the usual block buildings of the 70s lacking any special characteristics.
Although the building’s mass in itself was not bad, quite the contrary, it was really modern in fact. Its shape was defined by three blocks tightly pushed together, which were connected by a spacious hall and stairway inside. The floors in the three blocks are shifted by one third level compared to each other, therefore there were practically 9 different floors in the house, each floor following the previous on with only slight elevation. The shifted blocks combined with wide terraces created a pleasantly tagolt mass.
The task given to the architects was to renovate the building so that the building’s quality would be improved while reserving its original values that were more or less hidden in it previous form. The only fundamental change implemented was that three additional flats were added to the previous nine ones, however that did not alter the buildingâ019s mass significantly, – since one of the three flats was built in the place of the former garage area and the lost parking places were replaced by a newly build underground parking facility which utilized possibilities of the sloping hillside lot. And there were to penthouse like apartments created on the top of the building, these luxury apartments feature full panoramic view, due to the spacious terraces surrounding these apartments the addition of these two extra flats result in only subtle changes in the building’s general appearance.
The outside of the building became more homogeneous, bricks and wood panels that used to cover the building were removed of course this was primarily a cost saving opportunity for the commissioner. The combination of off-white, dark red and gray was used inside and outside, this principle was strictly followed through to the finest details.
When we enter the building we are pleasantly surprised by entrance hall and the staircase, which looks like a serpentine, wide and rounded it is somewhat in contrast to the strict angular forms used outside.
Thanks to the thorough and meticulous design, the necessary compromises were found, and an elegantly understated house was created from the previous boring block of flats.
Text: Bori Bacsó
Architects: Arpad Ferdinand, Csaba Ferdinand, Ferdinand and Ferdinand Architects
Location: Szemlohegy st. Budapest, Hungary
Total Area: 1250 m2
Project team: Arpad Ferdinand, Csaba Ferdinand,
Landscape design: Kati Zentai
General contractor: Schilling
Design phase: 2004-2005
Construction Phase: 2005–2006
Photographs: Istvan Oravecz