Architecture / Interior /

Hungary’s Ambassador on Beautiful Things

HE Judit Neméth-Pach is the youngest ambassador in town–as well as a lover of contemporary design, from fashion to the hippest modern areas in her homeland of Hungary. Her exquisite style was on display in a well-curated outfit when we interviewed Németh-Pach about contemporary Hungarian art and design in her official residence, which is tucked away in the embassy’s compound in Kuningan, Jakarta.

Photo by Christian Razukas and Bagus Tri Laksono

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Judit Németh-Pach, Hungary’s ambassador to Indonesia, was wearing an exquisite long black silk skirt with butterflies and a floral pattern that was taken from famous Hungarian porcelain designs. The 34-year-old, the youngest ambassador in Jakarta and the youngest envoy in Hungary’s foreign service, has a reputation for vogue. In Kuningan, she lives in one of five homes on the lush grounds of the embassy.

“It’s green. I love it, especially because it is located in the centre of Jakarta, where it is hard to find green space,” the ambassador says.

Entering the compound, immediately visible is an immense banyan tree planted in the early 1980s by the residence’s caretaker, Sutarjo, who also kindly helped Indonesia Design during the photo shoot. It’s part of the greenery that stretches out to the side of the building. However, the foliage wasn’t always there. The green view behind the ambassador’s living room used to be a badminton court, which was leveled in the 1990s to make room for trees.

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Németh-Pach’s official residence is a bastion-style building that was built in the late 1970s by a Hungarian architect, along with the embassy’s formal building. In 1980, the building was handed over to the staff. Today the ambassador uses the residence to hold diplomatic dinners.

Entering the house, a dining area on the right side is decorated with pieces from the world-famous Hungarian porcelain brand Herend. Founded in 1826 in the town of the same name, Herend Porcelain Manufactory specialises in luxurious hand painted and gilded items, from dinner sets to decorative objects to figurines. The residence several series of rare Herend pieces, some signed by the makers, that include a tea set and dinner set, as well as three vases in the dining room, sitting on a 19th-century-style Hungarian made cabinet. “Herend is a classic,” Németh-Pach says, referring to the brand by its proper Hungarian name. “It’s a luxury to collect them and the classic butterflies-and-flowers pattern are still in production until today.

In homage to the famous pattern, the ambassador said that her long black skirt, made by a Hungarian designer, Sugarbird, combines porcelain patterns and fashion–a literal depiction of contemporary design in Hungary.

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At the corner of the dining room, one can spot an eosin-based iridescent bowl and sculpture made by another legendary Hungarian brand, Zsolnay. The pieces change colours when viewed from different angles. Zsolnay began production in the early 20th-century in Pécs, Hungary, and its pieces were a favourite of the Art Nouveau era.

“They also have special pattern of swirls. Today, the colours are not just [traditional] green. This eosin glaze can be found in red, purple, and blue,” Németh-Pach says. Hanging from the crown-moulding ceiling are two crystal chandeliers that are coupled with identical wall candle lights above the twin Herend vases, creating a symmetrical feel.

Walking towards the living room, an exquisite dark brown panelled stairway with identical retro-style balustrades adds interest without detracting from the wood.

Across the seating area is an iconic bronze of the poet Sandor Petofi done by the Hungarian sculptor and artist Zsigmond Kisfaludi Strobl. The ambassador said that during in the early 1960, Indonesia’s founding president, Soekarno, purchased several of Strobl creations, including, as can be expected, a figure of a woman titled “The Birth of Venus” and a bronze titled “Archer”. Both currently reside in the Bogor and Merdeka presidential palaces, respectively.

Németh-Pach says that Hungary today has more modern design, from sculptures to architecture, especially in Budapest. Among noteworthy pieces are a Christmas tree by wood sculptor HelloWood and a sculpture, comprising 60 pairs of old shoes, that commemorates the Holocaust, devised by Can Togay and Gula Pauer on the banks of the Danube.

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“Modern art is everywhere in Budapest today. In some places you can meet everyone, from the artist to experts to students in one place,” she says, describing the famous Budapest ruin pub Szimpla.

A vegan for the last three years, Németh-Pach does not see her diet as a hindrance, adding that many places in Budapest serve food from fresh ingredients, from pad Thai with homemade special sauce to plant-based hamburgers. “It’s all fusion and this has made become a mix of classic and modern for art, food, and architecture.”

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