Admiring Design Elements in Budapest
Budapest was created by the unification of Pest, Buda and Obuda on 17 November 1873. Since then, the Hungarian capital has absorbed many influences, from the Romans at the beginning of Christian era, the Huns in the 5th century, Germanic tribes during the age of migrations, to the Turks invasion, among others. Thanks to these historical backgrounds, Budapest is rich with artisan works and unique designs from architectural, interior, to decorative arts.
Below are highlights of those design marvels that we admired during our two-week visit.
Budapest is filled with spectacular palaces and magnificent architectural buildings. One of the most popular historical buildings is none other than The Hungarian Parliament Building, also known as the jewel of Danube River (the river that runs through the capital).
The landmark, surrounded by two other great architectural works, the Ethnographic Museum and the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture, was designed by Hungarian architect Imre Steindl, who won an international competition to land the project.
Completed in 1904, the building’s construction involved 100,000 people, 40 million bricks, half a million precious stones and 40 kilograms of gold. Built in the Gothic Revival style, the parliament building has a symmetrical facade and a central dome in a Renaissance Revival style. One of the renowned parts of the building is the hexadecagonal (16-sided) central hall with huge chambers adjoining it: the Lower House and the Upper house. We can also see the Holy Crown of Hungary that is depicted in the coat of arms of Hungary on display in this central hall. Hungarian artisan stained glass and mosaics work by Miksa Roth can also be found here.
Speaking of historical splendour, one simply can’t miss St. Stephen’s Basilica, which was built to honour of Stephen, the first King of Hungary (975-1038). Built in the Neoclassical style, the church was completed in 1905 by Jozsef Kauser according to the plans of Miklos Ybl. It has a Greek cross ground plan where the facade is anchored by two large bell towers. This basilica is without a doubt, one of the most fascinating neoclassical landmarks that we have witnessed in terms of size, height and grandeur.
There is another unique historical architectural on the Buda bank of the Danube called Fisherman’s Bastion (1895 and 1902), a terrace that blends neo-Gothic and neo-Romanesque styles following the plans of architect Frigyes Schulek. With all its seven towers that represent the seven Magyar tribes who live in the Carpathian Basin, this terrace was once protected by the fisherman’s guild and hence the name.
Behind this bastion lies Matthias Church, the coronation venue of the last two Hungarian Habsburg kings, Franz Joseph (1867) and Charles IV (1916). History has it that this church was originally built in Romanesque style in 1015, although no archaeological remains exist. The current building was constructed in the Late Gothic style in the 14th century. Its famous diamond pattern roof tiles and gargoyles-laden spires were added by Frigyes Schulek during the restoration in 1873. The beautiful pulpit of the church features statues carved by Ferenc Mikula with the abat-voix by Karoly Ruprich.
Matthias Church is home to the Ecclesiastical Art Museum, along with a number of sacred relics and medieval stone carvings, replicas of the Hungarian royal crown and coronation jewels.
Budapest is also known for its magnificent synagogues, including the world’s second largest, Dohany Street Synagogue (1854-1859). Designed by Viennese architect Ludwig Forster, the synagogue was built in the Moorish Revival style, with decorations inspired by North African Islamic motifs and medieval Spain (the Alhambra). It is also the only synagogue in the world known to have pipe organs and a cemetery.
The interior was partly created by Hungarian romantic architect Frigyes Feszl. He created coloured and golden geometric shapes of the Torah-ark and the internal frescoes.
Palace highlights in the city include The Royal Palace at the Buda Castle complex and the Gresham Palace. The latter is now a Four Seasons’ property. One unique castle that caught our attention is the Vajdahunyad Castle in the City Park of Budapest.
Built in 1896 by Ignac Alpar, the castle features style copies of several landmark buildings from the Kingdom of Hungary, combining various architectural styles from Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. The Vajdahunyad Castle was built as part of the Millennial Exhibition to celebrate 1,000 years of Hungary and today, it houses the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture.
Budapest is also home to many great contemporary marvels. Hungarian designers and business owners like to do an out-of-the-box approach and give an existing landmark a new function. One example is A38, a former Ukrainian stone-carrier ship.
The new owner dragged the ship all the way from Ukraine to Budapest. Agave it a major reconstruction to be a cultural centre with a restaurant, nightclub, bar, and a concert venue where many famous artists and bands have performed.
A similar approach can be seen in Szimpla Kert - the first ruin pub in Budapest that was originally opened in 2004. Its story began when the four owners saw a dilapidated area in the Jewish Quarter, where homes and a stove factory were set to be demolished. The four decided to transform the area and open a pub and open-air cinema.
Szimpla Kert is famous for its extreme eclectic design featuring colourful lights, mural graffiti, ancient-looking computer monitors and TVs on the walls, a bathtub split in half and converted into a makeshift seating area, and more.
Following the spirit of repurposing a venue is the Budapest Art Factory. Founded in 2006 by Marta Kucsora, Dora Juhasz and Sandor Szasz, Budapest Art Factory is a contemporary visual arts centre located in an ex-turbine factory. It has six separate art studios for artist residence and an exhibition space. The lofty ceiling and ample natural light in the industrial ambience really work well in bringing about a contemporary feel.
There are still countless of remarkable architectural landmarks in Budapest that have outstanding design approaches and principals such as the beautiful Deak Ferenc Ter (Budapest Metro), Hungarian State Opera House, The Ludwig Museum, Great Market Hall, and Keleti Palyaudvar (Eastern Railway Terminus). We can truly say that Budapest is a great destination for all of you who are interested in design.