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Budapest, Artificial Rock Reconstruction 2010

The Great Rock - originally built between 1909 and 1912 - is one of the earliest and largest artificial rocks with reinforced concrete structure in the word; it reproduces the formations of a limestone mountain with a dolomite summit, actually existing in Transylvania. It was regarded as the most innovative solution for a zoo at that time; and it still provides a plausible background setting for the modernized enclosures of the animals. The primary purpose of creating the rock was to increase the size of the garden that has constantly been struggling with the lack of space; and thanks to the amoeboid layout, the Great Rock has been fulfilling this role ever since. Around the area, a line of special pavilions with different architectural styles were raised (Arts and Crafts, Transylvanian folk architecture, Secession, and Romantic style with exotic influence).
Making use of the spaces inside the Great Rock as an exhibition area for a zoological museum was the dream of Adolf Lendl (creator of the modern Budapest Zoo, director 1911-29); but a century has passed until the idea could be realized.
By utilizing the interior of the rock, the Zoo gains several thousands of square meters of new exhibition area, allowing for hosting a great number of cultural programs, events and conferences as well. The special characteristics of the interior - e.g. the unusual ambiance of the spatial structure and the lack of natural illumination – call for special functions utilizing these features; or can necessitate a dedicated design for the intended functions. In addition to the interior constructions of the Great Rock, plans have been made for restoring most of the remarkable building ensemble once sorrounding the area. The architectural program for rebuilding the Buffalo House and the Jewish House according to the original plans of Kós and Zrumetzky has already been completed; the reconstruction of the buildings will be realized in more phases.
In the exhibition halls of the Great Rock, visitors can meet special species, “magical rarities” of the wildlife: a unique and spectacular presentation of the extraordinary life forms ever appearing on Earth, of the evolution of life and its amazing richness. An exhibition system unique in Central Europe, with modern exhibition technology, discovering and lecturing halls, giant animal models, and opportunities for exploring the micro world; interactive adventures and games; and live animal shows also await the visitors.

Péter Kis, Bea Molnár, Péter Nyitrai, Tamás Ükös
Physical model by Limesmodel
Photo by Norbert Juhász

The Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden was opened for the public in 1866, and has undergone two dramatic changeovers during the last hundred years. From 1907 to 1912, the completely outdated facility was fundamentally reconstructed; then, after nearly 90 years of “use”, a longer process has started: over an about 25-years period, the Garden had been almost completely renovated, upgraded, and reconstructed according to modern zoo standards.
In the comprehensive renewal program, several architect studios were commissioned for the different projects; our studio’s first task was to prepare the plans for the Katta Monkey House in fall 1993. This first commission was followed by a number of increasingly complex tasks: after designing several pavilions, reconstructions, and renewals, we had the opportunity to prepare the reconstruction plans of the Great Rock, and the plans for the intended Zoological Museum in the interior of the rock. The reconstruction and expansion works of the zoo buildings received the ICOMOS Prize in 2009.
Over this 20-years cooperation period, our studio has prepared reconstruction and renovation plans, and original concepts and designs for the following projects:

  • House of the Katta Monkeys
  • Bonsai Pavilion
  • Night Garden
  • Japanese Garden reconstruction and Meditation Pavilion
  • Cave Cinema and the Small Rock (Kisszikla)
  • Main Entrance Building reconstruction and extension
  • Monkey-house reconstruction (Bambi House, House of Small Rodents, Squirrel House)
  • Giraffe House reconstruction
  • Great Rock (Nagyszikla): plan, model No.1, No.2, No.3
  • Owl Castle, Vivarium, Otter House, Dairy Hall, Bison House