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Budapest, József Attila Theatre Competition 2nd Prize 2005

budapest, jozsef attila theatre - competition  2nd prize

"Raise our hearts! They belong to the one, who raises them."
Our basic considerations during the planning process were as follows:

  • protecting and highlighting the existing values (both intellectual and material) of the Theater
  • creating an iconic building - exterior appearance, interior spaces, spirit
  • a generous design for the external appearance, approach areas and surrounding outdoor areas of the Theater
  • meeting the requirements of a modern Theater with optimized functionality
Detailed explanation of the basic considerations:
Protection of the values
Spiritual values
The József Attila Theater is the only cultural institution in the area. With strong presence, it has to overcome the impulses - consumption, rush, indifference - of the sorrounding city. It is a meeting place that slows down and welcomes visitors. It provides warmth and nurture, like a mom.
Material values
It was a very important decision that the method of intervention is not the demolition and reconstruction of the existing building, but renovation and expansion. This way, the place can carry on the existing values and have a history - not just virtually, presented on pictures; but within the walls of the building, in reality. It is necessary to examine the values that are transmittable to the new building in detail. At the same time, the new building cannot be merely a patchwork of the old one; at the end of the reconstruction it has to become a complete, individual unit, carrying the values of old and new alike.
Keeping the existing values
When designing the new structures, our main consideration was to apply systems that ensure - based on the examination of the environment - the most flexible solutions. E.g. the underground floor levels were determined above the groundwater level to achieve significant reduction in the construction costs of the structures.
As a reference, during the design process we continuously compared our plan with the characteristics of another important theater of Budapest (Vígszínház). We analyzed how the building should respond to the sorrounding environment (speed, traffic, elements of the built environment), how it should guide visitors.
Exterior appearance
In the evening, the building is visually prominent in its surroundings, and has a worthy appearance in the daytime as well. At any time of the day: it attracts attention, invites in and welcomes people. The way of shaping, the high quality materials and spatial connections make up a generous building.
Indoor spaces
The most important areas of the interior are the lobby and the theater area. Their form and spatial arrangement identify the inner character of the theater. The relation between the lobby and the outdoor spaces is also an important element of the concept. Through the double glass acoustic wall, the sight of the crowd gathering before the play is perceived by the flowing traffic of Robert Károly körút as a film.
Spirit of the theater
The spirit of the building is fundamentally determined by the relationship between old and new, whether in regard of materials, shapes, or technical solutions.
Several slabs of the stone cladding on the façade overlooking Róbert Károly körút are changed to glass to provide adequate lighting – the quality of the interconnection and coexistence of the two materials is essential. We didn’t want to cite architectural gestures or build a retro. We wanted to raise a coherent building, a worthy home for the Theater.
The theater is comfortably approachable from the main traffic junction and from all other directions as well.
Adjoining outdoor spaces
The most important decision was to create a gap between the two buildings; this way, the theater can exist as an individual, separate building, and not as an extension. The well designed, peaceful, intimate public square is a valuable addition to the neighborhood. Looking at the wider environment, there is no opportunity for sitting down on a city square - that is, not in a park -, between houses, under trees. This place can function as a meeting place, an agora throughout the day.
For the functional design, examining the existing values was essential. Everything that we considered to be best at its original location was left in place, saving significant costs. The existing elements were classified into three categories: areas already with appropriate function; areas needing some alteration for appropriate function; and areas to be deconstructed. During the functional design, the public spaces for the audience, the technical service areas, and the different access ways of the various functions of the building were entirely separated. At the same time, we aimed to provide sufficient room for the audience and the theater professionals to meet after the play: the participants of the theater’s life can get together in the lobby.
/excerpts from the architectural description/

Péter Kis, Csaba Valkai
Visualization by: Csaba Valkai