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“Heart of Budapest” Competition 2006

heart of budapest competition - model photos

We prepared an architectural and urban design proposal for the suggested developments.
Suggestion I - proposal for the entire area, examining the system of public areas of the city center
Our study starts with the unfolding of six basic ideas:
1. The Protected City
The Podmaniczky Plan clearly defines the parameters of a livable, pleasant city center. It provides the opportunity to create a district with reduced traffic, contributing to a downtown less busy and jammed, more in line with the scale of the Belváros. Underground parking garages along Károly körút and the river banks of the Danube allow the approach of the downtown and leaving the cars behind; while the axis starting at Kálvin tér and crossing the city center makes the residential areas and the public facilities of science, education, art, and city administration easily available for both employees and local residents. The downtown can be a peaceful island in the everyday life of a vibrant city, without giving up the character defined by its scale and diverse roles.
2. The City Axis
Reviewing the urban development plans of the past centuries makes it clear that the city council has never had the courage to carry out the ever occurring idea. The realization of the city axis would reveal the city from Kálvin tér to the heart of Lipótváros, while explaining and validating the arrangement and concept of Szabadság tér. How can the city axis appear in the Belváros these days? As a traffic channel wider than Váci utca, supported by public transport (city bus), and connecting a series of orientation points (Kálvin tér, Egyetem tér, Ferenciek tér, Városház tér, Erzsébet tér, Szabadság tér).
3. The Split Downtown
Currently, the downtown is divided by Kossuth Lajos utca - the huge traffic with only one pedestrian crossing makes a real connection between the two areas impossible. Technically, the incoming traffic from the BAH junction should be assorted to reduce the traffic of Kossuth Lajos utca to a two-lane road. With the ceasing of the public bus line (or switching to tram), the widening of the sidewalks, planting of tree lines, and with more pedestrian crossings the two areas could reconnect.
4. The bank of the Danube
The sunshine conditions of this section of the bank of the Danube are the most favorable in the whole city. We suggest directing the vehicle traffic underground and creating a promenade (Duna korzó) on the surface. This solution would nicely fit in with the lines of restaurants and cafes along Belgrád rakpart, and the hotels located on the bank between Roosevelt tér and Erzsébet híd. The promenade would adjoin the park at the Mátyás Pince (Mátyás Cellar), complemented with a new underground parking garage.
5. Development of Károly körút
As an important route exploring the city center, Károly körút should be reconstructed for mixed traffic: as a boulevard, lined with shady trees.
6. The role of the City Wall (Városfal)
The old City Wall defined the outline of the Belváros, the curves of the smoothly bending streets, the scale and proportions of the residential blocks. The wall itself has almost completely disappeared: there is only one section visible in a wall of a residential building at Karolyi kert, and it appears in the pavement of Váci utca. In our opinion, because of the impact it had on today's urban structure, the old city wall system is definitely worth presenting in some way.
Suggestion II - proposal for the priority area, three sites in more detail
1. Városház tér (City Hall tér)
According to the ideas in the first chapter, it is certainly desirable to integrate the City Hall (Városháza) to the city axis. This can be achieved by creating Városház tér to grant the main façade of the City Hall a proper accent and position. The bulk of Szervita templom (Szervita Church) complemented with a new grove would provide the north façade of the square. A 3-story underground parking garage is planned to be built for local residents, and for employees and guests of the City Hall.
2. Városháza - The City Hall
The City Hall's block needs to fit into a dual-scale urban structure: it has to conform to the scale of the historical Pest within the old City Wall and to the vibrating modern city around it. According to our plans, this can be achieved by creating the new, open block structure and Városház tér.
To overcome the contradictions caused by the protruding wings of the current building, we plan to deconstruct them – this would result in a functionally clear scenario: a compact City Hall block and a building plot of appropriate size.
3. Erzsébet tér
The two possible approaches for Erzsébet tér and the Gödör are:
The Old Park
There is a brief, easy answer to the question: eventually, the trees will grow up and provide a façade for the square. Anyway, Erzsébet tér is beautiful as it is: there is no reason to worry. Patience. The Füvészkert-analogy
The city is “dense” here. Under current conditions, the square can’t satisfy the needs arising from the wide variety of activities. This place has to be vibrant day and night – and primarily not from architecture but from life. Architectural elements must not be more prominent here than a greenhouse in Füvészkert (renown city garden in the VIII. District); they should be present in a subtle and elegant way, and by no means with the intention to entertain or amuse.
/excerpts from the architectural description/

Péter Kis, Csaba Valka, Tamás Ükös
Visualization by: Tamás Ükös

The general aim of the competition announced by the Capital was the revival of the Belváros - the downtown center of Budapest -, primarily by the renewal of the public areas and by creating a network of “attractive places” for citizens and tourist. The competition also sought answers and proposals for the future of the City Hall's unfinished building complex; for integrating the giant block into the sorrounding urban texture; and creating an outdoor spatial structure around it, serving communal and cultural functions.
Plans and a model were prepared and submitted for the competition.