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Székesfehérvár, National Memorial Competition 2009

To prepare a development concept that is – in our opinion - worthy of the National Memorial of Székesfehérvár, we composed our plan around five interrelated principles.

1. The Celebration (The Significance)
The National Memorial of Székesfehérvár is one of our most significant national sites: one of the fundaments of our history; the scene of coronations and burial place of Hungarian kings; a setting for celebration and commemoration at the same time. At present, it is not possible to express this importance appropriately, to show honor and pay tribute - either as an everyday act of commemoration or as a special anniversary Celebration.
Our plan offers the opportunity of a relatable experience and provides an appropriate setting for special events as well. The cultural facilities of the area, establishing together the Cultural Center of the National Memorial, also contribute to the concept. Every architectural intervention - both at the site and in the surrounding buildings - must be of artistic quality; the whole building complex with all its details must communicate the importance of the site.
2. The excavation and protection of the Ruins
After finishing the archeological excavation of the whole area, finds will be exhibited in the Museum bordering the Romkert (the Ruin Garden), and the ruins will be conserved on site.

3. The scale of the City
The National Memorial is of special importance. The architectural interventions required by this fact on the site impact the whole city. No one can question the architectural gestures of Andrássy út or Hősök tere in Budapest: these large-scale urban projects have contributed to highlighting the ideas they want to express. The method of intervention should grant adjustability to the urban structure, while maintaining the existing gestures and traffic lines of the city.
An important element of setting the Romkert into the urban context is the integration of the line of houses bordering the site into the complex. This simple move answers three important, city scale questions: provides the possibility to lead the traffic outside the memorial, to accommodate all additional functions in situ, and to ensure a worthy frame for the Romkert.
Passing along the Romkert through the new arcade and open halls of the cultural buildings, instead of passing through it, enables the presentation of the entire excavated area, while emphasizing the intimacy of the place.
The framing - the extension of the Lux building, the cladding at the wall of Püspökkert, the view from the Fő tér - unites the elements of the Romkert into one complex monument, underlining its significance.
Walking the arcade and the halls of new and old buildings takes us on a unique time travel, helping us to experience the genius loci: looking at the Romkert from the sides creates the impression that we are gazing at a sacred grove.
4. The Interpretation
The various aspects of interpretation are as follows:

  • why is this place highly significant for us
  • what kind of historic events and persons are related to it
  • how can these events (coronation, funeral) become a relatable experience, knowing that the regalia will not be presented at the memorial
When contemplating the ruins altogether from a distance, the interweaving walls of different ages appear to the viewer like a unique, calligraphic texture. The primary condition for proper interpretability is to offer a complete panorama of the excavated and presented ruins. In order to make this possible, the ruins have to be protected directly, with the proper application of a preservative material instead of installing a protective roof. Our concept offers multiple approaches for possible interpretations: by passing through the arcade along the ruins; by taking a long view above them from Fő tér, the current entrance of the Lux building, or the benches surrounding the ruin garden; by strolling among them; by visiting the museum exhibition of the finds of the site to gain more information about the Memorial’s background; or by admiring the ruin garden in the reflection of the lens-like façade of the Museum. The visitors can decide how deeply they intend to become acquainted with the history of the National Memorial: the proposed solutions, physical and visual spatial connections can provide even the most detailed knowledge.
5. The Process
Creating the National Memorial is a long process that can last several years, even a decade. Apart from the archeological excavation of the entire Romkert, the creation of a worthy environment, the construction of the additional cultural units and their integration into the city texture are all time-consuming processes. It is necessary to strive for expressing with each move the attention and care that the importance of the site indicates.
/excerpts from the architectural description/

Péter Kis, Bea Molnár, Anikó Varga, Orsolya Hőna, Piroska Varga, Péter Romvári
Visualization by: Bea Molnár, Anikó Varga