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Budapest, Japanese Garden, Meditation Pavilion 2000

The small hill of the Japanese Garden was built after World War II, from war debris of the Zoo and buildings nearby. Initially it was used as an open air stage; but being out of use for most of the year, it was unnecessarily occupying area in the zoo too cramped anyway. Later, a garden-library was built on the site, but it had been functioning only for a few years.
In 1958, the management of the Zoo decided the establishment of a Japanese garden on the hill. During the almost 10 years of preparations, the topography of the garden was created, and the grassing of the former stage-area and the renovation of the paths were carried out. In 1966, the Zoo received the first pine trees and evergreens as presents from the Forestry Research Institute; the Hokkaido Ohasi Botanical Garden, the Aritaki Arboretum, and the Nippon Shinyaci Botanical Research Institute of Kyoto also donated seeds a few years later.
When the Garden first opened to the public, the lake - fed by a brook gently running from the hill - with the waterfall stone group and the composition of the “turtle stones”, seemingly on their way to Horai Island in the middle of the pond, was accessible by passing through an elevated area in front of the trees.
In 1998, a pavilion was built in the garden to house the National Bonsai Collection. The collection exhibited here includes the twenty valuable trees given as presents by the Japanese-Hungarian Friendship Society of Aichi Prefecture, as well as pieces donated by the University Bonsai Club of Hungary. The Garden was renewed again in 2000 under the guidance of Master Sugimura Fuimo. Besides the rejuvenation and replacement of some plants, and placing a few traditional elements of a Japanese garden – a stone lantern (Isodoro), a hand wash basin (chozobachi), and a knocker used to frighten away the game of the woods (Sisodoshi) - a pavilion for meditation was installed.
The placement and design of the meditation pavilion offers an opportunity to contemplate the garden from a consciously composed viewpoint: when the visitors feel to be filled up with beauty, unable to absorb more; they can rest in the building; and through a thoughtfully positioned frame they can admire the most spectacular view of the Japanese garden. The small building is placed under a Japanese cherry tree, evoking an experience - resting, daydreaming and contemplating under a tree – that is more relatable for European people then the practice of Oriental meditation.
In spring 2002, three more unique, registered trees were received from Japan.

Péter Kis
Photo by: Attila Polgár

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