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  • Neo-Structuralism Redefined

    BME Building Q, Budapest Lágymányos

    Architect: Antal Lázár
    Text: Jenő Kapy
    Photos: Tibor Zsitva

    This area of Lágymányos used to be a lake divided off by a dam on the Danube built to divert the stream. After landfilling it had not been suitable for development for a long time. at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries the central building of the technical university as well as the ancillary structures were built after designs by Alajos Hauszmann and Samu Petz. The complex had been enlarged continuously from the 1950s on in the area to the north of Petőfi Bridge. This was developed to the full in the 70s and 80s.

    Reaching as far as Lágymányosi Bridge the area south of Petőfi Bridge was also landfilled and reserved for purposes of the 1996 EXPO. However, this project was cancelled and the area concerned was to be utilized for education also because designs of this function had been made before the EXPO tenders by famous architects, such as Zoltán Gulyás and Miklós Hofer. This is how first the buildings housing now ELTE were completed as designed by István Mányi and Gerő-Kovács to be followed by that of the Budapest Technical University (BME) designed by Finta Stúdió. The northern site was sold by the university and its present function is unknown to us. The same holds true of the area south of building No. 1. Sketches were prepared for the so-called Q-3 Building but this project is still uncertain. Landscaping the area between the quay and the boulevard is only on blueprint today and the majority of the park is still fenced off, waiting for development.

    The house presented here was built on the campus site of the university bearing principles of the development of the cancelled world exhibition project, on the boulevard of Hungarian scientists, next to the BME Building I designed by Finta-stúdió. It is north of it to house within the same structure certain departments of BME faculties and departments (electrical engineering, information science, economics, social sciences) meeting the needs of clients. The longitudinal axes of both buildings I and Q and that of the new structure being built meet radially in one point in the focus of the semicircular park section open towards the Danube. This kind of organization along longitudinal axes defines the remarkably clear horizontal plan of the building: the block of the large auditoriums floating above the aula are flanked by two wings with a cellular system. Those parts of the two lateral wings without a facade house functions not requiring lighting: stair halls, elevators and water-supply units. The facade parts of the same wings include the smaller lecture halls, the seminar rooms and functions of departments, the top storey housing the rooms of lecturers and the various operating units, above them there are the exterior units of engineering with the boiler-room and the refrigerating room.

    During intellectual creative procedures we tend to concentrate on what we can do. It requires a kind spiritual grandness to be able to focus on what we have already obtained. This involves extraordinary humbleness which is essential to every creative character. Antal Lázár in this building of his remembers his joint work with Péter Reimholz, the theoretical trends of which (parallel with István Janáky’s oeuvre) launched the third generation of IPARTERV in the 1970s. This kind of spirituality – if we are to categorize it – is associated with structuralism in today’s terms, being its highly original and typically Hungarian version. Another peculiarity: it was in this period that architectural theory became more and more synonymous with design methodology. In 1972 Péter Reimholz published an article accompanying the designs of Domus department store by the duo of architects which was quite a sensation then. This is how it starts: „from the aspect of building design every spatial programme is made up of crystalline and sculpturesque spatial groups.” Later on I am going to analyze according to what principles a spatial group can be rated as crystalline or sculpturesque.

    In my own interpretation and using this pair of concepts for the building this review is about the essence is this. The crystalline unit is a rastered one, typically but not always capable of producing linearly organized large spatial forms with primary and mobile secondary structural elements in a flexible system at the highest level of contemporary technology. As far as contents are concerned every point of the primary and formative spatial group of the building is characterized by the same degree of „comfort spatial intensity”. It is a space fully served from an engineering aspect. (In the case of Building Q it is the central spatial group including the aula and the large auditoriums.) Sculpturesque units flank the former from either side, with a heterogeneous system as far as functions are concerned, their structuring is firm, balanced, unique and sculpturesque. This latter quality makes it possible for them to adapt to their environment. They have a regulating role and function as physical obstacles and modulators between the exterior environmental (man-made and natural) and „comfort” spaces. The sculpturesque units are secondary spatial groups defined by the crystalline unit. Their typical space type is represented by horizontal and vertical units of communication with ancillary functions. They are servicing spatial groups from an engineering viewpoint as well.

    Theory as a descriptive type of method is embodied by the definitive basic relation of the design and the parametres translated from them. We tend to speak of four different kinds of parametres: the principles of construction, formation, scales and dimensions, the utilization of materials. The organizing principles are Neo-Structuralist¹ translations of the concepts described above which are present in the deliberate spatial organization of the building. The scale is adjusted to that of the existing buildings in the same area (this is strictly defined by the regulation), formation within this reveals simplicity to make the clarity of organization perceptible. The formation of the central auditoriums are defined by the application of daring and brilliant structures in an adequate way: prefab reinforced concrete with large spans, a precise ordering of the hung-in components as a primary structure and spatial grille with a fine arc as a secondary one. The two lateral wings are monolithic constructions of reinforced concrete bearing the afore-mentioned structure of the central wing.

    As far as the utilizatiion of materials is concerned the suspended ceramic facework of the lateral wings is well worth mentioning: it is one of the most important medium of adjustment in this area. And finally about rhetorics: it has already been recorded that our architecture tends to open up its horizons of argumentation or reasoning towards rhetorics. It is more and more important to know how „giving meaning or producing meaning” takes place. Can a building be described as a linguistic structure? Structuralism made an attempt to do so: it is interested in the operation of the system, produces a model based on it which manifestst itself and is present in the constructed work as an equally important linguistic (or even mathematical) construction as a transmedial experiment. An important meaning-potential belongs to the flow of thoughts appearing in the forms of relations verbally phrased and the work presents itself in its total efficiency like this. Of course there is more and more need for the visual erudition of the recipient or the user.

    Architect: Antal Lázár – A&D Stúdió Kft.
    Fellow architects: Csaba Álmos, Miklós Batta, Veronika Lázár, László Sill, Zoltán Sükösd, Zoltán Szécsi (beruházási program), Ferenc Vavrik
    Structure: László Szántó – EXON 2000 Kft.
    Installation: Csaba Kordé S. – CSE-KO Kft.
    Electrical engineering: Péter Komm – VA-IQ Kft.
    Traffic: Péter Várnai – Civil-Plan Kft.
    Landscape: Katalin Hlatky, Barnabás Szakács – Lépték-Terv
    Outdoor public utilities: László Erős, János Török – CBR-TERV Kft.
    Client: Budapesti Műszaki és Gazdaságtudományi Egyetem
    Main contractor: Hérosz Zrt.