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  • With Back to Szépvölgy

    An Office Block in Felhévízi utca

    Architect: Tamás Varga
    Text: Miklós Okrutay
    Photos: Tamás Bujnovszky

    Fotó: Bujnovszky Tamás

    Suffocating traffic, hectic cityscape and town-dwellers, the feeling of no man’s land on the border of Újlak and Óbuda: this is the brief summary of the experiences one may have at the outlet of the Szépvölgyi út. And all of a sudden there is silence, cobblestone and street-lamp that have witnessed a lot, as well as tranquillity if we happen to walk in Felhévizi utca.
    Built on a lot straining in between these two-faced locations, the company centre of BBRAUN is could not have made other decision than to turn in the direction offering tranquillity,renouncing the superficial representation guaranteed by urban traffic. One of the world’s leading companies does not need a centre to proclaim their achievements as it is done by the everyday activities of their national network.
    The client and the architect have known each other for a decade now, and the haemodialysis centre in Szent Imre Hospital in Budapest inaugurated last year has been the sixth medical institute born out of their co-operation. Planning the dialysis stations requires extraordinary sensitivity from the architect, as the spaces used by outpatients must be separated whilst humane conditions are needed for those in more serious condition arriving for a treatment taking several hours and the undisturbed co-operation of units belonging together in the medical-technological sense is also a must.
    Strengthened by trust on behalf of the builder, the analysing way of thinking typical of Tamás Varga’s architecture proved to be successful when designing the central office block of the company: the clear basic formula filtered from conditions dictated by the environment makes the house easy to interpret. Disciplined adjustment expected on both street fronts required the break-up of blocks. The flat-roofed wing connecting with a glass curtain wall is inserted between the two longitudinal saddle-roofed blocks continuing the development in unbroken rows in the neighbouring streets. Owing to the distinguished treatment of blocks adjustment to the neighbours of different height appears self-evident. In Felhévizi utca one can see an exciting result: delicate harmony being created by the contemporary reinterpretation of the entablature adjusted exactly to the line of the eaves of the adjacent eclectic house as the lintel’s line of the lane of windows on the first storey is continued in the plane of the member of the historicizing string-course.
    The hierarchical order between the two street fronts is an essential detail of the building. Turning away deliberately from the chaotic environment of Szépvölgyi út resulted in a kind of closedness almost disturbing on this side. The facade here is only opened at the most important points, and not even the brick grille along the side can be regarded a superficial gesture: it is a strict sentence, meaning that’s all what this world deserves. However, further ideas also appear to be trying to reveal themselves out of this self-imposed seclusion: the unfolding from the direction of Felhévizi utca seems to be at least reserved, if not closed. A glass lane defines and marks the main entrance in the entire height of the facade, even though it is not transparent for us because of its highly textured surface. The entrance itself is a double-winged solid metal gate the mysteriousness of which is intensified by the opening planes taking on the shape of two B’s – letters borrowed from the name of the company. Windows are set in longish and narrow lanes in a deeply recessed plane, which makes the surface sculpturesque, but even now the interaction of shadows reflects the intention of withdrawal.
    The design of the surfaces reflect extraordinary awareness, the facework made of brick is an outer shell deprived of every tectonic feature. The stone paving of the window orders and jambs is an unusual idea, but the meeting of the two materials, stone and brick turn out to be a spectacular one in this function. Stone is endowed with a more serious task as it appears on surfaces with the entire height of the facade – this didactics seems to be overexaggerated: one shall only realize that there are interior spaces of communication behind these parts of the facade only when touring the building, but there is no other functional „handhold” to sense this message.
    Closedness is counterbalanced to some extent in the interiors, and stepping into the atrium of the entrance as tall as the building itself is a generous moment of arrival here. Every part of the edifice is defined by open-plan rooms setting free our eyes, and the experience of spaciousness is especially obvious in the connecting wing, owing to the glass partition opened toward the garden. In the lane made up of parapets a coloured coating tinted greenish filters light coming in, the articulation of the vertical subdivision of the surface evokes the interaction of panel diagrams by applying the exciting and innovative random-structuring which goes beyond trendiness. It is seemingly a contradiction, but the treatment of the surface of the glass curtain wall shows the house as a closed one also when viewed from the inside, and thus the introvert character of the architectural world is integral. The utilization of offices is remarkably different from what we are used to, as none of the employees have built a second home around her- or himself using the photos made during a vacation spent with their families. Day by day they can sit down to a work station they like or one which has been left unoccupied, as the central computer network is accessible from everywhere in the same way. Actually, there is no sign of individuality in the office rooms, including the „coffee islands”. Only the managers are privileged to retire into their glass boxes.
    This is how the way of utilization justifies architectural shaping. Just like in the case of dialysis centres, the functional relations of interiors are being formed here as a result of a thorough analysis which in turn had its impact on the exterior design inevitably. The closed character of the building was not primarily provoked by the exterior environment but by withdrawal into work instead, and thus the house was created to serve the maximalization of the activity of people working here.
    The mutual synchronization between the architect and his client yielded a convincing result. Seeing the fastidious solutions of individual details one would not suspect traces of a compromise of any kind here. Owing to this Felhévízi utca, which had been put on the map of contemporary architecture thanks to the parish building of Újlak, has been enriched even more. The architectural atmosphere of several periods reveal themselves layer by layer in a harmony of tranquillity, turning inward, with their back to Szépvölgy.

    General design: V.T. Arch Kft.
    Architect: Tamás Varga DLA
    Structure: Béla Bősze – BőszeTerv Kft.
    Installation: András Bokor – Vizaterv Kft.
    Electrical engineering: Zoltán Somlai – ProCont Kft.
    Landscape: Zsombor Balogh – Naturbs Kft.
    Main contractor: PORR Építési Kft.
    Client: ACC Beruházó Kft. – Sándor Bábiczki