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  • Contemporary Music Palace from Melody Fragments

    BMC – Budapest Music Center

    Architects: Dorottya Gőz (diploma work), Chehade Abdel-Rahim, Dániel Taraczky, Art1st Design
    Text: Márton Barabás
    Photos: Tamás Bujnovszky

    The inner part of Ferencváros has been enriched with a significant new cultural venue. With this project music life in Budapest has simultaneously been presented with a contemporary representative institution which had been needed for decades now. The continuous spiritual presence, the state-of-art spaces of high-tech acoustics also made suitable for making sound recordings, the variable podiums and the stage techniques offer unique opportunities for productive creativity such as recording albums. Besides, the building facelifted to house all these nestles into its environment in an exemplary way.

    Erected on the corner of two streets (Mátyás utca–Imre utca), this new structure had been a mystery of the area defined by the Great Market Hall whilst it stood freed from its plasterwork for a few years. Lacking ceilings and openings, the house evoked the ruinous ones with paradoxical spaces we can see in graphics by István Orosz. Demolished to its structure and naked, this building skeleton made the impression of a well-proportioned and fine house. The walls made of limestone from Budafok or Kőbánya mixed with brick masonry were clearly visible: this method was a common practice back in the 19th century. Respecting the neo-classicist, eclectic-historicizing architectural environment, the reconstruction had the faculties of the building as its starting points and thus retained the local man-made values, ranging from the mixed-type masonry to the street signs. Appearing as a two-storey house when viewed from the outside, the structure is well adjusted to the two-storey houses along Imre Street. Its side towards Mátyás Street also features scales and dimensions evoking the old-time Pest. However, the corner presents something different, something unexpected as the masonry opens up here to reveal the interior of the building. Sheets resembling ship boards separate the restored historic building parts from the new ones constructed into the broken up interior. Here on this corner now emphasized and excelled is the main entrance to the music centre. From the rooms above it one can have a panoramic view of the Danube as well as the houses nearby, such as the eclectic one enriched with putti and festoons, and the new mass of the Corvinus University.
    The most inspired part of the reconstruction project from an architectural view is the large concert hall, which has been composed into the courtile of the former tenement house. An awarding method applied on historic buildings to expand space is the roofing of the inner courts. Similar solutions are found in Vienna, e.g. the Haus der Musik in Annagasse (see: MÉ 2009/4). During the facelifting project in Mátyás Street the more or less rectangular cortile has been turned into a roofed-in space (actually lacking perpendicular lines, which is a result of the terrain). Along the longer sides the mixed masonry unplastered walls were retained, including the finely arched brick masonry revealing the openings of the former gate and window. The openings piercing through these two openings have been filled in with recycled bricks from the same house and uneven masonry following the rhythm of the one found beneath the plasterwork. Mostly made of limestone, the walls in-between the windows are divided into two by stone consoles and console fragments along the wrap-around corridor upstairs which has not been restored to its original design, but the old and newly replaced consoles show the original spatial proportions, the former place of the corridor, just like fragments of a melody create space for silence and lack.
    Facing each other, the two long walls are quotations of urban history made of brick and limestone. As Richard Long moved into the exhibition rooms the piles of slate, limestone and basalt to form regular shapes we can also observe such wall surfaces as independent works of art. The Gesamtkunstwerk character is reinforced by the frame in which architects included the unplastered surfaces. This „frame” slightly elevates from the wall to embrace the brick-stone opuses in the direction of the stage, the gallery and the ceiling. The surface of the unplastered bricks has been finished and made rough by sandblasting. Just like the preservation of the unplastered raw stone walls, this surface treatment is also justified by reasons of acoustics. The sound travelling in the room is returned by the rough surface with all tones and details. The acoustic perfection is heightened by the fact that some of the bricks do not precisely nestle into the plane of the walls, whilst the stone mass of the thick wall excludes the disturbing effects of exterior sounds and noises.
    The „background” from the direction of the stage is an abstract relative to historical organ lofts. The pattern, the co-ordination of wooden plates of two-colour (black, white and matte oak), but of less refined tones are in tune to some extent and relate with the complex surfaces and materials of the longitudinal walls. However, on the side of the gallery one can perceive plates with horizontal grooves formally resembling the lines of music sheets to guarantee top-quality acoustics also functioning as counterpoints in the composition. This twice broken stage backwall supporting and following the plane of the roof from the inside functions as a resounding surface also concealing engineering and technical equipment. The oak plinth wrapping around the ground floor (a kind of planks) also covers some of the engineering system.

    Well worth mentioning, the cortile is not roofed in glass but is covered with a ceiling of large carrying capacity. In between the purposefully shaped concrete beams meant for here there is a (riggable) ceiling able to carry a load of 1000 kg/point for the scenic equipment. Between the beams along the sides of the lateral walls dormers let in natural light to flood the concert hall.
    The house that appears a two-storey one when viewed from the outside actually comprises five levels. A jazz club is housed in the same space at cellar level just like the concert hall. Its original upper-floor gallery has been suspended to the ceiling of the library above it to create an exciting niche on both levels. The essence, however, is the redemption of overhearing. The subdivided but integral space houses on its lower level a 28 m2 concert podium mobile and separable in various ways: it can be turned into a stepped podium, piano plinth as well as a stage also suited for an orchestra.
    The upper floors embrace two apartments for professors and 12 spare rooms for the guests of the concerts, researchers and students on scholarship to accommodate them. The broken-up corner of the building is wrapped in oak panelling to function as an auditorium facing the river Danube. At its topmost point a representative space has been created with 6 meter interior height to function as the worthy framework for the high-standard international scientific activities managed by BMC and the Eötvös Institute.
    There had already been a significant library open to researchers and musicians in the former home of BMC. The new venue in Mátyás Street evokes neo-classicist libraries, and yet meets the technical requirements of both the present and the near future with its collections of 70,000 music sheets, 10,000 CDs and 10,000 LPs that visitors can read or listen to. The same level houses the International Eötvös Institute and Foundation, the research site of the oeuvre of Péter Eötvös composer, a most outstanding figure of international contemporary opera and contemporary music of Hungarian relevance, in their respective rooms.
    The manager’s room and the conference room are set in the middle of the corner axis. The interior wall has retained its unplastered mixed-type masonry, just like the lounge and the offices housed on the same level. In the manager’s room some relics are on display that have been found during the exploration of the house from the map archives and from beneath the plasterwork. Two enamelled street signs of Mátyás and Imre Streets removed back in the 90s are placed here side by side in the corner of the interior near the street along with the administrative number of the building. Furher details of the preserved spirit of the site are shown to the public of the restaurant within the jazz club.

    Architects: Dorottya Gőz (diploma work), Chehade Abdel-Rahim, Dániel Taraczky, Art1st Design
    Structures: Dezső Hensler, Krisztina Csepregálovics – Ödenburger Építészeti és Mérnöki Iroda
    Technical installations: Ervin Barta – KLF Energo Kft., Attila Lucz – HVArC Kft.
    Electrical engineering: László Sugár – Rádiusz Electric Kft., Viktor Szalai
    Acoustics: Andor Fürjes – Aqrate Kft.
    Client: BMC Kft.
    Main contractor: Market Zrt.