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  • An Academy of the Future

    Ferenc Puskás Soccer Academy, Felcsút

    Architect: Tamás Dobrosi
    Text: János Gerle
    Photos: Tamás Bujnovszky

    Arriving in Felcsút we are welcome by an eye-catching cupola by Makovecz to the right on the margins of the village. Against the sunlight the black natural slate shimmers in silver and as we pass by light creeps upon it enlivening its scales to resemble a fish cast ashore known from fairy tales: with a crown on its head it is the king of all fish himself. Buses bearing the name of „Ferenc Puskás Soccer Academy” are parked in the street and the yards. This is where the international Puskás-Suzuki cup tournament is organized every year for the best replacement teams.
    It is an exceptional and exemplary initiation. As a result of enormous efforts everything is present here whatever is needed for talent-care and education – and everything is the best of its kind: sports management, public health preparation and pedagogy. A total of 120 children are studying here after being selected from all over the country based on professional studies and internationally recognized diagnostics tests. It is not a question of money or nexus that it all depends on but talent. It is part of the concept that the environment should be yet another means of educating students to become sportsmen and exemplary human beings. This was the basic idea that the Academy had when asking Imre Makovecz in 2006 to develop the former mansion which had been enlarged to meet ever-increasing demands before as well as its surroundings to grow into a complex worthy of and suited to house the academy evolving into a regional soccer centre and to spread its fame all over the world. The building should reflect the highest standards expected in soccer and the environment worthy of respect should be an integral part of education.
    As he has usually done for decades now, Imre Makovecz made the first sketches of the horizontal configuration and the aerial view of the would-be complex in a single sitting – the intention of the client was modified several times during the designing phase, and it was actually the designs that inspired the final version of contents. Then the master gave the task of elaboration to a young fellow architects at hand. This means that based on the guidelines of the sketches the would-be architect or apprentice was to draw every phase, square the designs, communicate with the client, his fellow designers and contractors and also to manage the project till the inauguration of the building. The master would only interfere if something seriously slips out or the project as a whole must be saved from failure. The risk is very big, but if the apprentice produces a masterpiece he becomes a genuine master as a result.
    This is exactly what happened in Felcsút during a project of exceptionally high standards. It was Tamás Dobrosi who had been given the task now. Still an itinerant student then, he has graduated and received his diploma by now. He actually applied for itinerant training driven by his long-term interest in organic architecture, and the fact that at the technical university in Budapest this trend was generally rejected – but rarely justified, usually quoting some examples of formal inconsequences and structural deficiencies that every cultivator of organic architecture had been blamed for –meant a serious lesson for him to learn. Tamás Dobrosi’s task was to manage the first phase of the complex – that is the realization of the remodelling of the mansion as designed by Imre Makovecz – and to design the new building to be constructed in two stages. Two years ago the wing housing the management, health care and diagnostics units was finished followed by the completion of the kitchen-restaurant unit directly joining it now.
    One can have access to the garden and the buildings from more than just one direction: guests arrive beneath the crowned cupola where they are welcome by a unique mixture of open and closed spaces. The various functions (conference rooms, surgeries, changing rooms and offices) required varied ways of access and routes. Spatial configuration made it possible: transparent and yet on the whole hidden spaces direct visitors farther on to see new layers of space and spectacles. All this happens with surprising generosity and diversity compared to the modest basic area. Common spaces flow into one another, corridors, rest areas seem to fill the whole building which evokes the rich spatial system of a termitary following an unkown logic. The roofing covers simple solid white walls revealing an order of crystal-like clarity in both buildings. This is the secret of the magnificence of the design. Dobrosi wished to systematically draw an error-proof building free from later distorted details and arbitrarily discarded structural elements. Everything concludes from the logic of structure whilst assembling a complex construction from bent and glued wooden struts. He avoided solutions obviously resulting from symmetry because many elevations of the building evoke the flexible body of a large fish beating about with its tail. He took the challenges of covering curved spaces, a task made even more difficult by following a designing principle of his master, whilst in both buildings he played with the idea of „a house within a house”. The self-contained closed spaces with a slate skin within the house and the roof segments are able to turn the interior into a landscape. Floating above the restaurant is a private room. The sanctuary seems to be flying through the building with its windows revealing the varied spectacles of the interior. The diversity and logic of the structure observable on a closer look from here make it one of the highest standard works by the Makovecz school.
    Tamás Dobrosi applied innovative solutions with surprising courage and self-confidence. Matched with formation evoking that of the master, he freely uses architectural ideas already applied. Such an example is the town-like atmosphere within the building in Piliscsaba, the layered and stepped structuring of the roofing and some structural solutions. However, the creature-like quality of the building does not appear as a reminiscence, but as an original idea. The scaly skin stretching onto the powerful structure reminds us of the huge moving dragons of Chinese parades. Above the entrance of the restaurant opening towards the stadium slate is replaced by copper facework, whilst the fish scales are changed into the skin of a dragon clad in armour familiar from sci-fi animations. The diversity of the building is an unusually new element.
    Tamás Dobrosi was successful in getting realized what he had carefully considered and drawn. According to his strict principle form must conclude from the essence, whilst technical contents are to be transformed into architectural forms. It took two or three years for building contractors and the client who had seen him as a greener at the very beginning to accept his authority as a designer in order to have the arches moulded from gypsum carton on the mansion now laid from small bricks despite their increasing complexity. The Academy regarded it as important to commission smaller firms in the region to execute the designs, and for the new wing they contracted with every subcontractor themselves. The fact that construction grew into a festive event was partly owing to this. Contractors came to be more and more proud of their own achievement which they had not expected of themselves before.
    Solutions of interior design – the work of Zsuzsa Snopper – are powerful as spectacles and must be made mention of. To meet for the frst time a creator representing two types of self-contained worlds is an exciting challenge in itself. Designs by Zsuzsa Snopper reveal various styles with a common feature of enlarging folk motifs and then inserting them into contemporary structures. Pierced like lace, the furniture of the conference room in the health-care building are fine complements of the masculine spatial configuration with their sophisticated and airy character, whereas the flower-like illuminating bodies reaching deep into the restaurant space rival with the arches of the wooden structure. The simple design of the tables and benches of the restaurant evoke the atmosphere of boarding schools or refectories even if the width of their material makes them appear somewhat ethereal and thus finely integrated into their surroundings. It is carefully moulded and yet restrained plinths, railings and facework that primarily support the architecturally defined atmosphere to have its influence felt. The complex is being designed now further on to be complemented by a conference centre to be built on the other side of the mansion and the grand stand of the soccer field with a seating capacity of 6,500 people to meet international standards.

    Leading architect: Tamás Dobrosi – Doparum Építész Kft.
    Stucture: László Pongor – Pond Kft.
    Installations: László Nagy
    Electrical engineering: Zsuzsanna Kovács
    Fire protection: Róbert Müller
    Interior design: Zsuzsanna Snopper – Snopper-Design Kft.
    Garden design: Ágnes Herczeg – Pagony Kft.
    Masonry: Attila Koch – Koch és S Kft.
    Roof: Tamás Somogyi – Sokon Kft.
    Tile: István Varga – Epigon 3V Kft.
    Tinworks: Zoltán Németh – Alu-Flamand Bt.
    Doors an windows: Attila Szabó – Atis-Fa Kft.
    Client: A Felcsúti Utánpótlás Neveléséért Alapítvány