Budapest: Twin Cities, Architecture of Stasis and Flux

Andrew Peckham, Dusan Decermic and Elantha Evans

There are two ways of describing the city of Budapest: you can speak about 'the form of the city', that is about its topology, the relationship between centre and periphery, kernel and outskirts, working-class and upper class districts, about nature and culture (in the city), and all this would be no different from those images we see with half-shut eyes after long and aimless days of roving, and which we might call geometric fantasies...  

Peter Esterházy

The choice of Budapest as the location and focus of our studio project this year relates to an initial interest in the constitution of twin cities, where 'twinning' as a theme might be understood at different scales: from transnational context to that of the city itself, its urban district, buildings and interiors. If 'twinning' denotes similarity, then 'singularity' promotes contrasts and conditions the dialogue between extremes suggested by our subtext: 'architecture of stasis and flux'.

  1. The World of the Interior

    the recess: drawing, casting and wrapping

    psychoanalysing the room: repressed surface

  2. Taking (to) the Waters

    Danubian: the river, urban flow and flux, the dynamic of the city

    the pleasures of stasis: the pool and its depths, taming flow

  3. Water Table year one

    reclaiming the underground: subterranean space, levels below and micro-ecologies

    geothermal conditions: drilling down and drawing up, heat transfer, sustainable technologies

  4. Catalogue year two

    hierarchy and construct: manifesto and thesis, collecting, analysing categorising and archiving

    on the wall: graphic currency, wall-paper, poster-wall, publication

  5. Reconfiguring the Baths year one design project

  6. Architecture of Stasis and Flux year two thesis project

(structural conditions)...set a city like Budapest apart from the 'Western' urban experience... maybe the experience of a semi-peripheral almost-global city like Budapest may turn out to be the image of the future of at least some 'Western' locales. After all, in the only ground-level street scene in...Blade Runner, where the vernacular of supposed twenty-first century L.A...is heard, it is in fact Hungarian spoken with heavy English accent.

Judit Bodnár

'Budapest' originated in two settlements on either side of the Danube. Buda set against hills rising from the river and Pest developed from the medieval city as grid-planned district on the wider Hungarian plain. The experience of circumscribed density and interiority in Pest contrasts with the open panorama of the view from Buda's neighbouring hill. Budapest's largely 19th century infrastructure existed within the shadow of Vienna as capital of Austro-Hungarian Empire, whether as a twin, a copy, a simulation or a duplicate. The empire's identity, just as that of the EU, was confounded by emergent national identities, paralleling the schism between a metropolitan modernism and a provincial postmodernism. Consequently the culture of Budapest remained ambivalent, paralleling the emergent modernist culture of 'Vienna 1900' upriver, but distinct in the details and iconography of its architecture, its own 'school' of psychoanalysis, and its own hinterland set in the wider context of rural Hungary. As the second city of the Empire, Budapest retained a characteristic identity as Vienna's 'other', but with its own national credentials: twin cities separated by the 'iron curtain' of the Cold War, their fabric conserved in the west and eroded in the east. With the fall of Communism, the city has experienced renovation and development, focused inward as a tourist icon of Mitteleuropa, but one subject to the global flux of neoliberalism. The contrasting eddies and flows of Danube are indifferent to 'history', yet remain fundamental in isolating the political history and the contemporary post-industrial condition of Csepel Island to the south. Flows analogous perhaps to the correspondences and transactions between separate parts of the city. Numerical districts incorporate the routines of everyday life, while subject to the vagares of the city's tourist economy. How do we view Budapest, contrary to the logic of Brexit, located at the intersection of transnational regions and part of the infrastructure of the Danube? A 'post-dated' if cohesive urban fabric whose 21st century credentials will be tested in projects that as interventions recognise, incorporate and reject, the culture, themes, form and history of the city, as intrinsic aspects of their various architectures.

There is another Budapest. In the mirror of the Danube... Not everything that seems valuable above the mirror maintains its force when mirrored. The twin cities are not equal, because nothing that exists or happens in Budapest is symmetrical: every face and gesture is answered from the mirror, by a face and gesture inverted, point by point. The two Budapests live for each other, their eyes interlocked; but there is no love between them.  

Peter Esterházy

From “Research as Prospect” Studio Book The Intrinsic and Extrinsic City: DS11 2008-2014 (2017)

“Our contention is that the practice of studio teaching is best visualised as an open framework of investigation, setting out the terms within which students operate and within which the local research is done: examining design mores, and the social life and urban history of the cities in which our design programmes (prescribed or matter of choice) have been set. Typically located peripherally, their volatility and historical complexity tend to confound the notion of pre-determined or singular research agenda, which in any case goes against the grain of our conception of studio practice. It would be disingenuous, however, not to qualify this position. Rather than argue for a consistent content or focus of applied research in the studio, our interest is in its structure, or how non-linear patterns emerge to inform design procedures. Intensive short studies and projects prompt a particular mode of working and range of interests; questioning assumptions, and conditioning the perception and ambition of subsequent programmes, set in different urban contexts (the historic centre, its immediate periphery, the expanded city, suburbs or outlying districts). These exercises variously touch on abstract qualities of form and space; urban institutions, social occupation and its contingencies, through a thematic approach (aware though we are of the questionable probity of a so-called 'narrative architecture').”