architecture : urban : visual culture

Analogue House – A museum of photography and an archive of cultural history

Skrabák Zoltán planned a museum of photography and an archive of cultural history in his diploma work. The program contains an exhibition about the history of photography where visitors may get to know the history of photography and its technological development. 

Choice of subject

I find it quite exciting that we are able to make prints on light sensitive matter with light. This gave work for photographers for nearly two hundred years, since the invention of daguerreotype in 1839. In the beginning, only pharmacists and wealthy people got involved with photography, but later it became available for everyone. Nowadays there are plenty of devices in which we can find sensors which are able to create digital images. With the development of digital technologies we reached the level when we are able to take almost an infinite number of pictures about the world surrounding us. In line with this, the time needed to take a picture diminished significantly. In most cases we are not concerned about the composition, or what we would like to depict, express, or record. The magic of photography may have been lost since we switched from analogue technologies to digital solutions. This is the reason why I chose the subject of a museum about the history of photography for my thesis, where visitors may get to know the history of photography, and they can try out analogue imaging and laboratory processes as well.


For my thesis’ location I chose the estate on 9th Simonffy Street which is in the city center texture in Debrecen, opening to the Piac Street, next to the Halköz square. In these areas the cultural life recently became more significant; a gallery of contemporary arts and high quality entertainment facilities has been opened. The function that I chose for this location, may join into the bustling cultural life of Debrecen.

According to the sources found in Debrecen’s microfilm storage the real estate is vacant since a long time. There was a single story family house here, what had been damaged in the Second World War and later it was demolished. Then a single story storage was built, which has been vacant in the last decade.

Analogue House -architect: Zoltán Skrabák

Program for Planning

The program contains an exhibition about the history of photography where visitors may get to know the history of photography and its technological development. A contemporary space which is suitable for holding photography expositions, to hold temporary expositions, and a multifunctional space which is suitable for holding presentations, talks, performances and conferences as well. Beside the exhibition functions I consider the practical exploration important as well; therefore I planned a photography workshop where visitors may try out the different analogue and digital imaging technologies and the laboratory works related to them. At last, I set up a media archive where we could store various collections e.g. the filmstrip collection of Tibor Mikolás which is currently in the possession of the University of Debrecen, Faculty of Engineering , counting approximately 15 000 pieces. Beside this, I would like to create of collection of cultural history.

We may collect the photographs and negatives from the families of Debrecen and its surrounding area before these sources are lost forever. This archive may serve as a basis for later researches and studies in the field of cultural history.

Analogue House -architect: Zoltán Skrabák

Basic policy

The main thought of my building conception was to create a temporary space for this cultural establishment before entering the building itself, despite the closed line buildings and the narrow street, therefore as it can be observed on the traditional civilian houses of Debrecen, the visitors enter the patio and the entry space passing a gateway.

Volume Constitution

I separated the volume of the building into three pieces. The first, the volume over the gateway contains the archive and the related research facility, and the offices of the management. Passing through the gateway I placed the exhibition and photography history functions oppositely. The third part, the place of the practical presentation of photography, the photography studio and laboratory are placed underground. The three volumes are joined with a communicating core. The parking facilities which are necessary for the functions are handled by the parking garage neighboring the building.

Usage of materials

The building’s structure is made from reinforced concrete, with slab foundation and a horizontal slab made from reinforced concrete. Because of the span and its lantern-lights the closing slab of the upper exhibition space is based on a steel cage holding structure. On the building’s façade a hanged, boarded, steel frontispiece cover have been put which is perforated with a unique pattern. The façade’s structure was inspired by the blende which can be found in cameras and whose size defines the light collecting capabilities of the optical systems and the depth of focus on the finished picture. The pattern is created with a computer algorithm which created punctures between the smallest and biggest given sizes, placed and sized randomly.

The street façade is steel colored which with its neutrality does not want to fit in with the façade of the neighboring buildings, but embraces its status as a new cultural building. The natural lighting of the research facilities and offices are handled by the collapsible panels on the frontispiece. The façade on the patio are light colored which emphasizes the inner space’s openness and wideness.

In the inner spaces I wanted to openly represent the used materials, therefore where the inner spaces’ conception allowed I let the concrete surfaces and mechanical tubes to be seen.

street facade


The visitors’ route to the building is leading through a submerged half-public space. This “filter” allows them to get in the mood and prepare to watch the exhibition.

On arriving into the building, on the ground level hallway there is the reception where the visitors may get information about the current exhibitions, the research institution of cultural history, or the availability and terms of usage of the photography workshop. There is also a café which is directly connected to the patio.


Those who would like to visit the exhibitions may get on to the highest level with the elevators found in the hallway, where they can visit the actual temporary exhibition then, descending on the stairway they may get to know the history of photography from level to level.

Those who are getting interested in photography in a deeper, practical sense may continue their exploration through various workshops, shows and activities. Descending from the ground level, on level -1 there is a photography studio which is an artificially lit modern studio environment. This may serve with the desired flexibility to explore the know-how of studio lighting and other photography processes. After this the visitors may try out the various negative and positive development techniques in the photography laboratory.

The employees and the management of the museum may get into the building through the elevators and stairways connected to the patio. This ensures that the various functions may work without interfering with each other, and also serves for the purposes of evacuation in case of danger. When passing through the Analogue House the visitor gets closer to the art of imaging, therefore photography could have gain more attention.


Skrabák Zoltán

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