architecture : urban : visual culture

Dusk of The Architects?

Our story started in 1995. The Civil Society for the Care of German Army Graves (VDK) invited international tenders to appoint an architect to design a central graveyard in the Budaörs area. The location of the final resting-place of Hungarian and German soldiers who died in World War II was determined by a dual-government agreement.

Our story started in 1995. The Civil Society for the Care of German Army Graves (VDK) invited international tenders to appoint an architect to design a central graveyard in the Budaörs area. The location of the final resting-place of Hungarian and German soldiers who died in World War II was determined by a dual-government agreement.

By creating nearly 17,000 new graves, a suitable resting-place was provided for those who had been exhumed from unmarked mass graves. Despite the fact that the site is in a Nature Reserve, it was in a very poor condition at the beginning of the project: neglected, half-demolished barracks, rubbish piles which were obviously searching grounds for tramps, the location clearly presented a very scarred picture.

The German contractor wanted to build a relationship with us, architects who could guarantee the highest quality of architectural and landscaping expertise in the execution of the project. Our responsibility included landscaping, getting permission for the plan, execution of the plan, supervision of the building project, as well as one year's guaranteed supervision of technical standards. This long-term task provided us with the possibility of being able to strengthen the original architectural concept with new ideas which arose during the term of the project.

Interestingly enough, during the authorisation process, we experienced the strongest opposition from the National Park Inspectors. They seemed to be protective of the intended Nature Reserve, which hardly existed by this time. Maybe the completed work could be a good example of a balanced symbiosis between developed and recreated natural surroundings.

As the project progressed and the contractor witnessed its success, the prestige of the graveyard continuously rose. In part, we were asked to make a plan for a second building next to the reception, an outbuilding which could provide space for exhibitions. Additionally, it has been developed into a "peace-park", which is the fourth one in Europe, where one can purchase a tree to plant for it to be part of the parkland. The graveyard and the peace-park memorial have become a dignified venue for public events.

Of course, it is difficult to summarise the history of a long and successful job in a few sentences; my purpose was to demonstrate the status and position of architects in society.

Recently, an article was published in a daily with a very wide circulation about Hungarian architects. The well-respected, although rather under-informed and half-educated, publicist, described the role of architects as putting together montage applications of architectural elements which can be mechanically downloaded from computers. In his opinion, any self-appointed person, who has difficulty with finding his own identity, will be able to fulfil effortlessly the architectural tasks by sitting in front of a monitor and choosing from already-used and created architectural elements, regardless of location, developed or natural surroundings or of the customer's expectations.

Far from reality, by matching a few supposedly striking and substantial theoretical concepts, it is possible to create some unusual effects, although this shallow reasoning can't screen the fact of an outsider. It is similar when, after a movie, highbrows in a film club give each other analyses and critiques which were published by others. They all know the sources but the mates who represent others' opinion as their own can't be confronted because the mystical and frenzied emotions of this intellectual game would be over.

The architect may work, design for his desk's drawer, nay, live like a lonely, isolated artist, but then he has to face reality. Maybe the introduced sample from Budaors could demonstrate well the social role of architects in the creation of work.

The birth of something assumes the existence of a "germ-thought". This, emerging from the chaos, following the fine oscillations of the soul, will appear and show its face in a clearer and clearer form in the material world. In the creation of an architectural work, this process can harm, or in other cases can strengthen, the sensitivity of the existing human, natural and artificial surroundings.

The participation of authorities and offices, later the work of building contractors, the clients who initiate the ideas, with their expectations and financial background, get into a deep relationship with the architect and his assistants, a process which is usually full of conflicts.

An architectural work is the impression of the creativity of its creator's intellectual world. This impression demands social sensitivity from its creator. This is an exciting, fine mental fabric, whose final designs will be finished by the ability to think and work together of the co-operating partners.

How would it be possible to create this, using programmed architectural clichés? Nevertheless, architects and this different approach to the role of architecture can force the judgement.

This is an inside view of a kind of marginal situation. The human being has been represented unchanged in its physical existence for a very long time. Its spiritual and intellectual world, however, is like a turmoil, going through constant change and, ideally, development. Nowadays, one can observe, with necessary sensitivity, beyond the spoken words, previously unknown new ways, the "from soul to soul" forms beginning to take place in building human relationships. It is easy to tell lies with words, although it is more and more difficult to mislead the inner person. The basic restructure of individual development, previously believed to be unchangeable (individual and public), forms and limits living together. The human being has an intimate and personal relationship with its artificial covers, scents, clothes and jewellery, objects and buildings. These covers become more and more transparent. These pursuits, aiming at more stressed separation, will be identified more and more with military skills and no doubt take their effects against development.

Currently, the pulsating motions, changing and transformation have been replacing constancy, stationariness and durability. The historic architectural units have been changed by an electronic-media sphere as a colourful, stimulus membrane. This has been replaced more and more by moving forms. Expectedly, this process will expand its built frames and the changing surroundings created by man will overtake and confuse the currently known environment types. The built objects will detach from their permanent place.

The architect reaches his limits at this point, as his intention has always been to create something constant, stationary. Nowadays, many buildings emerge which produce a strange and dynamic work by moving forms. However, the form froze in a gesture. I stand in front of them and wait for them to continue their motion vainly. They represent a middle-state, a preparation for something new, where the outer surrounding has to deliver substantially new meanings according to the changes of human souls.

New, complex tasks will wait for solutions, where the role of architects will change, new possibilities of thinking together with other members of society will open up.

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