architecture : urban : visual culture

Even a brick wants to be something

Architecture should service wide environmental and social values besides the client’s needs - says Károly Nagy who designed a youth activity center as his diploma work. He chose a theme what resolves a real problem while rehabilate an abandoned brick factory. 

Theme and location

I strongly believe that architecture should service wide environmental and social values besides the client’s needs. For me, in architecture such important goal is sustainability, which is non separable from reuse and recycling.

For my degree work, I’ve chosen a theme which is accomplish to the above mentioned principle, and resolves real problem even if I couldn’t design a new building, but redesign an old one. The adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of Torokbalint’s abandoned brick factory is such kind of challenge.

Development conception

According to the theme and locations, in my thesis work I had to examine wider economic, social and city planning aspects. The Brick factory was formerly the largest industrial company in the city, while now it is the largest brownfield. This is why the city development strategy manages it as a separate action area (AT3), which is connected to the city center (AT1) with a linear park (AT2).

My goal was to form a development plan which fulfills the city's strategy, and has its own social, environmental, and economic value for all stakeholders (city council, city people and owner). The base of the conception is the revitalization of the abandoned factory and surroundings with architectural tools, then use the remaining areas for property development, which can attract potential investors. The conception does not change the landscape, but adapts itself to the endowments, uses the damaging landscape as an opportunity.

There is a conflict between the owner and the city council. The council's rules don't afford other use of the factory than the original, therefor it’s useless for owner, and the abandoned buildings started to be ruined. Meanwhile the council wants to do something, which has advantages for the town, but not having ownership they don’t have the opportunity.

My plan supposes partnership between stakeholders. The owner gives over the ownership of the brick factory for the council, and with the adaptive reuse of the old factory building, a city conference and event center and a youth center are built. In return the council modifies the rules, to let an investor build a hotel, and form a housing belt on the clay mine area.

architect: Károly Nagy

New functions
Sport and conference hotel (for profit)
Open air event place (non profit/for profit)
City event and conference hall (non profit/for profit)
Youth activity center (sport fields, skateboard, wall climbing, gym, esport, game, dance, drama halls, art&craft workshop, music, foto an video studio, common places) (non profit/for profit)

New generation, community challenges

One of the greatest challenges nowadays is to tackle the problems of Y and Z generations, an important part of which is to provide them with entertainment, recreation and sports facilities. In the whole developed world, it can be seen that this generation finds it difficult to locate the place where it can feel comfortable, in its own sphere, but in a wider community. They are constantly looking for variety and their attention cannot be grabbed for a long time. In recognition of this problem in more and more countries, so-called YOUTH ACTIVITY CENTERS are created where there are plenty of opportunities for young people to meet, entertain, relax and sport. The different activities are not separated, they are in semi-open, fully open and connecting spaces, so those who jump in for one activity will necessarily meet other opportunities and try out other entertainment and sporting forms more easily.
My diploma work presents the possibility of developing such a new generation, open space based youth center with the adaptive reuse of the Brick factory's halls.

architect: Károly Nagy

Design conception

Answer for endowments of buildings (mass forming, facade, lights)
During the adaptive reuse and reconstruction of old buildings I took account of three main aspects.
1. Meeting the requirements and space demand of the new functions (both horizontally and vertically)
2. Natural light according to function's demands
3. Making the flat, long, boring building mass into more demanding and moving.

To satisfy that three goal in one, I reached back to the early 20th century’s industrial styles. The north light roof raises the flat mass and provide proper indirect light for the arena, while the double height roof gives the vertical place for wall climbing.

I changed the very horizontal look of facade with demolishing one row of concrete panels, enlarging and grouping windows into vertical, recessed blocks. I covered the steel constructed hall with polycarbonate facade, which provide natural, filtered light, while optically heightens the building.
Answer for built and natural environment and weather challenges (landscaping, walkthrough). I designed the natural shading with fast growing trees, in strict order towards the town, but freeform toward the lake. To reduce the heat island effects, I used extensive green roof and formed more green surfaces around the building. Since the size and placing of the building causes a strong block towards the natural environment, I designed three walkthrough toward the lake and sports fields.

Answer for endowments of terrain (water stage, grandstand, hotel)
During the clay mining, places formed which offered good natural opportunities in planning. The north-east curve of the lake ideal for building a stage, with natural grandstand in the hillside. On the north-west side of building there is an artificial hill, which also good grandstand for the sportfields. Finally in the east part of clay mine, there is a terraced hillside which offer perfect place to build a hotel with a beautiful west panorama.
Answer for generation challenge (Space and function connections, Views, Layout).

The youth generation demands new thinking about the functions, spaces and layouting. It was the most important part of the design process to provide such connections and routes - adapted to the strict boundaries and accepted the given compromises - by which the activities and places are in continuous connection and intersection to each other. I solved it with connecting and varying one and two-storied spaces, and seethroughs between them.
Of course, the size and construction raster of the halls have been rigid limitation in the layout design. The conference center is located close to the hotel, at the end of the T-shaped building complex, where the serving functions also could be arranged in the former office unit. The three halls and the large front and side halls ensure the versatility of use (exhibitions, conferences, theater, music events, etc.).

The youth center is located in the long hall built of several types of technology, which forms the top of the T, and in the closer part of the connecting hall. During the functional arrangement, I took into account the loudness of the functions, along with the required floor plan, the height space requirements, the service demand, the functional demand and the existing structural system.

architect: Károly Nagy

On the ground floor, in the T node is located the arena, THE PLACE OF COMMUNITY. This is the place to talk or rest on the steps, play a basketball match, anyone can step up to the stage for an ad-hoc performance, or a stand-up production, but also suitable for film screenings, theatrical performances and concerts. Of course, this is not a professional acoustics concert hall, but much more: this is their OWN place, where young people having the opportunity to show themselves to others comfortably. As a result of the organization of the space, one can find themselves easily in the middle of a cultural event just walking from one activities to another. Youth centers which have already been put into practice this new way of thinking about space, have strong experiences of its positive effect. Of course if necessary, the arena can be separated by an acoustic curtain.

All the other functions are linked to the arena toward the three directions of the T formed building. On the left, the bistro and skateboard hall, on the right the wallclimbing hall, storage and mechanical rooms, and toward the third direction can be found the entrance hall, from which computer game room, robotic workshop, photo and video studio, art&craft workshop can be reached, and between them there is a silent place for playing board games, or just chatting. The spaces are separated by glass walls to provide the visual contact.

On the upper level the gym, a dance/aerobic/drama hall, the toilets, changing rooms are located. In the upper area of the arena there is a hanging corridor, which connects the upper level of bistro on the left (it’s a game room) and the music studio on the right end of the building, but the arena and wall climbing hall also can reach from the corridor by stairways.

Use of materials | Recalling of the spirit of former function

Genius loci is important part of the architecture. I wanted to grab the spirit of the brick factory, whic can best be recalled with a small size brick cover, as this factory at the beginning produced such bricks. Because of the natural shading, I did not think the ventilated facade to be needed, so I opted for the Terca Hectic clinker, which is easily useable on the thermal insulation, and contains unique texture and colours, from white to grey, to red, to the black, so it could be historical and contemporary at the same time.

The steel structured hall was designed with a vertically placed polycarbonate casing, recalling the characteristic bandwidth of the profile glass and its translucent appearance. The style and mood of the metal roof have been recalled with insulated sandwich panel.

The redesigned doors and windows are fitted with nontransparent inserts. Dark metal frames recall the cast iron / steel window frames of industrial architecture.

architect: Károly Nagy


In the design of HVAC systems sustainability was the main principle. All the heating, cooling, ventilation are using renewable energy (heat pump, solar panel), heat recovery (even from greywater).


According to the received professional opinions and -what at least as important- the feedbacks from the youth community, I feel that I have achieved my goal and created a community space that offers young people a diverse range of meaningful, quality entertainment, relaxation and contact, by a new way of thinking in space layouting and connecting structure, tailored to the new, different needs of the youth generation.


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