Providing a framework for changing needs
Every house has its own story, but there are many that have a multi-layered past. The evolutionary history of a transforming building usually draws up an interesting process, and if covered with historical and personal layers, the result will have a special color. The history of the restaurant building connected to the Children's Railway Station on Széchenyi Hill is very diverse, as it has undergone many transformations until it acquired the form and function being dominant at present and presumably will be for a couple of years.
On the last day of July 1948, a symbolic inauguration ceremony took place in the Buda hills. Shortly after the devastation of the World War II, the idea of creating a railway for children and establishing a "republic" of their own was born, and after considering several alternatives, the Széchenyi Hill proved to be the most suitable for this purpose. Architects of the Hungarian State Railways, Jenő Fodor E. and István Zahradniczky designed typical station buildings along the railway being constructed at a fast pace. Perhaps the Széchenyi Hill Reception Building, borrowing a gentle alpine character and melting into the landscape, is the only classy piece among the simple, well-proportioned buildings of natural stone cladding and simple lines. Two decades later a restaurant and café were built next to the reception building with a design that fit well in style. While the former has kept its function and has undergone essentially no changes in the past 60 years, the latter has changed hands and functions several times over the past decades.
After the change of regime, just like many other buildings, the former café and restaurant went through several ups and downs. Once it was a restaurant, at times it was abandoned, and its last known function was a Bible house, operated as a kind of community space. The foundation eventually sold the building, and the buyers, a lawyer-engineer couple, started a new chapter not only in the house’s, but in their own lives as well. They both quit their previous careers to start a business in a fundamentally new field and to open a multifunctional event house on Széchenyi Hill that is most suitable for weddings and corporate events.
Geppetto Belsőépítész Iroda was involved in designing the building and creating the business concept already at the beginning of the process. They tried to formulate the renewed building’ new message together with the clients, since, after some occasional interior refurbishments and exterior fitting of the past decades, the opportunity has now come for a comprehensive and complete reinterpretation, a functional reorganization of the spaces, and refreshment of the building.
First the owner couple wanted to give a "new guise" to the building, but Szilvi Károlyi (interior designer at Geppetto) and her colleagues suggested a more complex branding. The idea quickly became clear: to set up a high-quality event center for the wedding of young couples between the walls of the former restaurant and beer house. The owners were deeply bonded to the building, so the center is not merely a business for them, but a personal place that perfectly represents their world and ideas in every detail. They were also actively involved in the design work process (sometimes even literally), so that they could feel ownership of the result.
The main goal of the makeover of the interior was to expand the rooms as much as possible. The former, partly overly fragmented spatial system had to be redesigned to provide a flexible framework for differently organized events. The main profile of the house is to accommodate weddings, the basic atmosphere of which will always be determined by the unique decoration imagined by the newlyweds. For this, the interior is designed to be as flexibly furnishable as possible.
The Grand Hall is framed by huge glass surfaces running on both sides, offering a beautiful view of the environment. Wall surfaces of modest design offer a wide variety of decorations completed by a bar counter and a contemporary bioethanol fireplace.
„Sincethe space will be different depending on the event, much emphasis has been placed on lighting. Not so much lights had to be designed, but rather the shadows of the space to create a varied mood for serving different functions” – emphasized Szilvi Károlyi the importance of sophisticated lighting design. That's why the system, installed on the ceiling and suspended to the space in the form of smaller cubes, fits into its surroundings, has a homogeneous appearance and is designed with great care. Computer control is used to adjust the color and atmosphere of the lighting to the given interior decoration and mood.
The large hall is completed by a smaller bridal dressing room, a cloakroom with built-in wardrobe, toilets and a kitchen suitable for catering. From the entrance corridor a flight of stairs leads to the lower level facing Hegyhát utca, the separate hall of which has a direct access to the stepped front garden. The interior gets light from here, and this is the place where guests can take some fresh air.
The exterior of the house has been renewed in a way that harmonizes with the interior, reflects the same atmosphere and rethinks old solutions. The façade has a darker, natural-looking rustic brick cladding, reminiscent of the neighboring Children's Railway Station, the woody, forest environment and the building’s original state, and the entrance is highlighted by Corten steel framing. An integral part of the event center is the garden, which is accessed by a wide staircase from the back terrace next to the Children's Railway turn-out track. The garden, which is delicately interwoven with various walkways, was designed for outdoor receptions; and where necessary, brick walls fitting well with the building were built as spatial separation. The event center, located near the recently renovated Széchenyi Hill transmission tower, is a beautiful little world elaborated in every detail, hiding in its original context and respecting the history of the Children's Railway and the Hegyvidék – this is how a new chapter begins in the life of the house.