architecture : urban : visual culture

Revitalization of the abandoned old Synagogue and its area in Sopron

Orsolya Vass deals with the revitalization of the abandoned old Synagoge and its area in Sopron, Paprét. She realized, that this yard should generate new possibilities for the park, for the people and for the whole city. Thus she planned a community building, which is mainly a theatre, concert hall, and a place for exhibitions.

1. Location

1.1 Sopron

Sopron is one of the most West-Hungarian cities, which is really close to the Austrian border. This has resulted a very special life style in the city. There are more or less 66000 people who live there, but most of them are work in Austria and just sleep in Sopron. Because of the high salary abroad and the lower general outgoings in Hungary, an inner country migration has been beginning several years before. The population is growing quickly, but this process also generate suburbanism and urban sprawl inside the city. For the easier connection to the border, more and more people go to a subdivision to rent a flat or a council-house. Therefore, and because of the bad conditioned old houses in the centre, the old historical centre is empty, just some Austrian tourists are walking there and the beautiful, wild suburb (Fertőhanság National Park) is threaten by the increasing population.

1.2 Paprét

This area is quite close to the centre, which name is ‘Castle District’. The connection between the centre and Paprét is Torna Street, where we can find a cinema, groceries and this street is perpendicular to the main promenade (Füredi Oszkár sétány) which is full of with stores, cafes, wine bars and restaurants. Paprét Park is the only one green field around the centre. Instead of this, Torna Street is in a rarely bad condition: it has a one way traffic and there are not enough pedestrian area, but parking is possible in the whole street. There are parking problems also in Paprét, the public park is used as a parking place and bus waiting. The green area used to be two times bigger, it is just for the people who left their cars in the parking area now. The other great opportunity there is the direct connection with the Ikva brook. Now it is also crowded by cars and rubbish, there is just a tiny path among the stream.

1.3 Synagogue

Sopron was an open-minded, developing city in the middle ages. From the 12th century the Jewish district was in the middle of the city centre with two beautiful synagogues in the same street. In 1526 the Jews was chased away from Sopron, until 1840’s. Later, after the Emancipation Congress, the orthodox community built a new Synagogue in 1890 in Paprét. Before the II. World war some Jews emigrate to Izrael and 3385 of them was deported. After the war there were only 274 Jews in the city and after the Hungarian revolution the orthodox community had been disappeared. Nowadays the maximum number is 40 people who appear in the big ceremonies and these occasions are held in the ancient Jewish district. The two old synagogues are function as museums, but they cannot afford the operations fees of the orthodox synagogue so it is the property of the local council.
This information is really important to recognise that this building won’t be function as a synagogue any more.

1.4 The exact study area

There are two street - front neighbour buildings, but the old synagogue is 4 metres away from the street and it is between two firewall. Therefore there are three useful area around the building. A tiny path in West, a normal lane in East and a backyard. A new street was opened to connect with Híd Street some years ago. Behind this site there are rushed, old, economic buildings. The slope from the beginning to the end of the yard is 80 cm.

2. Revitalization

2.1 Synagogue

First of all, after a research I realized, that this yard should generate new possibilities for the park, for the people and for the whole city. Thus I decided that it would be a community building, which is mainly a theatre, concert hall, and a place for exhibitions.

Inside the old synagogue, I have removed the plaster, and set back the gallery and the first floor. There is a stage in south and behind it everybody can see the empty space after the Torah Cabinet. In this wall I have created a new entry for the performers. My build- up around the old building is a service unit which is accessible from the narrow path in the west, but because of the spacious rooms it is also can use as a community space occasionally. This block is directly linked (a roof and a ground which can be used as an outdoor stage) with a permanent café bar in East, because in the neighbourhoods there are no place to sit in a bar or a restaurant. The ground floor of the Synagogue is in + 45 cm, therefore the new units are also in the same height. From the street there is a podium which set into special situation the complex. The real ground is lower, than the buildings inside the yard, so there are some steps in the whole area. The café block ends in the street front and joins to the next building.

2.2. Paprét

At first I had to make wider the sidewalk in Torna Street, it should be covered by the same stone as Fürdedi Oszkár promenade, which means there are no parking area in that street. I also remove it from Paprét, because close to this zone there is a huge, abandoned place, and the council used to want to build a parking edifice there. Whit this step the traffic in the Árpád Street should be two-way for the easier approach.

The park functions as a normal park, which is connected with a café and with the stream. In this area there is also an old Jews communal building on the stream bank, which should be renovated; and there is a gymnasium on the northern part of the park. So this three community buildings can organize the park life which ends in the Ikva bank. In this park there is a memorial for the Jewish people which is in very bad condition. If the park will be cleaned from the cars, it should be replaced and renovated.

This revitalization will encourage the people to meet outdoors where not too much traffic is, and this park will become a useful green area linked with the city centre. I hope it will increase the habitation in the centre and reduce the nature damage in the suburb. Because after this area the whole rear old block could be revital, where there are just some under-utilized, old edifice.

Orsolya Vass


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