architecture : urban : visual culture

Revival, full of tension

A striking duality has been created in the ensemble of the new MMA headquarters, when architect György Fazakas sought to connect the two turn-of-the-century villa buildings with contemporary elements. The result is a unique building full of tension. Written by Éva Lovra.


The experience of a building’s subjective reception begins when leaving the façade elements behind and entering the reception area. It is an intermediate/transitional space telling more about the designer’s intention than the façade itself. To merge, to unite, to reconstruct and to change function of the two century-old buildings have become part of the public consciousness since 2016. However, abstracted from all the above, the Schanzer Villa designed by Frigyes Spiegel (Andrássy út 101.) and the dwelling house designed by Vilmos Freud (31 Bajza utca) later becoming an integral part of the villa, have changed their function as the headquarters of the Hungarian Academy of Arts, and revived both in historic and contemporary sense.

építész: Fazakas György - fotó: Lovra Éva


építész: Fazakas György - fotó: Lovra Éva


Nevertheless, the building complex cannot be considered a functional and structural unit, since the triple vertical articulation of the façade on the Bajza utca line is strongly reflected in the interior layout as well.

The transparency of the reception area and the lobby articulated with vertical and horizontal glass surfaces do not only connect the side façades of the two buildings, but are also reminiscent of an outside corridor, especially at the joints of the upper floors. The horizontal and vertical layout of the façade on Bajza utca 31. is echoed by the laminated glass panels. These panels emphasize the playful white-terracotta façade cladding of the turn-of-the-century building with strong contrast, but without over-dominating it. The central element, the transitional space connecting the two buildings at several points, has respect for the rich façade decoration of the Freud building by offering a complete view of it through the glass surfaces not only from the ground floor but also from upstairs. This makes the black and white contrast of the oval (Post)modern light sources – i.e. the difference between the metaphor of the present and the lost, century-old elegance of the past – even more tangible.

építész: Fazakas György - fotó: Lovra Éva


This duality, the tension between contemporary geometry and turn-of-the-century architectural elements is present everywhere: in both the façade and interior design, being echoed in the interior of the Schanzer Villa and in decors and furnishing. The designers did not try to completely change or overwrite the original floor plan, so the interconnecting salons and lounges were turned into offices and meeting rooms with hidden kitchenettes.
The most imposing and exciting part of the building is the hall and staircase, the interconnecting spaces, snow-white walls, frosted glass ceilings and recessed windows of which make the space vibrant even in natural light, accentuated by a few pieces of furniture placed with clumsy symmetry and a carpet reflecting the color of the stained glass windows of the historic building.

építész: Fazakas György - fotó: Lovra Éva

építész: Fazakas György - fotó: Lovra Éva


The ground floor of the villa evokes the world of gentlemen's clubs from the turn of the century, but without being overwhelmed with modernity, implemented in a purity-seeking form. The design concept is deadened by the fact that construction works were still under way at the time of the site visit, and in a few weeks or months these spaces may be transformed again - proportions will be rearranged, and the airiness of the space might disappear due to the furniture suppressing the dominance of noble materials, marble, stained glass and bronze.

An interior staircase connects the spaces, and the varied ceiling height makes for an interesting optical game with the passer-by: some windows and mezzanine floors disturb the overall effect of the transparent spaces, which are multiple-divided also by the glass panels.

From Andrássy út 101. we can enter Bajza utca 31. through a former balcony window. These two buildings are connected by an 'intermediate space' and a glass bridge, passing through which a completely reconstructed colorful stained-glass window is revealing, while the visitor is made uncertain by the void below and the wrought-iron canopy hanged over the original entrance of the building. The semi-transparent layers below and above us reflect on the interior of the office building, a sterile white labyrinth broken only by some numbers and door plates. Reflection of reflective surfaces creates a cold and alien effect, being in complete contradiction with the façade design of the building, its warm terracotta color and decorative elements.

építész: Fazakas György - fotó: Lovra Éva


It is almost a relief to get open-air again by reaching the roof terrace between the two buildings: when we exit the corridors that are almost smashingly closed and unnaturally bright, the previous objective contemplation, based solely on shapes and aesthetics, comes to an end.

During the renovation, Freud’s residential building was completed with a building element that had only existed in the plans before. The small tower, noticeable from the street front, is actually visible in the intimate setting of the roof garden. The small garden and the view to the surrounding buildings and to lower layers through the connecting glass bridge create a feeling of completeness, a small oasis in the heart of Budapest.


Éva Lovra




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