architecture : urban : visual culture

Sopron – Revitalization of the Castle District

The key concept of Hetedik Műterem Kft. led by architect Levente Szabó and GEUM Műterem Kft. was that when standing at any point of the Castle District one should know and feel that he/she's in this very part of the area. The renewed public space is filled with real urban life. 

In autumn 2009, the city council of Sopron announced a national, secret, open architectural competition with the title „Sopron – Revitalization of the Castle District”. The competition was won by Hetedik Műterem Kft. in collaboration with its landscape designer partner GEUM Műterem Kft. In the course of several years of design work, the first and most spectacular phase of the public space renewal, an approx. 15 thousand m2 large area has been completed by 2015. 

The beauty of the Castle District lies in its character created by the continuously changing cross sections and constantly varying spatial relations along almost half a kilometer length; and by the feature that all this belongs to Várkörút (Castle Boulevard), to its dynamism and generosity. This duality, namely the dichotomy of the longitudinal dynamism and cross-sectional diversity is the greatest value that we wanted to strengthen in our plan. The key concept was that when standing at any point of the Castle District one should know and feel that he/she is in this very part of the area. However, moderate approach was also required since the facades of the historic development along the inner and outer curves are determinative urban design elements, thus competing with them for dominance is unnecessary. 

After the complete reconstruction of utilities, new street lighting was installed and new pedestrian-dominated surfaces were formed in accordance with the renewed traffic system. Because of the historic environment and the former state, our main objective was to create a pavement with uniform appearance (color) evenly sloping towards the outer arc, providing a noble effect with its use of material. That is why we chose dark-colored clinker bricks and granite stripes ensuring the unity of the spatial structure. The graphics of the latter, like lines in sheet music, were meant to arrange the different features of public space architecture without disturbing the sense of integrity. Due to the public utility network’s density, landscaping and planting demanded great care. While high trees with pierced foliage were designed to the central zone, tree species with smaller canopy were placed next to the buildings – partly in order to ensure a dominant view for the historic facades, and on the other hand because of the different functional requirements of the pedestrian-dominated areas.

A pavilion was built in the area’s center of gravity, accommodating the necessary service rooms and toilets. The building has fine concrete surfaces with board formwork texture, precast reinforced concrete louvers and wood-paneled facades, subtly evoking the materiality of the excellent monumental reconstruction works accomplished in the second half of the 20th century in Sopron. The first and largest phase of the Castle District has been completed, and now it indicates the direction for further developments of the areas surrounding the city core. The already started public plaza revitalization of the city center will be finished with the renewal of two large connected areas, Kisvárkerület (Small Castle District) and Széchenyi tér.

With regard to the renewed public space, Barnabás Winkler wrote in his review: “Visitors to the city, but especially the residents of Sopron are visibly happy about the revitalized urban district. The Castle District is no longer merely a circulation zone, but it is filled with real urban life. The once intimate
atmosphere of the Castle District has returned, being reformulated with modern materials, but preserving the small-town coziness.”
(Régi-új Magyar Építőművészet 2016/3)



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