architecture : urban : visual culture

The invisible space - Kálvin square in Budapest

Veronika Mayerböck's project deals with the situation of “Kalvin Square”, a main traffic junction in the city center of Budapest, focusing on human body- and space-perception with particular lighting design. Veronika Mayerböck - with this project - participated in the Interaction Architecture international exhibition.

1) PROJECTDESCRIPTION:  Invisible spaces underneath Kalvin Square

Within my masterthesis “Der unsichtbare Raum” / “the invisible space“ I designed a project in regard to my interdiciplinary background from architecture and dance. I tried to combine on one hand the view out of an architect’s perspective with on the other hand a much more bodyorientated thinking of a dancer.

The project deals with the situation of “Kalvin Square”, a main traffic junction in the city center of Budapest (dealing with the old status quo in 2006 before the redesign by the hungarian Architect Skardelli György). The very old square with its vivid history was characterized at that time by a surface crowded with streets and traffic. Every pedestrian was forced to cross the square by diving into the visual chaos of its vast undergound passages and large subway areas underneath constructed in the late 70’s.




Central topic of my work is to explore the way we perceive and interpretate our surrounding, which patterns we do follow while “reading” space when orientating in and identifying with it. How do we give meaning to our environment and in how far this idea we have of a space affects our action and movement within these spaces? It seems important to me to explore these rules of our “urban daily life behaviour” and our form of social coexistence within our more and more accelerated and complex living spaces. To study these aspects Kalvin Tér seemed the perfect place as a  transient movement generator on different layers in the cityscape of Budapest, especially because of its architectural design confronting with political ideals of a past idea about the individual and the public sphere.


2) RESEARCH:   Diving into history & understanding space through interaction on a physical level

Following an architects approach I did profound theoretical research about the historical genesis of the square, urbanism in Budapest and especially about the development of public spaces during and after socialism (special thanks to many institutions and offices in Budapest who helped me collecting information: Studio Metropolitana, Teampannon, Re’v8, Pallatium Studio, Uvaterv Studio, Office of Skardelli Györgi, LIYSIS Company, district municipalities of Ferencvaros, Jozsefvaros and Belvaros).

But only by “beeing there” and getting into direct physical interaction on a “body level” with Kalvin square I could “internalize” the site, could understand this spatial conglomerate on a physical and sensorial level.




I arrived spending a lot of time at Kalvin square, doing a lot of physical experimentation and movement studies to emphasize first and then go into theoretical research about space-perception, human visual capacities in orientation and philosphy of cognition as a second step of my “corporal research”. I did a lot of experiments in movement, spatial studies exploring cubature, analyzing different spheres and physical states of movement, various speeds and the relation between orientation and the visual field while moving through the long distance spaces underneath Kalvin Square. Especially the choreography of these daily ways of passage in this transient urban landscape became very interesting.

Further the influence of other peoples’ perception and bodylanguage on my perception and vice versa while moving through the site became one main matter of my spontaneous or set interventions in public space. All these insights have been crucial for my final conception of space and lighting design: it’s about bringing the development of a design for a public space in harmony with the knowledge about the inner human nature and human perception - as the light artist James Turell is saying: “Licht als Erfahrung wortlosen Denkens” meaning “light as an experience of wordless thoughts”.(quote from the book “Licht, Farbe Raum. Künstlerisch wissenschaftliches Symposium” by Michael Schwarz, Braunschweig 1997, p.129)




3) FINAL PROJECTDESIGN: focusing on human body- and spaceperception with particular lighting design

Result of my work is to reorganize the square’s structure within its several layers and to create a form of new urban identity respecting the original meaning of Kalvin square by creating a special lighting and space design focussing on the human perception of body and space. The aim is to give back the sqare to the pedestrian and to add new forms of interaction inviting as well to stay and not only to pass this site by using its various means of transportation. The main impact of the design is to respect the spirit of the square as a dynamic and transient angle point but to offer as well a kind of warm inviting and playful atmosphere, providing identification for the pedestrians during their way of passage.




The challenge is to maintain the cubature of underground building stock but to break with the existing linear anonymity and evoque a new identity to this as chaotic and anxious perceived place.

So there is a major change in the existing surface design of the sqare by reducing the traffic lanes and giving  back large surface areas to the pedestrian.

Main intervention in the project’s design is the elaboration of a grid of movement lines, elaborated out of analyzing the symbiosis of surface and underground activities. This grid is translated into a sculptural layer with different “skinlike” plasticities connecting the 2 Levels by beeing visible on the surface as 3 dimensional structure on the square. It’s offering spaces for recreation, green areas, spaces for playing or just to sit. It’s also connecting to the underground by beeing integrated into the ceiling design of the areas underneath the square: The artificial light and daylight-windows are integrated into the 3 dimensional structure of curves within the ceiling, creating soft light spaces breaking with the linear perspective of the hallways. Further a huge opening window located on the former center and anglepoint of old Kalvinsquare in the main hall opens up for a visual connection to the surface structure and creates a spatial orientation between underground and surface. Especially for the deepgoing escalator a special light rhytm based on movement perception and transition between artificial light and daylight is developed.

Veronika Mayerböck

„Der unsichtbare Raum" by Veronika Mayerböck MSc

Technical University of Graz/Austria
Advisor: Univ.Prof.Mag.Arch.Mag.Art Irmgard Frank
Institute for Raumgestaltung / TU-Graz
3-month stay for research in Budapest: April – Juni 2006;
Advisor Faculty of Architecture  Budapest: Prof Melinda Benkő
Graduation at TU-Graz : June 2007

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