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10.2.04

New Building from Imre Makovecz

Imre Makovecz, the Stephenaeum, Piliscsaba, HungaryI may be one of the few people left who was not familiar with the work of Hungarian architect Imre Makovecz. As I learned in an article (Ideal dome exhibition, February 9) by Jonathan Glancey in The Guardian:

His most sensational new building is unquestionably the Stephenaeum (shown here), an auditorium and the cultural heart of the Pázmány Péter Katolikus Egyetem [Péter Pázmány Catholic University] of the Sacred Heart's faculty of humanities at Piliscsaba, some 20 km north of Budapest. The Makovecz design—and, yes, it is real—takes the form of two circular buildings, one adopted from the form of a traditional Magyar jurta (yurt), the other a Renaissance tempietto, crashing into one other. Here, it appears, are two opposite worlds, urban and rural, rational and romantic, national and international, trying to match and marry.
There are designs for this and other buildings in an exhibit called Hungarian Architecture Today: Modernist and Organic, at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London until February 26. This exhibit is part of a series of cultural events, Magyar Magic: Hungary in Focus 2004, sponsored by the Hungarian Cultural Centre to honor the entry of Hungary into the European Union this coming May. Mr. Glancey also describes another Makovecz project, at Farkasreti-temeto (Wolf's Meadow Cemetery):Imre Makovecz, Lutheran church in Siófok, 1986–1990
Here, among hilly acres of horse chesnut and ash trees, are the much-visited graves of former dissidents and refugees, among them the composer Bela Bartok and the conductor Sir Georg Solti. Matyas Rakosi, Hungary's Stalinist dicatator, is buried here, too. Before he was removed from power in 1956, Rakosi had executed some 2,000 of his fellow citizens and incarcerated at least 100,000 more. Yet, the reason an increasing number of visitors ride the yellow and white trams from Moszkva ter in the centre of town to this wooded grave yard is to witness its extraordinary and unprecedented mortuary chapel. The winged doors of this architectural cave open to reveal a timber simulacrum of the human torso. The dead rest in caskets where the heart would be, if this building, designed by Imre Makovecz, was alive. On quiet days, and with candles flickering, it is easy to imagine the building breathing.
Now, if that description does not make you want to see an image of this chapel (the architect claimed his inspiration for the interior was the human rib-cage), nothing will. It took a little searching, but here are some pictures of Makovecz's mortuary chapel at Farkasréti temeto, completed in 1975, which is absolutely beautiful and yet creepy. So this got me interested, and I started looking for other buildings by Makovecz. The most attractive, I found, are the Visegrád Forest Education Center (1982–1988), a Catholic church at Paks (more pictures here) (1987–1990), a Lutheran church at Siófok (1986–1990; see image above), and the Villa Tibor Jacob (1988–1991). (The latter looks now like the guest house at Rivendell.) Outside of Hungary, there is a set of commercial buildings called Naturata in Überlingen, Germany (1992), and the famous Hungarian pavilion for the 1992 World's Fair in Seville, Spain. There are also images of several other Makovecz buildings available from a site in Denmark called Research into Organic Design. Several other pages are available, mostly in Hungarian or other inscrutable (for me) languages, but sometimes with good images (you can see pictures of Makovecz here and here, for example). The architect's official Web site is "Üdvözöljük," which I'm guessing means "under construction."

UPDATE:
Brian Micklethwaite blogged about this article yesterday (When buildings collide – to make a building, February 9) in his Culture Blog.

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