Hungary Bets on Design

The Hungarian government creates a National Design Center in a bid to attract design-conscious international manufacturing

Hungarian industrial designers won’t have to travel any further than a 62-year-old former bus terminal in central Budapest to keep up with the latest international trends and attract clients—the structure is being reborn as the Hungarian Design Center. Expected to open this spring, it joins the ranks of other national design centers worldwide that occupy repurposed structures.

The Hungarian government, which owns the former Volánbusz building, a Bauhaus-style structure, invested roughly $2.2 million in its resurrection after the bus depot was moved to a larger suburban terminal in 2002. Teampannon, a Budapest-based architecture practice that won a competition to create the Design Center in early 2005, left the building’s two-story rectangular form unchanged. The designers instead restored its deteriorating stone cladding and marble floors, replaced its windows, installed entirely new mechanical systems, and improved the site’s small landscaped plaza. Teampannon then reworked the former ticketing and waiting area into space for rotating exhibitions, meeting rooms, offices, a restaurant, and bookstore.

“The original bus station design was unusual for this neighborhood and represented an important new era for Hungarian architecture after the Second World War,” observes János Golda, one of the firm’s four partners. “The new design center makes the connection between…the classical architecture of an older part of the city and a modern new part. It also introduces a 21st century connection to the harmony of architecture and industrial design.”

Several precedents exist for this kind of redevelopment. Scotland's Centre for Architecture and Design—dubbed “The Lighthouse”—occupies the former Glasgow Herald building, a 19th century structure designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, renovated and expanded in 1999. And, in 2005, Australia’s National Design Centre opened in Melbourne. This project, designed by Lab Architecture, is part of a larger redevelopment scheme called Federation Square that is constructed on a new deck over part of the city’s main railway network.

Hungary has high hopes that the Design Center will bring this country and its wavering economy into the fold of design-conscious international manufacturing. The project might also benefit the surrounding urban fabric. Already, the municipal government has spent $3.9 million to refurbish Erzsébet tér, the square in which the revamped Volánbusz building is located.

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