The Hungarian government reportedly finalized plans last Wednesday to invest some HUF 200 billion (USD 740 million) over the next four years demolishing and renovating existing buildings, as well as erecting a number of new buildings in Budapest’s famed Városliget (Central Park).
The oldest and largest of all of Budapest’s parks, Városliget is already home to such popular attractions as the Széchenyi baths, the museum of transportation, and the Petőfi indoor-outdoor concert hall, a popular venue for rock music (which has been slated for demolition later this year). It is also home to the fanciful Vajdahunyad castle built as part of the millenarian celebrations in 1896, as well as various lakes, skating rinks, and playgrounds. Immediately adjacent to the park can be found the Budapest zoo, the Budapest circus, Heroes Square, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Budapest Hall of Art, and of course the elegant Gundel restaurant.
In the middle of 2013, the government announced plans to renovate and turn the park into a kind of “family cultural-recreational theme park” featuring a new museum quarter, as well as various botanical gardens and the like. This necessitated transferring ownership of the 300-acre park from the City of Budapest and District 14 to the national government.
The sponsor of the seven-page law providing for the above was then-14th district mayor Dr. Ferenc Papcsak. The bill granted 100 percent ownership of the City Park to the national government for 99 years. Since February of 2014 ownership rights of the property have been exercised by Városliget Ingatlanfejleszto Zrt. (Városliget Real Estate Developer Corporation), a special purpose vehicle (SPV) created solely for this purpose run by a three-member board of directors consisting of former State Opera House managing director István Mozsár (who also serves as CEO), Museum of Fine Arts Director Baán László, and Századvég Foundation Deputy Chairman Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky.
Government plans to turn the city’s oldest and largest park into a museum-studded family theme park met with considerable hostility on the part of political opposition leaders, urban planners, and environmental protectionists alike. Environmentalists pointed out that the park was already overbuilt, and the planned improvements would vastly exceed the 3 percent permitted by law. A group of prominent urban planners and architects called for a boycott of the international planning tender announced later that year.
Needless to say, the international tender took place anyway and the winners were chosen by a panel of experts.
Index.hu writes that the project is to take place in two phases over a period of four years at a total cost of HUF 200 billion. Supposedly the budget approved earlier this year allocates HUF 15 billion (USD 55.5 million) for the project in 2016 and an additional HUF 38 billion (USD 140 million) in 2016. Thereafter, “HUF 40 billion (USD 141.8 million) is to be invested into the reconstruction of the park annually” until its completion, reports index.hu.
Also slated for demolition are the old Hungexpo buildings and outdoor beer garden area popularly known as “Kertem” (my garden). They are to be replaced with a new Hungarian House of Music (pictured here) designed by star Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto.
Scheduled for completion in 2018 is the renovation of the Museum of Fine Arts on the northern side of Heroes Square. On the grounds of the closed Szabolcs street hospital nearby, a new 30-40,000 sqm complex of five buildings will be built. The “National Museum Restoration and Archival Center” will provide “technical and infrastructural” support to the new institutions to be built in the park itself.
In this 2014 plan buildings to be renovated are outlined in purple, and new buildings in red. However, index.hu reports that the Museum of Architecture and the Museum of Photography, originally planned next to the 1956 memorial, have been dropped from the project. Furthermore, the location of the new Ethnographic Museum, originally planned for the corner of Dózsa György and Ajtósi Dürer streets, has been moved. A theatre is now planned for the corner of Dózsa and Ajtósito replace the 300 capacity theatre that previously stood at that location demolished in 1952. The building is reportedly to be reconstructed based on its original plans.
The second group of buildings is slated for completion in 2019. A new National Gallery and Ethnographic Museum (pictured here) is to be erected in the place of the Petőfi Csarnok.
The highest building is to be the renovated Transportation Museum situated in the Hermina street, which is to receive a 67 m tall dome.
The HUF 200 billion investment includes the renovation of the Vajdahunyad castle—a scale model of the original one in Hunedoara, Romania—and the Olof Palme House.
index.hu reports that the park’s “oversized roads and surface parking” will be partially demolished and a running path built. The park’s green area is to be “expanded and renovated”. The project’s organizers point out that, while the percent of the park that is to be built in will increase from the current 4.5 percent to 7 percent, the area of the park covered by trees will increase from the current 60 percent to 65 percent.