Jewish Quarter to be Saved

posted by Katalin Teller on 2009/04/24 20:20

[ Events ]

Galéria Centrális will open an exhibition by the society ÓVÁS! (PROTEST!) at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 28, 2009. The exhibition is entitled An Alternative Perspective on the Jewish Quarter and will be opened by György Konrád. Probably a must. Here follows the announcement of ÓVÁS!:

Anyone who is walking on the streets of the old Jewish quarter of Pest, a World Heritage site under UNESCO protection since 2002, may get the impression that the war has just ended. They see vacant plots, deserted apartment buildings, abandoned business venues, decaying architectural monuments, the facades and frontal sections of partially demolished buildings, recently built apartment blocks resembling housing estates, ghost houses and passages, and the yawning entrances of underground garages. Apparently, a phantom town without residents or vendors is emerging in the place of one of the liveliest and most exciting former merchant districts of Pest. Beside the synagogues, which are the distinctive landmarks of the urban landscape, the only parts of the protected quarter that have managed to retain their lively character and historic ambience are those where major alterations, demolitions and constructions have not yet taken place. The alternative cafés, shops and cultural venues frequented mostly by young people and foreign tourists can all be found here.

All the evidence seems to suggest that the nature of the transformation has been an unqualified failure. Instead of improving the quality of life and the visual impact of the district, the development investors have clearly ruined them. Despite international and local protest, the damage continues unabated. Under these critical circumstances we have decided to launch yet another effort to revise the existing conceptual framework and the present practices and to produce new plans that are in line with the area's status of an international and national heritage site, and that correspond with UNESCO's expectations. By presenting our alternative plans we would like to ferment new ideas and to generate a new movement leading to the immediate suspension of the existing planning regulations and the start of a genuine rehabilitation. Without supposing that ours is the only possible way to rescue the area, we do believe that a new conceptual approach is essential. Only this could give the area a long-term social, cultural, touristic and economic boost and benefits.

Although at present the prospects seem very dim because of the prevailing commercial interests and economic alliances, achieving a breakthrough in this dire situation is only a matter of the finding right political motives and determination. It is possible to plan less ambitiously, to build on a smaller scale, and yet to create an architecturally more valuable environment. It is possible to construct an attractive, vibrant and functional urban milieu by restoring historical buildings, creating better living conditions, protecting the traditions and the sites of remembrance, reducing the traffic load, developing green areas and parks, and encouraging religious and cultural life. All these have been achieved elsewhere, in places like Paris and Berlin, Prague, Crackow and Warsaw, leading to a great property boom everywhere. Why should it be different here?

The alternative plans and the exhibition itself have been designed jointly by the following team: Anna Perczel: concept, urban design; Catherine Szántó: landscape architecture, transportation; Ádám Magyar: architecture; Virág Bencze-Kovács: transportation; János Ladányi: social issues; Tamás Doleschall: economic model; Ildikó Baranyai: digital maps; Béla Káli: architecture; Martin Fejér: photos of the Ghetto Wall; István Jávor, Martin Fejér: enlarged photos; Bálint Kaszics: model In addition to the plans and the written texts, we have also arranged preliminary viewings of the uncut version of a documentary film entitled "A Small Town", featuring representatives of alternative cultural and religious communities living in the area. The documentary is the work of István Jávor and Dóri Szego.

The exhibited architectural model of Inner Erzsébetváros has been made by the urban studies students of the University of Karlsruhe.

Beside our own ideas and thoughts, we would also like to present a number of competition entries and student projects, which have been produced during the past few years in connection with the rehabilitation of the Jewish quarter: plans submitted to the International EUROPAN Competition of 2005; the two winning entries of the competition announced in 2006 jointly by ÓVÁS! and OKTOGON magazine for the reconstruction of the building at No. 40, Király utca; the dissertations of Hungarian architecture students who graduated in 2008; and plans made in 2009 by students of urban planning at the University of Karlsruhe,

The development of the alternative plans with the engagement of outside professionals has been made possible through the generous support of the Soros Foundation. The exhibition has been sponsored by the Soros Foundation, the Budapest Bank Foundation for Budapest and OSA Archivum.

The exhibition will be open to the public every day from April 28 through May 12, 2009,  between 10:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M. Monday closed.



A picture from the heydays of liberal Budapest - when a whole (though short) underground line could be built within two years. And M1, the famous "Földalatti", Budapest's yellow line, still works. I have never seen this image of the construction on Andrássy before, so be full of admiration - and I am not telling your where it is from...

The M1-line so is a memento to both: a liberal mayor (for what Budapest was capable of) and the Siemens company, who more than a hundred years ago was capable of producing faultless underground trams (not like today's Combino crap...)

Budapest has – together with St. Petersburg and Vienna – one of the largest tramway networks of the world. The tramway type "UV" – standing for "Új villamos - New tramway" and pictured above – was designed in the early forties and is still a symbol for Hungary's once high-tech railway-carriage industry. With the arrival of the new low-floor-trams in spring 2006 – built by Siemens in Vienna and not too beautiful – this landmark of Budapest will vanish from the cityscape.
György Petri: Imre Nagy

Du warst unpersönlich wie die anderen bebrillten Führer
im Sakko, deine Stimme war nicht metallen,
denn du wußtest nicht, was du eigentlich sagen solltest,
so unvermittelt den vielen Versammelten. Gerade das Plötzliche
war ungewohnt für dich. Du alter Mann mit dem Zwicker,
ich hörte dich, ich war enttäuscht.
Ich wußte noch nichts

vom Betonhof, wo der Staatsanwalt
das Urteil gewiß heruntergeleiert hat,
ich wußte noch nichts von der groben Reibung des Stricks, von der letzten Schmach.

Wer will sagen, was sagbar gewesen wäre
von jenem Balkon aus, Möglichkeiten, unter Maschinengewehren
verfeuert, kehren nicht zurück. Gefängnis und Tod
wetzen die Schärfe des Augenblicks nicht aus,

wenn der eine Scharte bekommen hat. Aber wir dürfen uns erinnern
an den zögernden, verletzten, unentschlossenen Mann,
der gerade seinen Platz zu finden schien,

als wir davon aufwachten,
daß man unsere Stadt zerschoß.

Übersetzt von Hans-Henning Paetzke

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