Open cultural community space on the Danube bank
As a result of the value creating work of Pallas Athéné Foundations the Ybl Buda Creative House opened its gates in May 2018 in a renewed stated: both regarding its state and its functions, thus now it is also suitable for community-cultural purposes. Become familiar with its history and the related reconstruction works, and how this historic buildong has become a cultural meeting point, full of with contemporary fine arts exhibitons, interactive events, lectures, workshops, concerts, film screenings and family programs.
“There are few buildings in Budapest where meeting the goals of the engineer was as much able to couple with artistic aspects as in the Ybl engine-room kiosk” – said Ervin Ybl in his book on the workmanship of the architect, published in 1956. As Miklós Ybl hid very complicated industrial premises by dressing it up into an artistic solution created with aesthetic and architectural feat, and to top it all, in harmony with the Várkert Bazár (Castle Garden Bazaar). The liking of the general public was further boosted by the café operated in a building styled after the Renaissance of Florence, which had soon become a fashionable place of the residents of the Buda side. At the same time, it also worked really well as a technical establishment: the steam engines could pump 1.272 Mn litres of filtered Danube water to the royal castle daily.
The hospitality function has accompanied the more than hundred-year-old history of the building, with some tiny interruptions. It also operated as a music and dance venue, rehearsal room of a dance club, casino, and also as a venue of various events. The damages caused during WWII were tried to be corrected with smaller and bigger refurbishments, but from 2009 the building was standing there empty, and its condition severely deteriorated.
You can read about the history of the building in more detail here.
The turn in the history of the ill-fated building took place when in 2016 it came into possession of the Pallas Athéné Foundations. Then the owners started to think about the establishment of a new operational function, over and above the external and internal reconstruction of the building. The goal from then on was not simply the redesign of a closed public building, just as in the case of the casino, but to establish an open special venue that also provides new opportunities for artists. This is how the concept of the Ybl Buda Creative House was formed and crystallized: the historic building should become a meeting point on the Danube bank, full of with contemporary fine arts exhibitions, interactive events, lectures, workshops, concerts, film screenings and family programs. As a continuation of the traditions, a café, a garden patio and a terrace were also involved into the concept. The process of renovation-restauration-reconstruction lasted for almost 1.5 years.
Revival of the Ybl Buda Creative House
For the new function new spatial planning became necessary, which also made it possible to provide a differentiated use for the various levels. This, for example, required the establishment of several entrances. The outcome is a building with a useful floor space of 1162.87m2, including exhibition and event spaces, a café and an open-air terrace.
The façade was reconstructed in a masterly manner and the internal areas were given a completely new implementation by rethinking the original architecture of Ybl. This is how the establishment of the garden entrance and the glazing of the loggia were implemented.
The building that was standing in darkness for years has been provided with elegant festive decorations – also intensifying the glitter of the Castle Garden Bazaar –, thus it has been given the necessary attention also from the Pest side Danube bank.
One of the most beautiful part of the building is the loggia, as it is standing against its high columns. The cross-arches of the semi-open, arcaded entrance hall are covered with sgrafitto grotesques. The essence of this architectural rarity is that certain layers of mortar applied in different colours onto a dark surface are scratched off. This is how the ornamental motifs are produced by revealing the various colourful layers underneath. The original sgraffito created by Róbert Scholtz can now be seen in its greatest splendour as a result of the renovations of 2017.
The new glass structure is also a special architectural attraction; it separates the loggia from the external space, thus keeping out noise, wind, heat and cold. The glass practically does not touch either the floor or the arches, and to top it all, these surfaces can also be opened. The loggia can be heated in the winter and cooled in the summer, still, it feels as if one was sitting outdoors. Furthermore, it is a real extension – terrace – of the inner café opening from here.
When entering the building one first arrives at the historic, protected area of the café, recalling the atmosphere of the former Castle Garden Kiosk. The new colours and furniture indeed “lighten up” the room, in the centre of which there is a huge bar. Its furnishing is modern, but at the same time also involves classical elements.
Aqua Exhibition Space
The boiler room was the heart of the pumping station designed by Ybl; by now it has become a sparklingly modern exhibition and event venue. In the course of the reconstruction works the ornamented looks remaining from the casino era were left behind, and a clear space was created, providing an overall fresh impression, that can perfectly act as a venue for exhibitions of any style.
In the upper floor of Aqua Exhibition Space, in its part looking the Danube, a lovely gallery has been established. This area was originally the apartment of the master operating the steam engines, and a maid’s room. Currently the walls are decorated with the expressive and stirring pictures of the painter and animated film director György Kovásznai. The name of the room derives from here: it is a homage to the workmanship of the excellent artist. Looking down from the glass windows of the Kovásznai Gallery one can have a glimpse of the exhibition in the Aqua Exhibition Space from a special perspective.
Terra Exhibition Space
It does not only operate as an exhibition space, but is also ready to host various events. In the vaulted rooms of the basement level coal used to be stored in the past, which could be loaded from the Danube and the road alike. The underground loading tunnels and the canals of the water treatment cisterns used to lead here. It could have been very difficult to approach this beautiful vaulted venue that has gained its new function, so finally it was given a new entrance from the garden.
The terrace surrounded by semi-transparent glass balustrade can be accessed from the garden opening from the entrance hall, by walking across a glass bridge. The huge, wooden gold lion created by Gábor Miklós Szőke, globally known visual artist – the exhibition of whom the Ybl Buda Creative House was opened – stands at the very end of it.
The glass bridge leading the terrace is situated above a submerged space, where one can get from the basement level on stairs, until the newly created entrance of the Terra Exhibition Space. This semi-circular area is right on the axis of the building. The portrait of Miklós Ybl, created by Áron Zsolt Majoros was hung on the wall opposite the semi-circle. The portrait made up from 2x2 cm black stainless steel pixels does not only authentically depict the artist, but with the ‘flowing’ of the pixels also refers to the spiritual legacy that continues to live on. This is how the creators of the Ybl Buda Creative House pay their tribute to the famous architect-creator.