location: budapest, hungary
firstly some background knowledge. csepel is an island on the river danube, situated close to the historical budapest. it was an industrial area from the beginning of the 20th century, and in the 1950s it became a shining comet of socialist industry. not an accident that it is usually called ‘red’ csepel, referring to the communist roots.
and the workers needed accommodation. there were built many types of housing unit during forty years of socialism, so the area has a diverse and colorful stock of socialist buildings. there are stalinistic buildings from the 1950s.
there are moderate modernist ones from 1960s, with lower number of levels, from cast concrete.
there are over dimensioned housing estates from the 1970s, with huge no man’s lands and depressing grey blocks.
as well, there are many examples of panel rehabilitation program, which tries to repair mistakes of original planning, and improve quality of life in these areas.
(new clothes and old clothes)
and there are facades which are colorful in themselves without any rehabilitation.
finally there are some which are exciting because of their spatial features.
this is poetry.
location: budapest, hungary
1960s. we are close to the ‘end of modernism’, 1972, the explosion of pruitt-igoe, and architects begin to discover even in hungary, that something is wrong with monotonous housing blocks. they offer the idea of urban city for the next large housing estate project in budapest, which simply means a city where traditional urban atmosphere and flow can be seen. they want to reach this quality by breaking the monotonity of facades, using more different types of houses, and making a diverse landscape by different height of buildings.
we can see the particular structure of the space: two main axles cutting each other in the middle. the original plan was that main street will serve as social and commercial centre, similarly to traditonal shopping street in city centre, and there would be more quiet residential areas with lower buildings behind that.
only two things went wrong: planners calculated with a two-level street, where traffic passes underground, and pedestrians can use the ground level. this feature had not been realized, and it is really difficult to make a social street next to a highway.
other thing was almost absolute lack of commercial and social developments. residential areas were completed, but other facilities were built only in the following decade and partly. the new neighborhood was lacking a community centre, a cinema, a big department store, and in the beginning even schools and kindergartens. (that resulted the exciting institution of semi-public flat nurseries, where young mothers took care of children in cooperation.) so experiment failed. újpalota didn’t prove to the perfect solution for modernist city planning.
meanwhile it has some special features, which make it recognizable and interesting place. the most important is definitely the water tower. this is a 17 storey residential building in the centre of the neighborhood, which was built with a huge water storage on the top. according to the legends, it was never used for this goal in reality, but with its extreme height it became a dominant element of the landscape. it is built by different method than other blocks, from cast concrete instead of pre-fabricated concrete blocks.
on the top level there were two studio apartments with unusual big size (176 m2) and two levels inside. this is an interesting new feature in socialist housing: official governance hadn’t paid attention to artists before, and now it took it important to move them to the new neighborhood. another deteail: one of the leader planners, tibor tenke had become attached to this work of him that he wanted to move there, but he didn’t get an allocation from the council. that is true face of socialism.
there is a legend about first times of public transport: there was a bus line, namely the 24Y toward a market on the edge of the city centre, where in the summer people got tomato to conserve it in jars. these times buses were full of passengers carrying big bags of tomatoes, so by the end of the travel all bus was red.
streets of újpalota have special names instead of socialist heroes’ names, which was general in the era. public educators and community leaders worked out a concept which was based on the traditional names of the area. place-specific names enhanced local identity in a practically newborn neighborhood.
frankovics was a hungarian man who died in chile in the 1700s. in the middle of 20th century soviet union wanted to export the revolution also to south-america, so left wing government led by alliende was found in chile. alliende was changed by right wing pinochet regime, and political refugees from chile were welcome in soviet states. refugees got many flats in the new built neighborhood called after frankovics, which became a small foreigner quarter that way.
black attic house
blocks were built in a socialist work style: construction workers was working all day and night to complete the planned quantity. one night the son of the overman was working in night shift, he accidentally hitched one of the panels to himself, and he died. that house got a black attic respecting the memory of him.
neptun str 100
in the beginning of 1990s, after the transition maffia groups began to work in budapest. one of the first explosion connected to them was in the neptun street 100, which is a symbolic address.
stone soup in szilas park
szilas park is on the edge of újpalota; there were military barracks in socialist times, and after they were renovated and changed to a residential area. there lived a middle aged women called adél, with her five children, who had central role in building a community in the new quarter. they organized really memorable events like open air soup cooking (stone soup refers to a hungarian folk tale), or cushion battle between children from different staircases.