The new government quarters

The first reactions were muted: most people wanted to see something more grandiose. Instead they got "modest and green." At least this is how Népszabadság described it on its front page. An international jury, which included Daniel Libeskind, unanimously chose a Hungarian-Japanese joint design, a cooperative venture between a young Hungarian team led by Péter Janesch and the Japanese Kengo Kuma’s famous architectural firm. Anyone who would like to learn something about Kengo Kuma can find quite a bit of information on the internet. For example, here: http://www.designboom.com/history/kuma.html

One of the problems the architects had to solve was the presence of the famous Nyugari Pályaudvar (Western Station) designed by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame. Current plans place the new buildings a fair distance from the station, somewhat hidden by the station itself. The designers paid special attention to the surrounding cityscape by trying to make the government buildings part of a larger vital urban complex. The thirty Hungarian architects were responsible for the design of the buildings while the five Japanese architects worked on the redesign of the whole 30 hectars available for the project. The buildings themselves will occupy only one fifth of the available land; the rest will be occupied by a park, gallery, concert hall, and a promenade.

The buildings will be "green" not only because they will be built with utmost attention to saving energy but because the walls will be covered by plants that are in effect hanging gardens, grown not in soil but in water. These plants will serve as a cooling system during the summer. The plants were chosen in such a way that during the winter months they will change color from green to red. The flat roofs will also have gardens. The buildings will have inner courtyards, again with gardens. These courtyards will also serve as light sources that will reduce the amount of artificial light necessary inside the buildings. Heating will be done partially by solar and partially by geothermal energy. Thus the maintenance of the physical plant will be quite a bit less expensive than that of an ordinary office building. According to calculations, in the next twenty-five years the government can save about 140 billion forints just on maintenance, which almost the same as the maximum amount of money designated to be spent on construction (142.5 billion).

The government buildings will be built as a roughly 50-50 public-private partnership. Private capital, it seems, will fund the rest of the complex. I like the idea of selling unsuitable downtown buildings and moving into smaller and more efficient buildings. Let’s hope that there will not be too many delays and cost overruns. I can already see Fidesz inspired "civic groups" challenging the project in court for this or that reason. Let’s hope that my fears aren’t realized because the government would very much like to finish the project by 2009.