One of my favourite architects is also one of Europe’s least known, Hungary’s Imre Makovecz, a proponent of organic architecture who has created some of the most distinctive, beautiful and humanistic buildings to be found anywhere in the world. An article in the Guardian from 2004 gives an excellent summation:
‘Makovecz, born in 1935 and educated in Budapest, was himself imprisoned at the time of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, and had the death penalty hovering over his head for some years afterwards. One of the former Soviet satellite’s most creative dissidents, he developed and built his own form of organic architecture from the late 1960s onwards, in direct and timbered opposition to the communist love of four-square, pre-fabricated Soviet-style concrete blocks.
The Robin Hood of Hungarian architecture, Makovecz was banned from working in cities and teaching, and nurtured his highly personal and engagingly spiritual form of organic design in forest settlements and villages, themselves under threat of demolition. When the Soviet Union collapsed and Hungary became a democracy, Makovecz became a national hero. He represented his country with the design of the popular Hungarian pavilion – part barn, part cathedral – at the 1992 Seville Expo, while his firm, Makona, and his many disciples, who had taught illicitly in the compartments of cross-country trains, began to spread his brand of architecture across Hungary.
Makovecz is, moreover, much influenced by the anthroposophic theories of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), the Austrian “spiritual scientist”, whose schools are well known worldwide today. Steiner held that our spiritual evolution is held back by being mired in the material world; in the leaning domes of Piliscsaba, it is possible, perhaps, to see the architecture that frames our spiritual education, struggling with the mire.
Makovecz’s rise to prominence has clearly owed as much to his skill in creating a folkloric architecture that conjures Hungary’s struggle for independence, while challenging the materialist values of both communist and capitalist ways of life, as to his artistic imagination and integrity.’
Makovecz’s combination of native Magyar architectural styles with an almost Celtic infusion is unforgettable and his buildings resemble images constructed from the distillation of medieval European legend, natural, instinctive and familiar. For some more reading on a man regarded by many as an architectural genius try visiting this photo gallery, or here. It is a crying shame that Makovecz has been rejected by some in his home country in Hungary’s rampant drive to become just another Anglo-American clone in Eastern Europe, with the embracing of a sham modernity that is a hollow and meaningless as a McDonald’s sign.
- Eyewitness – Hungarian Photography – Eyewitness – Hungarian Photography – Royal Academy of Arts (carylbeach.wordpress.com)
- Tony Paterson: A museum with a selective memory (independent.co.uk)
- Oh Those Hungarians (budgetnomad.blogspot.com)
- 36 Hours: 36 Hours in Budapest (travel.nytimes.com)
- Cool Budapest (economist.com)