Dániel Kovács – Imperial Walkers above Budapest

The metabolist towers of the lesser-known Hungarian architect László Kiss E. could easily be the most disputed, and probably the most hated Modernist landmark of Budapest – but they did never come near to realization. In fact, the concept of the building, resembling the All-Terrain Armoures Transport vehicles from Star Wars, but published well before the first movie, in the August 1966 issue of Budapest magazine, finished only on the third place on a competition organized in the biggest state-owned design office of Hungary, KÖZTI, for the possible campus extension of the Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences.

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Still, the idea of the organically growing towers which could be built while the old buildings remain in use, yet multiply the available space in a dense downtown area, is very much in parallel with the then-contemporary Western architectural thinking. As an imminent parallel, the megastructures of Hungarian-born Yona Friedman represent a very similar thinking – in fact, the preface of the Budapest magazine article, written by the doyen of the Modernist architectural theory in Hungary, Máté Major, indeed mentions Friedman, although his work was not too well-known in the country at the time. The other obvious parallel, or we may even say inspiration, could be Japanese Metabolism – let us not forget that it was only a year before, in 1965, that Kenzo Tange was asked to redevelop the earthquake-strucken Skopje in Macedonia, Yugoslavia. László Kiss E. and his Hungarian colleagues probably knew these concepts and were freely inspired by the ideas of the Japanese master.

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While construction technology was certainly not capable to realize such a structure in Hungary, in general, such structures could have already been built in the sixties. This was the age of dreaming big, with possible megastructures transforming the world’s metropolises. This university campus in Budapest could possibly have been one.

Dániel Kovács

The article is a shortened version of the original, published on hg.hu. Images: Budapest magazine, August 1966

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