Is it necessary to authentically restore the Royal Palace’s string of grand chambers to resemble golden age and atmosphere a century ago? How authentic can the work actually be if not even colour photographs survive of the original? These are some of the questions the members of the newly-established Hauszmann Committee, commissioned to manage the reconstruction of Buda Palace, seek to answer. In addition to the Royal Palace itself, the Committee’s mandate extends to rethinking the functions of the entire Palace Quarter, the part of District I within the walls of the mediaeval city where many of Budapest’s tourist hotspots are located.
“What lies ahead of us is a great adventure, a mental and intellectual adventure ridden with responsibility”, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said at the founding meeting of the Hauszmann Committee, established to assist the reconstruction of the Palace Quarter in Buda. The body, which is made up of architects Gábor Zoboki, István Schneller and Ferenc Potzner, military historian Róbert Hermann, historian and specialist in Budapest’s past Noémi Saly, art historian Péter Rostás, representatives of adjacent professions and many others is, in the words of the Prime Minister, a kind of “war council”, where experts discuss possible methods of national cooperation to “recapture” Buda Castle.
The reconstruction of Buda Castle and, more closely, the royal palace will be the state’s most important undertaking in the following years. The ten years set out by the Prime Minister appears too short a period to carry out the task, although State Secretary László L. Simon, who is the cabinet member in charge of restoration, later spoke of twenty years. However, expecting to see the same palace at the time of 2026 or 2034 elections that architect Lajos Hauszmann handed over to King Francis Joseph in 1905 would be unrealistic because redevelopment between 1949 and 1985 was so extensive that restoring the building to its original condition would be a near impossibility; for example, even its entrances were located in different places.
Mediaeval ruins uneathed in the Fifties and the reconstructions based on them could also have an effect on the present redevelopment of the palace. The Budapest History Museum – the only institution currently located in the palace that will be allowed to stay also due to the necessity of having a castle museum after reconstruction – is built upon mediaeval ruins. The possible demolishmnt of the concrete storage blocks within the two inner courts of the National Széchenyi Library, which awaits relocation, will similarly be no minor task. Restoring the palace’s interiors will cause even more headaches. “Today, the palace and its surroundings only serve as scenery to festivals, which is derogatory. Visitors from abroad who want to take a look of the royal palace cannot find a single interior. This has to change”, Mr. Potzner explains why the restoration of at least a few of the historical interiors is needed. The chambers could be restored with the help of descriptions, archive data and photographs, but not a single colour photograph remains. “Were are in a worse position than Germany, where Hitler had pictures taken of the country’s every historical monument, all of its palaces in 1943-1944, before the bombings”, Mr. Rostás said. However, only black-and-white photographs survive of the chambers of Buda Palace. While descriptions exist, if we read of something that it is walnut-coloured, it is not the same whether this means light or dark walnut”, the expert claims.