Thursday Top Ten: Communist-Era Buildings And Architectural Sights In Hungary
Tamás Székely 2017.01.26.
In Hungary Today’s weekly series “Thursday Top Ten” our readers can learn about the most interesting things one can find about Hungary in connection with a given topic. Following last week’s article about the most expensive Hungarian paintings, this week we continue our series about the amazingly rich architectural heritage of the Carpathian basin from the ancient times to today. Our next target are those buildings and architectural sights of Hungary that were constructed during the Communist era (1945-1990).
1. Liberty statue of Budapest
The Liberty Statue of Budapest was erected in 1947 in remembrance of what was then referred to as the Soviet “liberation” of Hungary during World War II. (In fact, the Red Army not only liberated Hungary from the Nazi terror but also occupied and ravaged it.) The 14 m tall bronze statue stands upon Gellért Hill in Budapest and holds a palm leaf, the symbol of freedom. The monument was designed by famous Hungarian artist Zsigmond Kisfaludi Stróbl.
2. Danube Iron Works in Dunaújváros
The Danube Iron Works, the one-time flagship of the Hungarian Socialist industry, is located in Dunaújváros, 70 km south of Budapest. The city was originally a small village along the Danube until the Communist regime decided to construct a new industrial city in 1949 and the original village was renamed Sztálinváros (“Stalin City”) in 1951. After the Hungarian revolution of 1956 the new government renamed the city the neutral Dunaújváros in 1961, which means “Danube New City”.
3. Water tower in Tiszaújváros
Similarly to Dunaújváros, the city of Tiszaújváros along the Tisza river also owes its existence to the industrialization wave of the 1950s. The old village was called Tiszaszederkény, but in 1970 the name was changed to “Leninváros” (Lenin Town). The city was once again renamed after the fall of communism to “Tiszaújváros” (Tisza New City). Although the city was known for its chemical factory, it was the 52-meter high water tower that became its main symbol. It was built in 1966, renovated in 2011 and has a capacity to store 750 cubic meters water.
4. Almásfüzítő factory
“Here work is a thing of dignity and honour”, says the giant inscription above the main entrance of the factory of Almásfüzítő. The industrial town located in Komárom-Esztergom county near the Danube river, was the home of the biggest alumina refinery of Hungary and Central Europe during the Communist times. Although the factory survived the regime change, it later went bankrupt and the production was completely shut down in 1997. The factory buildings are empty ever since.
5. Avas microdistrict in Miskolc
In the Communist era, panel buildings were constructed in almost every towns and cities of Hungary to provide workers with relatively cheap homes. The most famous micro district of such buildings is located in the city of Miskolc in North Hungary and it is called “Avas”. The 10-storey Socialist-style concrete blocks of flats still provide homes for about one-third of the city’s population. Unfortunately the district has a rather bad reputation due to high unemployment, poor living conditions and high rate of crime.
6. Hotel Füred in Balatonfüred
Te Hotel Füred is a legendary hotel in the famous resort town of Balatonfüred, right next to the Lake Balaton. The typical Socialist building was constructed in the middle of the 1970s, because its neighbour, the Hotel Marina, was not big enough to accommodate the increasing number of tourists who spent their holidays in Balatonfüred. The giant cube-form hotel remained popular even after the fall of Communism and operated as a retro three-star hotel until 2008. It was re-opened only in May 2016 after a complete refurbishment that turned the building into a modern four-star hotel.
7. M3 Metro in Budapest
The blue-colored Metro 3 was constructed in several phases between 1970 and 1990. It is the longest line of Budapest Metro, running north-south direction parallel to the Danube on the Pest side, from Újpest to Kőbánya-Kispest. Most of the Metro 3 stations are reminders of the Socialist era, including the Klinkák station pictured above. The Soviet-made carriages, that still operate on this line, are in critical condition, therefore the M3 line would soon need large-scale reconstruction.
8. Budapest Southern Railway Station (Déli pályaudvar)
Although the Southern Railway Terminal of Budapest, or as the Hungarians simply call it “Déli”, was first opened as far back as 1861, the main building of the station was constructed between 1970 and 1975. Unlike the famous Keleti and Nyugati railway stations, this building of the Hungarian capital never really impressed tourists and it has remained unpopular among locals as well. However, it is still covering the domestic western part of Hungary as well as many international trains. Since the facility is in very poor condition, plans for reconstruction or shutdown have been high on the agenda in recent years.
9. Sugár Shopping Centre in Budapest
On 7th of November 1980 the very first Western-type shopping centre of Hungary was opened in Budapest’s 14th district near Örs vezér square. The mall is called “Sugár” (“Flow”), because this name received the most votes from the consumers after the opening. Almost everyone in Hungary knows the slogan of Sugár, “csak egy ugrás”, which means it is just a few steps away from you. The whole Sugár building was renovated between 2004 and 2007 in order to keep up with the multinational shopping chains that opened stores in Hungary after the fall of socialism.
10. House of Culture in Beregszász
The last example of this article is a special one, because this building is not located in Hungary but in Southwest Ukraine close to the Hungarian border. The House of Culture is a memento of the Soviet era in Beregszász (Berehove), a town with ethnic Hungarian majority in the region of Transcarpathia, which belonged to Hungary before the First World War, to Czechoslovakia in the interwar period and to the Soviet Union following the Second World War, and which has become part of the independent Ukraine in 1991.