Hungary’s legacy of historic and modernist buildings rivals that of any country in the world. A survey of Hungarian architecture from Roman times to the present shows that this is indeed the case. Architecture is a multifaceted profession, which includes public, private, ecclesiastical, and governmental buildings, as well as engineering, city planning, and technological advances. An architect has to pay attention to all of these considerations and be well trained in all of these areas in order to prove his or her worth.
It is very difficult to assemble a top 10 list that does not leave out at least one or two world renowned Hungarian architects. When mentioning these outstanding architects, one should try not to rank them as they lived in different ages and contributed under different social and political circumstances, regimes and times. Consequently they faced different challenges. Some were directly controlled by the ruling establishment and some were able to work more creatively and freely without state interference.
Some of these architects designed buildings internationally as well. What is now becoming a new trend is that some of the greatest architectural works are considered portable. American city developers actually began to transport works of architecture across the Atlantic and to various parts of the United States during the early 20th century. There is a lively discussion among modern-day urban architects if certain decisive pieces of architecture can be removed and transported to other countries, or even continents. Some American investors were known to transport entire churches and castles from Europe to the United States, or rebuild them stone by stone (e.g., Cloisters in New York City and James Deering’s estate, the Vizcaya in Miami).
Currently there is a plan for one of the works of famous Hungarian architect Imre Makovecz to be transported back to Budapest. The subject building is the Hungarian pavilion of the 1992 world exposition in Sevilla, which now sits empty and unused since the world expo. Minister János Lázár recently announced that there are plans by the Hungarian government to deconstruct and rebuild this entire facility in Budapest. Can it be carried out logistically? Is it feasible? How much will it cost? These are some of the lingering questions that will need to be answered before the project begins.
1. Perhaps we should start with Miklós Ybl (Ybl Miklós), who was born on April 6, 1814 in Székesfehérvár, and died on January 22, 1891 in Budapest. He was one of Europe’s leading architects in the mid- to late nineteenth century as well as Hungary’s most influential architect of his time. His most well-known work is the Hungarian State Opera House in Budapest (1875–84). After graduating from the Politechnikum in Vienna, Ybl became Mihály Pollack’s assistant in 1832 and worked in Henrik Koch’s office between 1836 and 1840. After studying in Munich and Italy, he entered into partnership with the son of Mihály Pollack, Ágoston; together they refurbished the Ikervár castle of Count Lajos Batthány. His first main work was the church of Fót, built between 1845 and 1855.
Many of his buildings became essential building blocks of the cityscape in Budapest: Saint Stephen’s Basilica (1867–91), the Rác Thermal Bath, the former Palace of Customs, (1871–74), as well as the throne room and Krisztinaváros wing of the Royal Palace. He also built numerous churches, apartments and castles in the countryside outside of Budapest. There was an annual architectural prize established in 1953, which was named after him as Ybl prize in his honor.
2. Mihály Pollack (Michael Pollack)
August 30, 1773 – January 5, 1855) was an Austrian-born Hungarian architect, a decisive figure of neoclassical architecture. One of his most significant works is the Hungarian National Museum (1837–46). Mihály Pollack was born in Vienna and died in Pest. Between 1793-94 he moved to Milan to stay with his half-brother architect Leopold Pollack. In 1798 he moved to Pest, where in 1808 he played a prominent role in the city’s Beautification Commission, and became increasingly influential. Between 1810 and 1830 he designed many residential buildings, later larger palaces and public buildings. His architectural expression progressed from baroque towards neoclassical style. Some of his other great works include the Sándor Palace, the Ludovica Academy, Vígadó and the Evangelical Church at Deák square.
3. Imre Steindl (born as Emmerich Steindl, October 29, 1839, in Pest- August 31, 1902, in Budapest) was a prominent Hungarian architect of his time. He was the designer of the Országház, otherwise known as the Parliament building. The Országház is regarded by many as a symbol of the capital city of Budapest. It was created by Steindl as the most characteristic work of dualist Hungary with his two decades of work. With the bulding’s enourmous size, Steinld and the creators wanted to symbolize the Hungarian state’s 1,000-year old existence. It was completed between 1885 and 1904. About 100,000 people were involved in the construction, during which 40 million bricks, half a million precious stones and 40 kilograms (88 lb) of gold were used.
4. Alajos Hauszmann was born in Buda in 1847 into a family of Bavarian origin. He studied painting from 1861, then became a bricklayer’s apprentice. In 1864 he attended the Technical University of Budapest, and in 1866 he continued architectural studies in Berlin along with Ödön Lechner. He was a professor at the Technical University of Budapest for more than 40 years.
The major work of Hauszmann’s career was the design of the Buda Castle in Budapest. He was named chief architect of this project in 1891. In 1912 Hauszmann retired and in 1918 he was ennobled by King Charles IV of Hungary; however, in the following year, his private home was confiscated during the Hungarian Soviet Republic. In 1924 he was elected an honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He died at age 79 in Venice, Italy.
5. Ödön Lechner(born as Eugen Lechner, 27 August 1845 – 10 June 1914) was a Hungarian architect, nicknamed the “Hungarian Gaudi”. Lechner was one of the early representatives of the Hungarian Secession movement, called szecesszió in Hungarian, which was related to Art and Jugendstil in the rest of Europe. He decorated his buildings with Zsolnay tile patterns inspired by old Magyar and Turkic folk art. He combined the ceramic tile with the use of materials modern for his time, such as iron. His work was submitted in 2008 for inclusion on the World Heritage List.
6. Károly Kós (born as Károly Kosch in Temesvár, Austria-Hungary, December 16, 1883 – August 25, 1977) was a Hungarian architect, writer, illustrator, ethnologist and politician. He graduated from the Budapest Architecture School in 1907. From the beginning of his career he had a special interest for historical and traditional folk architecture, and made field trips to Kalotaszeg and the Székely land to study the same.
His primary work of architecture is the Budapest Zoo in 1910 and several churches in Zebegény, Óbuda and Kolozsvár (Cluj) among other places. His style was largely influenced by the Vienna Secession and Art Nouveau.
7. Marcell Breuer (Marcel Lajos Breuer), was born on May 21, 1902, at Pécs, Hungary and died on July 1, 1981 in New York City. He was an architect and designer, one of the most-influential exponents of the International Style; he was concerned with applying new forms and uses to newly developed technology and materials in order to create an art expressive of an industrial age. He designed several buildings on the east coast of the United States. The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. held an exhibition dedicated to the work of Marcel Breuer titled Marcel Breuer: Design and Architecture(November 3, 2007 – February 17, 2008).
8. Imre Makovecz (November 20, 1935 – September 27, 2011) was a Hungarian architect born and died in Budapest. He was founder of the Hungarian Academy of Arts.
Makovecz was one of the most prominent proponents of organic architecture. As such, his buildings attempt to function in their natural surroundings rather than triumph over them. Frank Lloyd Wright and Rudolf Steiner influenced his work as did traditional Hungarian folk art.
He began his career as a major critic of the socialist/realist architecture of the time and the brutal uniformity embedded within. After the fall of the socialist regime in 1989, his also criticized the nature of globalization and corporate culture. Makovecz was a devout Catholic and a national romanticist. His major works include: Cultural Center, Sárospatak (completed in 1982), Sports Hall, Visegrád (1985), Town Hall and Commercial Center of Dunajska Streda (Dunaszerdahely), Community Center at Kakasd (1996), while his office also designed the buildings of the Piliscsaba campus of Pázmány Péter Catholic University, as well as the Hungarian pavilion at the Seville Expo in Seville (1992).
9. Albert Schickedanz (October 14, 1846 – July 11, 1915) was an Austro-Hungarian architect and painter in the Eclectic style. Schickedanz was born in Biala to an ethnic German family. He studied at his home town and at Käsmark (now Kezmarok, Slovakia). After studying in Karlsruhe and Vienna, Schickedanz worked beside the Hungarian architect Miklós Ybl. He designed the Millennium memorial (1897-1905), the building of the Museum of Fine Arts (1899-1907) and the Palace of Art (1905) in Budapest; the latter are located opposite each other on the gigantic Heroes’ Square at the end of Andrássy Avenue.
10. László Ede Hudec or Ladislav Hudec (Hugyecz László Ede) was born at Besztercebánya (Banska Bystrica) in Austria-Hungary on January 8, 1893 and died in Berkeley on October 26, 1958. He was a Hungarian-Slovak architect active in Shanghai from 1918 to 1945 and responsible for some of that city’s most notable structures. Major works include the Park Hotel, the Grand Theater, the Joint Savings and Loan building, the combined Baptist Publications and Christian Literature Society buildings, and the post-modern “Green House”. Hudec’s style evolved during his active period, from the eclectic neo-classicism popular in the early 20th century to art deco and modern buildings toward the later part of his career. Although some of his buildings have been lost in the intervening decades, many survive.
We could have also added a few other great names to this list like Alfréd Hajós, Ernő Goldfinger, József Hild, Emery Roth, Frigyes Schulek and József Finta (who is still active), which would make the list a top 16. They carry equal weight as their architectural contributions are notable and their careers are quite fascinating.