CENTRAL EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY, BUDAPEST, HUNGARY
O’Donnell + Tuomey
Phase one of a complex project in the centre of Budapest showcases the Irish duo’s talent for surgical interventions in a historic fabric. Traditional materials are coupled with contemporary spaces in a successful attempt to turn an architectural interior into an authentic part of the city
FROM THE ARCHITECTS’ PROJECT DESCRIPTION
This is the first phase of a campus masterplan for the Central European University. The project changes the relationship between the university and city. Phase One provides a public face for the university, a new entrance on an axis with the Danube, a library and learning café for citizens and students. The campus becomes integrated with the urban realm. Our brief was to design a new 35,000 m² campus on a World Heritage site in central Budapest, incorporating all university departments and facilities. The scheme involves the radical transformation of five adjoining and previously disconnected historic buildings and the construction of two new ones. Budapest is a city of courtyards and passageways. The streetscape is repetitive in plot dimension and only slightly varied in parapet height. The contemporary expression of the new building at Nador 15 is designed to be in sympathetic conversation with its neighbours. The limestone façade is locally sourced from the same quarry as most of the historic buildings in the city. This is the first new construction erected in recent times in this historically protected context.
The existing CEU campus consisted of adjoining buildings, each with its own entrance and with minimal interconnectivity between them. We identified opportunities to intervene on this city-centre urban block and turn what was a disconnected and disparate set of buildings into an open campus. We employed a process of selective subtraction and addition to transform the campus into a metaphorical crossroads. Via a carefully considered “surgical” strategy, we linked existing and new facilities through a legible sequence of connected courtyards. The functional layout provides easy communication between interrelated adjacencies, clusters connected by social spaces, encouraging interaction and collaboration between academic departments.
We proposed a phased strategy, making connections between existing courtyards, demolishing inefficient buildings and designing new buildings around a series of courts. The courtyards are roofed over to provide a tempered environment against the climatic extremes in winter and summer. The courtyards are the campus, providing a circulation system and social space. Openings are cut through to provide visual connections and flying staircases interconnect department offices and teaching spaces.
The new building on Nador Utca forms the main entrance to the university. It houses the library and learning commons over a multi-purpose auditorium and conference facilities. The adjoining building was radically refurbished to provide a covered courtyard for public events, with a business school and teaching spaces at upper levels. A roof garden straddles both buildings to provide views over the city skyline.
The palette of materials was selected for durability and natural material qualities that give character to the overall appearance. Stone, timber, concrete, and steel form the fabric of the internal public spaces, with bespoke furniture used throughout the building. The new façades are constructed with local limestone, designed to emphasise the geometric quality of the building and continue the tradition of solidity and permanence of Budapest’s stone architecture.
Previous spread, left: watercolour sketches of the main front and the layout, the latter highlighting its proximity to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and St Stephen’s Basilica (© O’Donnell + Tuomey); right: the main front on Nador Utca.
This page, top: the location of the building in Budapest’s urban fabric; above: the street-front by night; left: a model showing the complex spatial network of many connections