CEN­TRAL EUROPEAN UNIVER­SITY, BU­DAPEST, HUN­GARY

O’Don­nell + Tuomey

Domus - - PROJECTS - Photos Tamás Bu­jnovszky

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

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