Zoltán Farkasdy: Apartment house, Úri utca, Budapest, 1958

Mariann Simon

Progressive, Forward-Looking and Advanced. Hungarian Architecture and Modernity 1956 – 1962

In the immediate post-war years, modern architecture characterized the Hungarian scene: key positions of architectural practice and state construction administration were occupied by advocates of modern architecture of whom several were also active participants of the Modern movement. This trend was soon interrupted with a short but highly forceful period (ca 1950 – 1955) of the style known as Socialist Realism, a state-required traditionalism which ruled the entire field of culture. By the second part of the 1950s, modern architecture had returned, yet the new situation was radically different from the previous one, even though there had been no radical changes concerning the professional actors. The well-known cultural demand of Socialist Realism, namely that the work should be ‘socialist in content and national in form’ was still a political necessity, and the architects had to define their relationship to modern architecture within this standardised phraseology. Between 1956 and 1962, in a period of temporary political uncertainty and gestures of détente, controlled discussions were accepted, sometimes even fostered. This essay is concerned with contemporary debates on the topic of regained modern architecture on a political, professional and public level. Questions to be addressed are the following: How did Hungarian theorists and practicing architects react to the situation? Is it possible to define and eparate different trends within these approaches? And if so, how can these approaches be connected to parallel international or to earlier national trends? Nikolai Sergeyevich Khrushchev, the first secretary of the Soviet Communist Party announced the need for a change in architecture in December 1954. In his speech, he referred to modern technology as a driving force for the future development. He accused architects that they had “disengaged from the advanced economic and technical terms of development, and under the pretext of fighting against constructivism had fallen into the other extreme of formalism: they became captivated by individual and artistic exaggerations, using architectural shapes, ‘unusual decorations’ (and unusual built volumes) which made the dwellings similar to churches or museums.”….

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