Budapest panorama from the cupola of St. Stephen’s Basilica

Melinda Benkõ

Budapest Urban Blocks and their Sustainability

INTRODUCTION One of the most significant current discussions in urban design is the redesigning and restructuring of urban places to achieve sustainability. There is a large volume of published studies describing specific criteria – that a sustainable city should be compact, dense, diverse and highly integrated (The Sustainable, 2004). In addition, design concepts of sustainable urban form highlight the importance of sustainable transport, mixed land uses, passive solar design and greening, too. This paper approaches this complex question by analyzing Budapest’s traditional urban blocks and their contemporary changes, focusing on the two aforementioned dominant aspects of sustainability in the historic city center: compactness and diversity. Budapest was founded in 1873, through the unification of three historic towns: Buda, Pest and Óbuda. The Hungarian capital became the biggest city on the Danube, the most important industrial, commercial and cultural centre of the region and the gateway of Western Europe to the East. The majority of the housing stock at the city’s core, about 400 blocks, dates back to the late 19th and early 20th century. Generally, they are 3- to 7-storey buildings around inner courtyards, giving rise to the traditional closed urban form. The historic centre was also a construction site for prestigious political buildings (the Parliament) and cultural institutions (museums, opera house and theatres). They stand out as objects, landmarks in the homogeneous urban tissue. At the same time, the former industrial areas expanded between the inner city and the administratively independent suburbs, even occupying the riverbanks. The use of space in this transitional zone was mixed, which resulted in a varied urban fabric. The city’s present form, greater Budapest, was born in 1950, through the addition of 16 townships and villages situated along the outer belt. Following these periods of spectacular development, the quantitative housing construction programmes in the 1960’s and 1970’s took the form of huge housing blocks built on the city’s outskirts….

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