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The turn of the century marks one of the most important epochs, the golden age of Budapest. After the revolution and the war of independence (1848-49), which were followed almost twenty years later by the period of national resistance, the city reached the crowning point in its development in about 1900. Budapest, the capital of Hungary, evolved from the old towns of Óbuda (Old-Buda), Buda and Pest, six years after the Austro-Hungarian agreement and the establishment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the last quarter of the 19th century, the city grew to a surprising degree. During this period, its population tripled, rising from 280,000 to 933,000, whilst the number of its buildings almost doubled. These constructions were planned and supervised by the capital's Council for Public Works, the central organisation responsible for city planning. They turned Budapest into a metropolis in the truest sense of the word.

The buildings display two noticeable styles, those of Historicism and Art Nouveau, or rather several variants of Art Nouveau. In contrast to Historicism, Hungarian Art Nouveau is based on the national architectural characteristics. Taking the eastern origins of the Hungarians into account, Ödön Lechner (1845-1914), the most important figure in Hungarian Art Nouveau, was initially inspired by Indian and Syrian architecture, and later by traditional Hungarian decorative designs. In this way, he created an original synthesis of architectural styles. By applying them to three-dimensional architectural elements, he produced a version of Art Nouveau that was specific to Hungary.

Turning away from the style of Lechner, yet taking inspiration from his approach, the group of 'Young People' (Fiatalok), which included Károly Kós and Dezsö Zrumeczky, were to use the characteristic structures and forms of traditional Hungarian architecture to achieve the same end.

Besides the two principal styles, the town also displays local versions of trends originating from other European countries. The Sezession from Vienna, the German Jugendstil, Art Nouveau from Belgium and France and the influence of English and Finnish architecture are all reflected in the buildings constructed at the turn of the century. Béla Lajta initially adopted Lechner's style, subsequently drawing his inspiration from English and Finnish trends; after developing an interest in the Egyptian style, he finally arrived at modern architecture. Aladár Árkay took almost the same route. István Medgyaszay developed his own style, which differed from Lechner's, using stylised traditional motifs to create decorative designs in concrete. In the sphere of applied arts, those chiefly responsible for promoting the spread of Art Nouveau were the School and Museum of Decorative Arts, which opened in 1896.