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Hungarian Pavilion - 17th International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia

National Commissioner:
Julia Fabényi

Dániel Kovács, Attila Róbert Csóka, Szabolcs Molnár and Dávid Smiló

Ludwig Museum - Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

What lessons could be learnt from the heritage of architectural modernism, this often-disputed era, confronted by changing expectations of sustainability, social norms and habits, and as for Central and Eastern Europe specifically, a different political system? Othernity, the Hungarian exhibition of the 2021 International Architecture Biennale in Venice provides thought-provoking answers to this question, by emerging practices from the region.

A collaborative formula to revivify socialist modernism.

The former Eastern Bloc of Europe possesses a unique, region-specific modernist architectural heritage, that can be discovered in most part of our current building stock. This heritage should serve as ground zero to develop a responsible and novel behaviour for future architectural practice. And yet, compelled by a misunderstood duty for a more sustainable living and also fuelled by aesthetical revulsion and political antipathy, we keep demolishing or re-edifying these structures, destroying all architectural values. Would there be an ‘other’ way?

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The curatorial team of project Othernity thinks so. We think that instead of destroying and transforming it, we should use modernism. These buildings were created for a bygone era and society, with limited resources, but with great efforts and ideals. We are, again, living in times of great changes. We should therefore also change how we think about heritage, values and protection, and focus on the part of this architectural heritage that we find truly meaningful for our present and for our future.

We think that buildings created in a suction economy, by using limited materials can offer methods and ways that come handy when building for our future. We think that community and public architecture should maintain its previously aggravated role through self-confident and forward-looking architecture design processes. We think that buildings should be created for communities, not societies. We think that there is power in thinking and acting on a regional level.

Hence the pavilion invites 12 young and emerging architectural studios and practices from Central and Eastern Europe to recondition 12 socialist modernist buildings from Budapest. These architects, given the common historical background of their home countries, are at the same time close enough to and far enough from these buildings of Budapest.

The generation of the exhibiting architects is the first one, who did not experience socialism directly, and has no memory of the architectural production methods of that era. At the same time they were raised between these buildings and they do have common experiences and memories of these socialist environments whether they are from Warsaw, Bratislava, Belgrade, Tallinn, Skopje, Zagreb, Krakow, Bucharest or Prague.

We see this project as a new, collaborative method to rethink our ways of heritage protection; as an example for a more responsible architectural community and a more sensible society.

How will we live together, asks Hashim Sarkis, chief curator of the 17th Biennale of Architecture. Our answer is: by using what we have, but in a more understanding, innovative and emotional way. Or, actually, in 12.

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12 buildings. 12 practices. 12 ideas.

Othernity invited 12 young professionals: architectural offices, collectives and individuals from Eastern-Central-Europe to rethink 12 iconic modern buildings of Budapest. 
The practices invited by the curatorial team are based in different cities and countries of the region, which all share this specific architectural heritage. By working in one chosen city, Budapest, they are both close enough and far enough to think rationally about the values of these buildings. 

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The buildings are located in the Hungarian capital and were all built between the early 1960s and the late 1980s, which means that we use ‘modernism’ in a broad sense. All buildings are kept in their almost-original state; all are used by different communities. We aimed to represent a functional scale, typical for any country of the former Eastern bloc. None of the chosen buildings enjoys official protection.

The invited practices are

A-A Collective (Poland / Denmark / Switzerland)
Architecture Uncomfortable Workshop (Hungary)
BUDCUD (Poland)
b210 (Estonia)
KONNTRA (Slovenia / North Macedonia / Croatia)
MADA (Serbia)
Paradigma Ariadné (Hungary)
PLURAL (Slovakia)
Vojtěch Rada (Czechia)
LLRRLLRR (Estonia / United Kingdom)
Studio Act (Romania)

The selected buildings are:

Déli railway station (1962, 1977), designed by György Kővári, office: MÁVTI;
Dob Street Electric Substation (1965), designed by Ernő Léstyán, office: ERŐTERV;
OTP apartment building (1967), designed by Zoltán Boross, office: BUVÁTI;
OKISZ headquarters (1973), designed by János Mónus, office: ÁÉTV;
Domus furniture store (1974), designed by Péter Reimholz and Antal Lázár, office: IPARTERV;
Újpalota apartment tower (1976), designed by Tibor Tenke, office: TTI;
Planetarium (1977), designed by László Lux along with the Faculty of Civil Engineering, Budapest University of Technology and Economics;
National Power Dispatch Centre (1979), designed by Csaba Virág, office: LAKÓTERV;
Party headquarters for the 13th District of Budapest (1979, today seat of the Hungarian State Treasury), designed by Margit V. Pázmándi, office: ÁÉTV;
Calvinist church of Külső-Kelenföld (1981), designed by István Szabó as a private practitioner;
Kelenföld City Center (1979), designed by István Zilahy and József Bada, office: Lakóterv;
Endre Ady Cultural Centre of Újpest (1986), designed by István Ferencz, office: ÉSZAKTERV.

The Hungarian Pavilion of the 17. International Architecture Exhibition highlights both the individual values of the original buildings and the unusual, innovative results of this collaborative research and design process as an attempt to offer new perspectives on this often-disputed era.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, with essays by:
Edwin Heathcote, architectural critic (Financial Times);
Ákos Moravánszky, architecture professor (ETH Zürich);
and the curatorial team.

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National Commissioner:
Julia Fabényi

Dániel Kovács

Curatorial team:
Attila Csóka, Szabolcs Molnár, Dávid Smiló

Ludwig Museum - Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Hungarian Pavilion - 17th International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia

Contact: info@othernity.eu