The tender for architects around the world to design a Museum Quarter in Városliget (City Park) closed on 31 May. More than 500 plans were received, from which one will be selected by 31 December in a two-step process. Meanwhile, criticism of the proposal continues.
Opinions about building the Museum Quarter are polarised, as evidenced at a forum organised by the capital and project company Városliget Zrt. this month. On one side is László Baán, charged with the project by the government, who does not only see the transformation of City Park to a Museum Quarter as an improvement, but even as a continuation of the tradition of the park, where the green area already houses cultural and entertainment facilities.
Baán told news website origo.hu that City Park is not only a beloved “green space in the Puszta”. It is precisely the unique mixture of entertainment and nature that makes it a one-of-a-kind recreational space in Europe.
In the other corner sit those who fear for the integrity of Budapest’s green lungs. Városliget Zrt. has not made any studies of the ecologic consequences of the reconstruction, but according to opponents such urbanisation will probably cause long-term damage to the park’s flora. Investigative news portal atlatszo.hu has compared the expected damage to that done by the Second World War.
Valuable old trees stand where the new National Gallery and House of Hungarian Music will be built. Báan has promised that for every tree felled, a new one will be planted. atlatszo.hu says even laymen should doubt the compensating value of a newly planted little tree.
In principle cutting trees in public parks is prohibited by law, but in the case of reconstruction projects it is possible to dodge the rules with a government decree.
The government already ordered in January via law Nr. CCXLII/2013 that the City Park’s ownership and building right be handed over from the city district to Városliget Zrt. for 99 years, so that the project can be realised. Media such as atlatszo.hu see this as an attempt to form the park to the will of the government.
This aim can be seen in a sentence of the law’s text (§ 7 Abs. 7): «Budapest’s long-term city development concept, the integrated city development strategy of the capital and the current construction plans of the capital shall not be taken into account when planning and determining the construction plans for the Városliget.» Some civil organisations fear that the construction plans will only focus on the needs of these plans.
Besides the legalities there remain other questions. What will be the effect of the urban expansion, for example, on groundwater? According to the Ecological Authority, this could lead to buildings on neighbouring Dózsa
György út becoming unstable.