The Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office has announced an open, creative competition for plans to renovateand rejuvenate Gellért Hill, which is popular with locals and visitors alike for its superb view of the city, the Statue of Liberty and the Citadel, a UNESCO world heritage site
The government’s vision for one of the city’s most prominent topographic features can be seen at www.gellerthegypalyazat.hu/. Unlike the government’s own website, this is just in Hungarian. The main focus of the revitalisation is that it be “filled with new ideas”, the invitation to tender says.
Creativity is essential and the guidelines allow applicants ample scope to play with: they should consider architecture, landscape and traffic planning all together. Protection of the environment and preservation of the buildings protected by world and national heritage must play an important role.
The function of Gellért Hill as a sacred and symbolic place should be preserved. Part-way down the hill, facing Elisabeth Bridge, is a statue of Gellért, the holy martyr bishop who was thrown to his death by pagans in 1046. As is well recorded, he was put in a barrel and rolled down from the top of the hill, a fate to which his God apparently abandoned him.
One of the contracting authority’s main concerns is finding a new use for the Citadel, built by the Habsburg Monarchy after the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. The tender is expected to deliver a long-term and viable solution. The renovation should not only serve the needs of tourists but also those of Budapesters. The hill occupies parts of Districts I and XI.
Plans for realising alternative development on Gellért Hill go back to the 1900s. The idea originally suggested by Earl Ödön Széchenyi, to build a pantheon designed by architect Imre Makovecz was put back on the agenda in 2008. There have been other ideas too, ranging from a viewing platform shaped as the Holy Crown of St. Stephen to the not-so-serious, such as topping the hill with a pyramid.
The main point to be considered in evaluating the latest ideas will be whether the concept ensures Gellért Hill remains a landmark and underlines its special character. Further, the proposals must blend in harmonically with the cityscape and the silhouette of the Buda shore of the Danube. The function, viability, accessibility and innovation of the project will be examined.
There will be a jury of 13 people representing such as the Academy of Arts, Chamber of Architecture and Technical University. The deadline for applications is October 3. The winner will receive HUF 8 million. Thus far, the project is being funded to the tune of HUF 40 million.
It is difficult to imagine the city without the Statue of Liberty – should it come to that – which is visible from afar and commemorates the Soviet soldiers who freed Budapest from Nazi tyranny in World War II, though unfortunately they omitted to go home again afterwards.