Budapest’s new mayor, Gergely Karácsony, has moved to block the construction of Hungary’s New National Gallery, due to the SANAA-designed building’s supposed “enormous impact on its environment.” Elected in October on a green platform, the Mayor has expressed his concerns over the building being built on “one of Budapest’s few and very precious green areas,” and construction has since stalled on the $277 million project.
On November 5, Budapest’s General Assembly backed Karácsony’s proposal to halt the centerpiece of the Liget Budapest Project, which is said to be Europe’s “largest and most ambitious urban cultural development.” Construction on the House of Hungarian Innovation, a new $110 million science museum, has also been suspended. The entire project was slated to be fully completed by 2023 and included a Museum of Ethnography, House of Hungarian Music, and an expanded zoo. The National Museum Restoration and Storage Centre opened to the public earlier this year.
While many residents shared the Mayor’s concerns about the environmental impact, project organizers have defended the construction. “The new buildings are not being constructed on green areas but are instead replacing parking spaces and long-outdated buildings planned to be demolished,” László Baán, director of Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts, argued, according to The Art Newspaper. He has also stated that the green space in the park will actually increase by five percent.
The New National Gallery was due to begin construction in early 2020 with the goal of closing the Hungarian National Gallery in Buda Castle and dividing the collection between the Museum of Fine Arts and the New National Gallery.
Because the project is being funded by the central government, negotiations with the mayor will continue, and he has even suggested alternative sites in Budapest where he believes construction will not damage the environment.