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 “The new buildings are not being constructed on green areas but are instead replacing parking spaces and long-outdated buildings planned to be demolished,” László Baán, director of Budapest’s Museum of Fine Arts, argued, according to The Art Newspaper.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.
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Irish architect Sheila O’Donnell has claimed the top honor at this year’s Women in Architecture (WIA) awards, an annual prize hosted by Architects' Journal and The Architectural Review. Named Architect of the Year 2019, O’Donnell heads up the 31-year-old practice O’Donnell + Tuomey alongside partner John Tuomey. O’Donnell is being recognized specifically for her firm’s 2016 renovation and expansion of the Central European University in Budapest. The project is part of a multi-phase, campus-wide masterplan to connect and consolidate the institution’s physical footprint, which sits on a World Heritage site, while dually elevating its design with a 21st-century scheme. O’Donnell + Tuomey created a 376,700-square-foot vision that seamlessly linked the historic structures on the urban campus, all of which were previously disconnected from one another and included individual entrances. The design team also added two new contemporary buildings that became the public face of the school. One of those new buildings now serves as the main entrance to the university. Housing a giant, light-filled library and learning commons over a multi-purpose auditorium, it features warm yet bright minimalist materials that allow the structure to stand in contrast to the surrounding ornamented, sandstone buildings. The new construction boasts a geometric facade framed with local limestone and steel, two materials that are also used within the building, alongside slatted timber and concrete. Bespoke furniture featuring similar, natural-looking products dot the public spaces inside. The result of O’Donnell + Tuomey’s intervention is a university center that’s not only easier to navigate, but also an institution that’s stitched more thoughtfully into the urban fabric of central Budapest. The new structures add a modern feel to the historic site, thanks in part to the inclusion of a dramatic, pitched glass roof that hovers over the library and provides ample light, as well as a series of red-coated metal stairs. The highly sustainable structures also feature landscaped roof gardens that reduce heat gain and give views of the city’s downtown skyline. Courtyards in between the buildings also provide natural ventilation and respite for those indoors. The Women in Architecture Awards jury said O’Donnell exhibited a clear passion for constructing an improved physical environment for the university that resulted in a high-quality building people can admire. “She is a role model for young women in architecture,” the jury announced in a statement. “Sheila O’Donnell did not have to break the glass ceiling—she and John Tuomey created a new reality.” As of early December, the university announced it will be moving its operations to its sister site, a facility in Vienna, in the near future. It’s unclear how O’Donnell + Tuomey’s update to the school’s Budapest location will be used once classes cease. Other finalists for WIA Architect of the Year 2019 included Ellen van Loon of OMA, noted for the Quater National Library in Doha; Eva Prats of Flores & Prats for the Casal Balaguer Cultural Centre in Palma de Mallorca; and Carme Pigem of RCR Arquitectes for the De Krook Library in Ghent. Beijing-based architect Xu Tiantian, founder of the firm DnA (Design and Architecture), was also awarded the Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Architecture at this year’s ceremony. The honor, which goes to a woman designer under 45 years old, was presented to Xu for her body of work, which includes the Hakka Indenture Museum, a tofu factory, and the Wang Jing Memorial Hall, among others.
The LEGO tower in Budapest, Hungary has broken the world record for "tallest structure built with interlocking plastic blocks." The tower was completed and registered with the Guinness Book of World Records on May 25th at a height of 114 feet. The previous record was 112.9 feet and was set through the combined efforts of students from the red clay consolidated school district in Delaware. According to the blog So Bad So Good, the new tower was erected by LEGO architects, who received some help from local primary school children. The tower was topped with a Rubik's cube: a Hungarian invention.