Hotel Moments / A contemporary 19th century palace
Imagine you could travel back in time to 1885. Once there you are invited to a luxurious salon event. What would you wear? How would you behave? Would you dance? There are some designers who not only feel the rhythm of this dance, but they also like to shake it up!
The vast majority of Europe’s capitals have been shaped to reflect the atmosphere of the 19th century. Budapest followed similar urban planning strategies and architectural endeavours by creating neoclassical, historical, and at times eclectic neo-renaissance facades. Mirroring the urbanisation efforts of Haussmann in Paris or Cerdá in Barcelona, planners in Budapest aimed to create a network of boulevards representing both the city’s cosmopolitan aspirations and the desire for modern infrastructure in the capital. The core element of their programme was to link the City Park (Városliget) to the city centre and the river Danube via a wide and elegant road. After 15 years of planning, demolition and construction, their dream came true in the form of the so called “Avenue street”; which was soon renamed “Andrássy”, after the “project leader” of the city’s transformation. To highlight the significance of this new boulevard, the first underground railway in Continental Europe was constructed below Andrássy street during the 1890s. In 1896 this electrical novelty carried large numbers of passengers to the enormous Millennium Exhibition occupying some 80 hectares of the City Park.
In the second half of the 19th century, huge constructions all around downtown Budapest precluded the erection of prestigious public and private buildings, such as grand museums dedicated to the fine arts, the luxuriously decorated Opera house, and neo-renaissance “palaces” with frescos framing Andrássy street. The large plot at the downtown end of Andrássy, number 8, was bought by Earl Schossberger, head of one of the richest families of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Their vast wealth, accumulated through military contracts, oil revenues and tobacco businesses, as well as their influential relationship with the emperor, made it possible to commission a new building by one of the most renowned architects of the period. The plans included precious sgraffito decoration on the ceiling of the arrival hall and detailed cast iron pillars on the loggia. While the ground floor was designed for the purpose of shops and services, the first floor offered highly decorated spaces for the builder’s family, including the salon. On the upper floors, prestigious inhabitants such as ministers and factory owners rented sizable apartments and well-equipped office spaces. Among the building’s early tenants was the man who discovered Vitamin C, Albert Szent-Györgyi, and for a while the first sound cinema of Budapest operated on the ground floor. The likely vivid social life filling the prominent walls continued with almost no change until the end of the 1930s. Sadly, the financial pressures of the time necessitated the sale of the building to new owners, and the grandiose apartments were split into smaller flats and offices. During the careless communist decades after WWII, the building deteriorated, and later in 2010 it reached its lowest point when the ground floor opened as a “ruin pub”. Time and neglect had taken its toll.
Finally in 2012 the building’s luck began to change. Investor CD Hungary Zrt. saw the potential for the new four star Hotel Moments, and the building has now been restored to its former glory and is filled with elegance and vibrant atmosphere once again. The commissioned architect, Archikon studio, have successfully completed an impeccable restoration, retaining as many glorious details of the building as possible. In addition, the original 19th century quality has been complimented thanks to a range of stunning contemporary features. By raising the level of the roof space by an extra floor, deluxe rooftop apartments with panoramic windows have been created. The former patio has now been covered with a precision designed glass roof consisting of diamond shaped sections. All the previous window parapets onto the patio have been opened to the floor, while the original deep, timber door and window cases have been retained. These help bound the transition space between the corridor and open to individual rooms and an airy patio. Similarly, the previously unused cellar has been transformed to a wellness space, while the ground floor houses a fine dining restaurant and a separate conference hall. The interior spatial arrangement of the hotel rooms have been the joint success of the architect studio, Archikon, and the interior design company, Kroki. By creating an innovative L-shaped base plan, it has been possible to add extra rooms to the overall design, as originally imagined by competing architects. In order to express the designers respect for the building’s legacy, the details of the original sgraffito on the ground floor have been represented as a central decorative element in each room on the headboards of every bed.
Throughout the building, the high quality of the restoration is immediately apparent, however there are many hidden details that reflect how Hotel Moments has now become a shining example of contemporary urban renewal. Courage, respect, and sensitivity have all combined to achieve and surpass the highest levels of professional standards. After 135 years, Andrássy street no. 8 has once again realised its illustrious status.
CREDITS Location: Andrássy street 8. Budapest, Hungary Year: Design: 2012 • Completion: 2016 Area/Size: 6200 m2 Project by: Arch-ikon studio http://archikon.hu / Architects: Csaba Nagy, Károly Pólus, Botond Benedek, Zsolt Nagy, Dániel Déri, Miklós Batta, Bernadett Bóday-Bagó, Bence Várhidi Interior architecture (hotel): Kroki studio / András Göde, Balázs Kéry, Béla Gál Interior architecture (fine dining restaurant): Este’r Partners / Eszter Radnóczy, Szilvia Petka, Csilla Szabó Structural engineering: Tetra-Plan Kft / Gábor Cséfalvay Mechanical engineering: G&B Plan Kft / János Bukovics, Tamás Terék Electrical engineering: Hungaroproject Kft / Ferenc Rajkai, István Pataki Restorer: Zsuzsanna Herling Photo: Tamás Bujnovszky Text: Viktoria Szepvolgyi