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Budapest Secession Architecture

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Budapest Secessionist style, like Viennese Secessionism, was an Avant-garde, “new century” movement that rejected the formalism of academic art and architecture of the past, opting for a much more free, romantic, and sensual approach to design. In Budapest it was coupled with the desire to achieve a Hungarian style as opposed to the European eclecticism that had dominated art and architecture at the time. It became art nouveau with a Hungarian inflection.

Frigyes Spiegel was the first Hungarian architect to use art nouveau embellishments in his design. His (restored) building at 94 Izebella utca is an extravagant and wonderful façade.

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94 Izabella looked like the building next to it before restoration!

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Ödön Lechner, though, is considered the father of the Hungarian style. He studied at the Bauakademie in Berlin and his first buildings in Budapest were in a German/European style. Here is what a website on Hungarian Art Nouveau says about his transformation:

“From the 1890’s Lechner focused his architectural interest on the creation of a Hungarian style. He realised that ‘when someone walks through the streets of Budapest, he finds all the styles of the world, but can’t find any features of Hungarian national architecture.’ His firm conviction was that »Hungarian language of form didn’t exist, but it is going to«. He tried to find the roots of ancient Hungarian architecture, and he thought that he had found it in Indian Islamic architecture. He designed his first chef d’oeuvre, the Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest (1893-1896) in this style with the reminiscences of French Renaissance. Later he wrote: ‘today, when I sometimes look at the gate of the Museum of Applied Arts, I am really angry. It is too much »Indian« for me’.”

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“After the construction of the Museum of Applied Arts, Lechner’s style changed to the direction of Hungarian folk art. He applied Hungarian folk embroidery in mosaic on the facades of his chef d’oeuvre, the Postal Savings Bank (1899-1901) in Budapest. These motifs appear in brick band frames. We find dragons and hens in terracotta on the roof of the building, which are the characters of folk tales. On the top of the central roof, there is one of the most important pieces of Hungarian history, the bullhead cup. The structure of the facade also changed a lot, the historical architectural articulation disappeared, and a new plane surface of the Art Nouveau style appears. Instead of the classical entablature Lechner uses a very individual wavy moulding. The coloured terracotta ornaments were made by the famous Zsolnay company in Pécs.” http://www.art-nouveau.hu/art.php?menuid=2&id=103

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