M4 Fővám tér underground station

Architype Dialogue presents

Adam Hatvani

What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?

In the last thirty years there hasn’t been such an ambitious development regarding the transport in Budapest as the metro4. The idea, trace and previous plans for the metro4 were made in the 80’s and 90’s, with stations reflecting the way of thinking of the 70’s and 80’s, while for the passengers they will only be open after the 2010’s. Like this, the most challenging task was to rationalize the structures, the architecture technology and the space, and at the same time re-thinking the project according to the XXI. century’s spirit. The acceptance of all these details by all the actors of such a gigantic project means serious trial for the architect.

Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?

In Hungary, in case of such kind of huge, multiplayer projects, especially when connected to politically important infrastructures just like the Fővám tér station, engineering companies and the engineers’ way of thinking proves to be prevailing. This wouldn’t precisely be a problem itself, though pure technocrat answers can’t solve all the problems at all, not to mention the lack of holistic thinking furthermore. Previously the architect used to be a supporting actor in such projects: his role was limited in designing pavements. In this case though, the whole architecture team of the metro4 invested gross energies in how to change this picture. After having perceived that the engineers don’t have a share in applying the architectural thinking and innovation allowed by the newest technologies, the architects, being new players on the ground, were motivated to take advantage of the new possibilities and to design the stations the most up-to-date way. For this, comprehensive vision, orientation and the revision and criticism of the previous results were needed, that involved continuous confrontation with the other actors of the project. That was moreover complicated by the fact that the target was radically new for us as well, meaning continuous experimentation and questioning of the previously known limits. This is what the architect’s task is classically supposed to be: to keep up the vision, to react with sensibility to the arising problems, to have a comprehensive view of the project as a whole, to ask and to moderate the dialogue. Talking about the metro4, this objective seems to be completed: being outsiders we achieved to be able to see the project and the previous plans from different aspects and with a very fresh view. In spite of it all, many possibilities stayed unexploited yet: for example, the energetic possibilities of the underground spaces are still unexplored, since it would have required a lot more openness as for the parties, though it might not be late yet to reconsider the importance of this aspect as well. In Hungary, engineers’ infrastructure developments are virgin territories for the architects who will have to recognize their role and responsibility in this game – while playing the game according to all these parameters.

How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?

Computer designing, modeling, networked being, quick and unlimited flow of information, new technologies and construction methods influencing each other are resulting a new kind of architecture. Once a new possibility shows up, the architecture is there to exploit it. When the architecture proposes a conceptual course, that has to be followed by the technology and by new structural approaches, opening the door for new solutions in the meanwhile. This is a permanent dialogue between the architecture and the technical knowledge. This phenomenon might not be new at all, though it’s been extremely accelerated lately. Regarding the design of the Fővám tér station, we successfully managed to find such structural and architectural solution that exploits the possibilities of digital planning, adapts to the construction method and possesses an own identity. The architectural and structural concept based on the indiscriminate beam grid and the underground bone texture combined with the organically implemented construction system were compatible without compromises with the often volatile and changing conditions of the planning and building processes. It was proved to be adjustable to all the emerging technical problems without having lost from its original force at all. It’s been highly inspiring to create spaces to be used with pleasure, so that the passengers might prefer the public transport somehow more. It’s important to emphasize that it’s supposed to be a public space – a public space under the ground.

In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?

In case of Fővám tér, the international trends showed us and confirmed that it’s possible to think and design being absolutely free, in spite of all the limitations – or, indeed being inspired by them. In the past decades’ Hungarian architecture, especially talking about priority level pubic investments, it was either not possible or if so, only in exchange for serious compromises. In our case, it’s an important detail that the station is underground, which means that is a bit out of the focus of attention of the official (academic) profession, and that heritage protection did not raise much objections either. The design and follow-up of the project is just like bringing up a child. In order to see you child the way you want him to be, a lot of education is needed – sometimes being hard, sometimes indulgent. Giving it all, genes, knowledge, experience, instincts, love – and the result will be a new personality. Always changing, always different, but always needing love. And whether the final result will or will not modify trends and the architectural thinking, and how will it do if so, will only be answered by time.

Architype Review thanks Adam Hatvani for his interview and for contributing to this collection of Architype Dialogue.


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