Hungarian Secession is the most original among all the variants of Art Nouveau. This assessment is largely based on the œuvre of one architect: Ödön Lechner. His work shows a strong influence of traditional Hungarian architecture as well as of various cultures of the Orient. This makes Hungarian Art Nouveau look clearly less European than its counterparts in Vienna, Brussels, and Paris.
Lechner’s major buildings can be seen as showcases of unusual materials and textures, and feel like bombs of unrestrained colours, largely thanks to his frequent collaboration with the Zsolnay Porcelain Manufacture. His work defines the architectural landscape of Hungary in the early Art Nouveau era. Architects with a different handwriting grow out of his shadow by the mid- or late-1900s.
Another major figure of Hungarian Art Nouveau is Miksa Róth, a stained-glass and mosaic artist whose works can be found in the interiors of many buildings of the period.
My portfolio contains all the major Secessionist buildings of Budapest. Many more pictures could be taken of the interior elements of the listed structures, but because they are generally private properties, they are hard to access. The photos are from different periods: April 2015, September and October 2015, October 2016 to April 2017, and May and June 2019.
You will find the locations of all the mentioned sites on the map below:
1. Thonet House
Váci utca 11a, Belváros
Ödön Lechner, Gyula Pártos & János H. Klein, 1888-1890
This building, constructed for the famous Viennese Thonet furniture company, is the most important precursor of the architecture of Hungarian Secession. Its facade, designed by Ödön Lechner, is decorated with blue pyrogranite tiles, produced at the Zsolnay Porcelain Manufacture. The beginning of Lechner’s collaboration with Vilmos Zsolnay’s company is a significant turning point not only in his career but in the history of Hungarian Secession in general. The façade also has elaborate wrought-iron balconies and vertical pilaster-like structures ending with figures under stone canopies. Lechner got inspiration for several motifs of the building from France, where he had gone to a study tour after the death of his wife.
2. Museum of Applied Arts
Ülloi út 33-37, Ferencváros
Ödön Lechner & Gyula Partos, 1893-1897
This building is an architectural masterpiece, my absolute favourite in Budapest. It was designed by Ödön Lechner, who was oriented at creating an independent Hungarian national style and got inspiration not only from Hungarian folk art and Western styles but also from Hindu, Mughal and Islamic architecture. This makes this and Lechner’s subsequent works very unique.
The building has four storeys and two courtyards. The main façade is dominated by a central tower with a dome, which immediately conveys an oriental splendour. The dome has curvilinear windows in different shapes, and around it there are four allegorical figures by Ignác Oppenheimer, representing the branches of the applied arts. The dome, the roof and the entire façade are made of ceramic tiles produced by the Zsolnay Porcelain Manufacture.
Entrance to the building is through a structure that has stylised columns supporting an extravagant eosin-glazed ceiling. On the inside, there is a hall which is overlooked by an opening that has a sinuous outline and reaches through the upper two floors and ends up in a colourful glass dome.
The inauguration of the museum was planned for the 1896 Hungarian National Millennium Exhibition but the interior was not yet fully complete by the time. On October 25, the ceremony took place anyway. It was also attended by Franz Joseph I, King of Hungary.
Statue of Ödön Lechner in front of the Museum of Applied Arts
3. Lindenbaum House
Izabella utca 94, Terézváros
Frigyes Spiegel & Fülöp Weinréb, 1896-1897
This colourful house and the one on No. 96 of the same street are the first Western European-inspired Art Nouveau buildings that were constructed in Budapest. The owner was Sándor Lindenbaum, who worked in the oil business.
Between the floors of the two buildings, there are allegories of the four elements. On the building on Izabella utca 94, the topics are Earth and Air, visible as long horizontal decorative stripes under the first floor and above the second floor, respectively. In the first, tomato plants, snakes and dog-like animals are depicted together with gilded female figures and peacocks. In the second, there are gilded suns, sunbirds and seated female figures, representing the Moon, on both sides.
4. Hungarian General Savings Bank
József Attila utca 8, Lipótváros
Arthur Meinig, 1898
Arthur Meinig was famous for his Neo-Baroque buildings at the time. Here some traces of Art Nouveau can already be read (especially the balcony railings).
5. Apartment building with shops on Szent István körút 13
Bertalan Gaál, 1898
This magnificent building opposite the Comedy Theatre was the property of the Haggenmacher family, who had immigrated from Switzerland. Its vestibules, corridors and two courtyards are richly decorated. The design of its public areas was also one of the reasons why, in September 2016, I chose this building to be my home.
6. Saint Ladislaus Church
Szent László tér 25, Kőbánya
Ödön Lechner & Gyula Pártos, 1891-1899
This is probably the most important Secessionist church in Budapest and the most famous building in the suburb of Kőbánya. Its tower is hexagonal and 83 meters high, making it one of the tallest in Hungary. The cupolas of the central and lower side towers and the roof of the church are covered with beautiful glazed tiles. Above the entrances there are mosaics by Miksa Róth. On the inside, pyrogranite is used, for example, in the design of the main altar. The pulpit with apostles and angles is unique. Influences of Hungarian, Romanian, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Persian architecture can all be read in the design.
7. Geological Institute of Hungary
Stefánia út 14, Istvánmező
Ödön Lechner, 1896-1899
This is the second of the three major works of Ödön Lechner, planned between the buildings of the Museum of Applied Arts and the Postal Savings Bank. The fragmented rooftop is common with the former building, whereas the curved lines on the towers announce the latter. The roof is covered with Zsolnay tiles, and the towers are crowned by small groups of figures. As usual with Lechner, many references to Hungarian folk art can be found.
8. House of Sámuel Baruch
Bajza utca 44, Terézváros
Zoltán Bálint & Lajos Jámbor, 1898-1899
This early-Art Nouveau building was the first work of the both architects.
9. Újpest City Hall
István út 14, Újpest
Henrik Böhm & Ármin Hegedűs, 1898-1900
This late-Eclectic early-Secessionist building was influenced by Ödön Lechner and Gyula Pártos’s famous Kecskemét City Hall. Some elements are purely Art Nouveau, such as the back door on the façade looking on Szent István tér.
10. Kőrössy Villa
Városligeti fasor 47-49, Terézváros
Albert Kálmán Kőrössy & Artúr Sebestyén, 1899-1900
This is among the first buildings constructed on Városligeti fasor, which soon came to be the main street of the most elegant villa district in Budapest. It is the architect’s own villa.
The building follows the contemporary Belgian, French, and German architecture. It has an omega-shaped window, which stirred up a lot of curiosity at the time. The façade is rich in floral motifs, and many masks can be found on it. These are all crowned by a relief depicting allegorical figures of the arts – Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture (the latter probably being Kőrössy himself). The fence railing is very beautiful, too.
For decades the house was the home and studio of György Klösz, a renowned city photographer. His works still decorate the interior spaces of the building.
11. Fischer House
Jósika utca 25, Erzsébetváros
Sándor Mezey, 1900
This is another example of the early Secessionist architecture of Budapest.
12. Apartment building on Csengery utca 76
Marcell Komor & Jakab Dezső, 1900
This building is among the first ones that the two architects designed together in Budapest.
13. House and studio of György Zala
Ajtósi Dürer sor 25a, Istvánmező
Zoltán Bálint, Lajos Jámbor & Ödön Lechner, 1899-1901
This beautiful house was built for a famous sculptor. It now houses the Embassy of Libya.
14. Ullmann House, Kánitz Department Store, and Hungarian Trade Hall
Szabadság tér 10-12, Lipótváros
Gyula Ullmann & Aladár Kármán, 1899-1901
These three Art Nouveau buildings on Liberty Square were designed around the same time by the same architects. One was called the Ullmann House. Another one housed the Kánitz Department Store and apartments. The building on No. 12 was the Hungarian Trade Hall. The US Embassy has been in this location since 1935.
15. Královansky Apartment Building
Váci utca 15, Belváros
Géza Majorossy & Elek Hofhauser, 1900-1901
This façade shows an unusual mixture of Venetian Gothic and Art Nouveau.
16. Building on Nádor utca 36
Arthur Meinig, 1901
I haven’t been able to figure out the exact functionality of this remarkable building.
17. Walkó House
Aulich utca 3, Lipótváros
Albert Kálmán Kőrössy, 1901
The façade of this building is decorated with rich plant ornamentation, among which animal figures can also be found. A colourful tile composition crowning the upper-floor façade depicts Eve and the apple. In the staircase of the building, there is a column with a capital that depicts a female figured fused with a tree. This is probably Daphne undergoing a metamorphosis to become a laurel tree after having escaped from Apollo.
18. Postal Savings Bank
Hold utca 4, Lipótváros
Ödön Lechner & Sándor Baumgarten, 1899-1902
This building, one of the pinnacles of Lechner’s work, is slightly less extravagant than the Museum of the Applied Arts and the Geological Institute, because of the simple repetition of the sinuous lines and forms of its flat façade. Ceramic ornamentation is abundant here as well, most notably on the roof, which is barely visible from the narrow street but which can be admired in all its majesty from the rooftop of the adjacent hotel. The lower part of the building is dominated by bricks.
19. Erzsébet Girls School
Ajtósi Dürer sor 37, Istvánmező
Sándor Baumgarten & Zsigmond Hercegh, 1901-1902
This building, located next to the Institute of the Blind and designed by the same architects, houses one of the oldest schools in Budapest.
20. Apartment building on Síp utca 16-18 / Wesselényi utca 14
József & László Vágó, 1902
This Lechner-influenced building in the Jewish District was the first joint project of the Vágó brothers.