How do you sensitively provide a new visitor centre and car park to one of the most historic buildings on the Danube in Budapest, which also happens to be the largest building in Hungary and one of the two tallest buildings in Budapest? The answer of course, despite being so near to the river, is to go underground.
The design of the highly-decorated neo-gothic Hungarian Parliament Building with its symmetrical façade covered in 242 sculptures and central dome was the result of an international design competition following the unification of Budapest in 1873, won by Imre Steindl and incorporating stained glass and glass mosaics by Miksa Roth.
Construction started in 1885, the building was inaugurated on the 1000th anniversary of Hungary in 1896, and was completed in 1904. About one thousand people were employed in its construction, which used 40 million bricks, half a million precious stones and 40 kilograms (88 lb) of gold.
The building sits in Kossuth Square which has been landscaped and improved to provide an appropriate setting for the Parliament and its building, including a discrete new visitor centre. with its black reflective surfaces housing shop, café and toilets and connecting underground through a new corridor into the old building and a new underground parking garage.
Given the location, flood protection measures were a key consideration and these are discretely hidden in the structure.
The result is an elegant and discrete new entrance for tour groups to the Parliament Building overlooked by the statue of former Hungarian Prime Minister Istvan Tisza in a new landscaped area. It’s a step-above the current environment around the Houses in Parliament in London with its constrained entrance for visitors. There have been proposals for improvements around the building in the past, but they failed and security barriers took their place. When the proposed refurbishment takes place, let’s hope that imaginative proposals can be developed for the setting and for the visitors’ entrance of the “Mother of Parliaments”.