Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library

Budapest, 2001

General design: MATESZ Építész Kft.
Architectural design: Péter Hegedűs, Ybl Prize laureate architect – MATESZ
Contributors to architectural design: László Felcsuti, Ybl Prize laureate architect, Csaba Vargacz – MATESZ
Interior design: Mihály Hefkó, Ybl Prize laureate architect – MI Bt., Csaba Jakab – HétFő Bt.
Head of restoration: Gábor Nagy – Silvert Rt.
Pro Architectura Award

We connected the buildings, each different in age and style, in a way that allowed the distinctive polyphony of the complex to be manifest through exciting all-embracing views. This openness both helps orientation and enhances the architectural effect of the simultaneity of different ages. The new stairway, slipped in between the old bearing walls where the three buildings meet, links the storeys of different elevations, and the lateral, windowed surface of its cylinder offers a filmic vision of life inside the library. Moving inside the spaces and understanding or sensing the philosophy of the building may well be a source of intellectual pleasure.
This is reinforced by the adjacency of materials from different periods, including the contemporary, light clinker cover, the Trieste limestone, the 130-year-old cast iron balusters and carved stones, and the oak handrails.
The centre of the new library is the atrium that was created by covering the former courtyard of the palace with a glass roof, and opening the traverse wing by means of an archway. A meeting point for architectural periods, this central courtyard is a lobby, an information point and a café at the same time, a covered urban space that offers an enticing view of the reading rooms that connect to it at different heights.
The new, eight-storey section allowed us to free the spaces of the palace from service functions. Throughout the building, our choice of materials, forms, colours, light fittings, mobile and fixed furnishings, was informed by a focus on spaces and their relations. With regard to the old and new interiors of the complex, we did not follow any models; the new interiors have a high-quality simplicity to them that counterpoints the rich ornamentation of the old wing.

Photography: Zoltán Csikó, Nathan Willock