Provoking a New Form of Urbanity: The Corvin Promenade, Budapest

Throughout the last decade and a half, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Hungary has pursued aggressively its participation in a free-market system, shifting from an industry-heavy country into more of a service-provider economy and corporate hub for multinational and transnational operations, mostly within Central and Eastern Europe. Budapest has been the epicenter of this wide array of new activities and has witnessed major spatial transformations in order to accommodate these new commercial forces. The majority of these transformations have been fairly reduced in scale and have been focused primarily in the city center (District 5) and its adjacent areas. Today, a high demand for new commercial and housing stock has ignited real estate developers to look for areas available outside the boundaries defined by Petrofi / Erzsebet Jozsef Avenues, and to consider economically depressed districts between the city\’s first, and second, ring roads. Given this framework, this option studio, kindly sponsored by the Futureal Group, will look at the south-western portion of District VIII. The studio\’s primary objective is to investigate new urban types that would replace approximately 19 blocks of mostly abandoned and highly dilapidated nineteenth century fabric with new urban tissues that are more attuned to the spatial and programmatic needs suggested by the city\’s current economic trends, and curbed by the effervescent real estate scenario. Students will speculate on ways in which the introduction of the most generic ingredients of city making; residential, office, and retail spaces accompanied by open space can serve as a basic palette that allows for a highly depressed area to become a high profile quarter in the city, establishing a new centrality within the broader metropolitan region and institute a new form of urbanity for the area in question. Beyond exploring alternate ways to assemble mid-rise, mixed-use types, students will exploit further these basic ingredients as tools that help define broader urban and architectural issues, such as the demarcation of public, private, and privately owned public spaces; the invention and introduction of key programmatic elements; the definition of housing typologies that allude to different market groups, etc. More importantly, such investigations will allow for the unfolding of unprecedented notions of identity. These result from the overlap of market-driven development within still operative infrastructures that were planned under a socialist regime with the specific urban culture of Budapest.The Corvin Promenade area, the southwestern portion of District VIII, is occupied primarily by two, to three story high, decrepit buildings. Most precincts have been abandoned as the majority of tenants have been moved already to structurally safer dwellings throughout the city. A few Soviet housing blocks are scattered throughout the area, and these tenements are still heavily occupied and will remain active in the foreseeable future. The site sits behind two major avenues, Ulloi Avenue which connects the city center with Ferihegy Airport, and Petrofi Boulevard which serves as the city\’s second ring road. The northern portion of the site is capped by the Corvin Cinema, a landmark from the early twentieth century. The southern border is defined by the national medical school of Budapest. The site is well served by two major subway stops, as well as by light rail and it is within walking distance of the city center and major shopping areas.The studio will be made up of three distinct exercises that will add up to one comprehensive project. The first two weeks, prior to the studio trip, students will research the precise nature of Budapest\’s recent cultural and spatial transformations in order to elaborate an adequate an background, which in combination with the site visit, can proffer, a well-tempered thesis about the territory in question. Upon the studi