József Vágó’s Dreams of a Modern Metropolis
Among the urban planning visions concerning the development of Budapest, architect József Vágó’s version was rather unique in that he studied the structure of Budapest, and major cities in general, as a matter of art. As early as during the Great War, he professed that a conventional town could not satisfy the requirements of the age, therefore there was a need for a review and revision of concepts of hygiene, economic efficiency, housing and technology.
In 1936, he showcased his ideas about the future of the Hungarian capital city in 45 tableaux in his book entitled Budapest művészi újjáépítése (The artistic reconstruction of Budapest) and at an exhibition at the National Parlour. In his large and extremely spectacular watercolours, he dealt with still unresolved problems of the preceding century, along with topical urban planning issues.
Amongst others, he focused on the Tabán district – he even submitted his plans in the tender announced by the state in 1933 concerning the utilisation of the area – and he aimed at designing a new metropolitan artery of Buda, to be named Attila Boulevard. He envisaged a new City Hall to be constructed on the riverbanks of the Danube in St. Stephen Park and a junction of three avenues at the end of Andrássy Road with sprawling hotels and a department store on the opposite side. The paintings show how he intended to rearrange the main transport hubs, including the Adam Clark Square, the Calvin Square and the bridgehead of Margaret Bridge, along with a tram track running along the Danube below the surface of the river.
Vágó’s dreams of a renewed metropolis show a vibrant Budapest packed with cars and highrise buildings, wide avenues and space on a scale exceeding those of a conventional city because, as he put it, “modern man does not go strolling in the streets”. None of his plans were realised.
“Those with no ambitions always say that all this is very nice, but... it’s nice, but only a dream, an unachievable utopia. There’s no money for that! And this ever-recurring refrain buries all ideas and quenches all enthusiasm.”
József Vágó: Budapest művészi újjáépítése (The artistic reconstruction of Budapest) (1936)
(Above) He intended to create Budapest’s new main square at the junction of Andrássy Road, King Charles Road and Emperor Wilhelm Road (today Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Road). The square was to be ringed by impressive modern buildings, including two hotels and a department store.
(1) The widened “flowery” Tunnel Street, with a green strip lined with pruned trees, would have led directly to the square in front of the new Southern Railway Terminal.
(2) Vágó imagined Attila Boulevard, lined with highrise buildings, to be converted into a broad boulevard as Buda’s new main artery. Much of the old Tabán had been demolished by this period.
(3) The older palaces of Andrássy Road would have been dwarfed by the modern tower of the Majestic Hotel. He already expected that motorised traffic would intensify on roads as a result of the growing ownership of cars.
(Below) He would have drawn the Southern Railway Terminal back to the line of Marble Street to where the freight yard was located at the time. He imagined Roman Square in front of the grand modern building to function as Budapest’s gate where he also imagined a hotel and the main post office. In the watercolour, the middle of the square is occupied by a car park, with buses stopping outside the railway terminal – accordingly, he envisaged a modern intermodal hub. The inscription on the façade promotes vacationing at Lake Balaton.