Socialist Realism in the Budapest Metro
The original metro line designs prepared between the two world wars were revised after World War Two. The Soviet example was followed in the 1950s in terms of both the appearance of the stations and the urban planning concepts regarding the areas above ground. Therefore, the grandiosity of the Stalinist architecture and its works of art proclaiming the accomplishments and goals of the labour movement were also mirrored in the Budapest designs.
At the time – and for decades to come – the development of the metro line network was aimed at establishing direct links between large housing estates, the city centre of Budapest and large factories in a system of isolated operation; which is why earlier concepts based on integration through railway lines were set aside.
The east-west metro line was planned to be constructed first and it was to be followed by a north-south line and these two lines were to be supplemented by a ring line, following the Moscow example. The first stretch, between the Southern Railway Station section and the People’s Stadium, was planned to be delivered in 1954.
In 1950, the work commenced in Kossuth square. It is hard to imagine today that the laborers of a project of such a grand scale worked with the simplest of tools; they used spades, wheelbarrows and built wooden scaffolding (it was not until three years later that the tunnel boring machine, i.e. the “mole” was set to work). At the height of the work, some 6000 people were toiling away at 16 different sites.
However, the construction exceeded the capacities of Hungary at the time. The work can to a halt in 1954; by that point, an approx. 2 km-long stretch of the double tunnel had been completed of the planned 10 km metro line. The only nearly completed station was the one at the People’s Stadium, but its building – designed by István Nyíri – with two domes richly decorated with reliefs typical of the Socialist realism style, was pulled down in the late 1960s.
“Our working people have every reason to look forward to enjoying the works of art that decorate the first underground station with the greatest expectations. The masterpieces being prepared for the People’s Stadium metro station hold a prominent position among the best of the monumental representative genre of art. The People’s Stadium station, now in the making, will be a veritable museum of meaningful works of art for an audience of hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of people.”
Pál Szegi: Fine art decorations of the People’s Stadium station of the underground railway
(Above) Design of a grand scale underground station from the early 1950s
(1) In 1953, two prototypes of the Ganz-made Hungarian metro carriage were prepared but were never put into service due to the cancellation of the metro line construction.
(2) Designs of the Blaha Lujza square station hall from the early 1950s The National Theatre was still expected to remain in place.
(3) The nearly completed People’s Stadium station was pulled down in 1968 because is solemn socreal style was not in line with the Kádár era’s spirit.
(4) Mock-up of the double dome terminal station next to the People’s Stadium.
(5) A terminal shared by the suburban railway (HÉV) and the metro line was planned to be built at the People’s Stadium. The envisaged connection that was to allow passengers to conveniently change lines has remained unrealized to date, though it is included in urban development plans (with its potential site relocated to Örs Vezér Square).
(6) Relief installed in the entrance hall of Népstadion (People’s Stadium) station