Renovated Art Nouveau buildings bloom along Hajós Street
While the Grand Boulevard has a strict historical style in accordance with the time of its construction, Hajós Street behind the Hungarian State Opera is lined with houses created decades later in an entirely different architectural form: Art Nouveau. A walk down Hajós today reveals the long-needed and elaborate renovations that have been taking place, restoring these former masterpieces to their former glory. Once complete, ornate façades, wrought iron and stained glass will be unveiled.
For a long time, buildings created in Art Nouveau style were not considered valuable enough to protect, as shown by the traces of decades-long neglect. The process of renovating them is difficult, not only because of their poor condition but also due to their unique decorative features. The remaking and replacement of the custom-made windows, wrought iron, tiles and porcelain created by the famed Zsolnay factory is not only complicated but expensive.
Hajós Street begins on the corner of the Hungarian State Opera and was named after the Danube sailors (hence hajós, ‘sailor’) who frequented the dubious pubs and brothels here. The neighborhood changed character around the late 1800s when Art Nouveau-style buildings started popped up one after another. Until a few years ago, these stood neglected, their façades crumbling and beautiful stained-glass windows covered by wooden boards. Fortunately, more and more buildings have been renovated over the past few years – to good effect.
The building at Hajós Street 16, designed by Dezső Freund and built in 1911, has been nicely renovated both inside and outside. Thankfully, the infamous plastering technique widely used since the 1970s has been left to one side for more modern and aesthetic methods.
Concealed by scaffolding, the nearby Napoleon Court houses Budapest’s only statue of the French emperor. The mansion was designed by Gyula Fodor and built in 1906, and while its current state might look disappointing, most has been nicely renovated in recent years. The staircase and the façade facing the courtyard have been brilliantly restored and the stained-glass windows and wrought-iron railings now appear unblemished.
The two-story building on the corner of Hajós and Dessewffy stood on the brink of falling apart just a few years ago – large chunks of plaster were missing from the façade, brickwork was simply showing here and there. Since then, the building has been renovated, but fell victim to the unsightly plastering technique mentioned above, rendering all but unrecognizable the decorative female faces on the façade.
As you approach the end of the street, you arrive at the most recently renovated building, designed by Béla Málnai and built in 1904: Szedő House. This three-story building first needed to be cleaned off with a high-pressure water jet before the reconstruction work could begin. Chunks had fallen from the façade and decorations, deforming them over time, but now is nearing its former splendor. What also remains is the beautiful staircase, adorned with stained-glass windows by Miksa Róth and detailed porcelain landscapes by Zsolnay.