Take a walk through Budapest’s newly restored Párisi udvar
The transformation of Budapest’s beautiful and historic Párisi udvar is a fair way from completion – but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The exterior scaffolding has been removed from this ornate, century-old landmark in the heart of town by Ferenciek tere, and a 110-room, Hyatt luxury hotel will be taking shape here in the near future. The property is expected to be ready for inspection by the end of this year, and accommodating guests in 2019. To see it for ourselves, we took a walk through the building, from the ground-floor passageway to the roof.
Considering it was designed as a Central Savings Bank, the adventurous, eclectic, Moorish-Byzantine style created by Henrik Schmahl is quite unique. The building, which also houses the equally elegant Jégbüfé ice-cream parlour, is best known for its wonderful glass cupola in the passageway. After the revered hologram shop moved from here, the arcade remained empty, a secret destination ripe for urban exploration.
Since renovation work began, we have visited the building several times, most recently to view the hotel interior and a demonstration guest room. Now we can admire the restoration handiwork as it draws to a close.
The building has been under heritage protection since 1967 and has remained largely empty during the 2000s. From 2014, Archikon architectural studio began the planning and renovation work. In the autumn of 2017, it was announced that the Mellow Moods Hotels group, which also operates the adjacent Buddha-Bar Budapest hotel in one of the Klotild Palaces, would be launching this prestigious operation as part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt. This 110-room luxury lodging will have similarly high-end properties in Paris, Cannes and Istanbul for European stablemates.
During reconstruction, architects used original plans and archival resources, but they encountered many unexpected surprises during the demolition. In many cases, builders a century ago wavered slightly from what was in the plans and, since this is one of the earliest reinforced-concrete structures in Budapest, their technique was far from perfect.
All the same, for the building completed in 1912-13, the best-quality luxury materials of the day were used – which does not mean to say that they haven’t been affected by the whims of time up to the present day.
During the renovation, the restorers have tried to keep as much original detail as possible or, for any replacement work, to contact the original manufacturers where possible. With the famous Zsolnay ceramics factory, it still took more than a year to create the various pieces. As Villeroy & Boch decided not to replace the original Mettlach tiles, Hungarian companies had to be called in to do the job.
During the rebuilding process, through the scaffolding, we were able to admire the turn-of-the-century splendour of the façade, which was almost completely covered with Zsolnay ceramics and glass mosaic, the windows with copper and cast-iron detail. Like the façade, the passage is also under heritage protection, the two glass cupolas visible from both Ferenciek tere and Kígyó utca.
The cupola cover was a major surprise. Thought of as wood carving because of all the dust and dirt that had accumulated over the years, it turns out that it was actually created from copper stained-glass by the renowned workshop of Miksa Róth. Plans now call for it to be renovated from above, adding further value to the restoration.
From here we went up to the roof, but before we got there, we inspected the stairwells. These are also to be reconstructed according to heritage specifications, usually very precise and meticulous manual work. The lifts are cast-iron and, as well as Zsolnay’s ceramic shaft, the stucco work and columns decorated with bees are being restored.
On the way, we looked into the new guestrooms as walked past the newly constructed wing that no longer touches the monumental parts of the building. From here, we came out onto the roof, where it was breathtaking to see the decorations which before could only be admired from below. They were elaborate in every detail, the lion heads on the towers and the monsters lurking in the gargoyles still very much with us.
During the renovation, nearly 70,000 man hours were spent on the restoration of the ceramics, and some 17,000 pieces have been created, both newly manufactured Zsolnay pieces and those from the original building, weighing between 20dkg and 65kg.
Once the hotel is ready, on the ground floor and mezzanine, there will be shops opening onto the street front, while the passage will contain the lobby and restaurant. A spa and gym will sit on the first floor, with guest rooms and suites on five levels. The top floor will feature two roof gardens of 500 square metres, and luxurious suite with wraparound panoramic view.