After a thorough renovation, the ever-bustling downtown crossroads of Nyugati Square finally matches the grace of its namesake railway station created by the construction firm of Gustave Eiffel, standing just across the street. In our coverage of this refurbishment less than a year ago, we revealed some plans that foretold a much prettier and greener Nyugati Square, and now that the redesign is complete, we a pleased to see that the cleaner and sleeker layout comes with plenty of seating, which may inspire passersby to hang out in this previously neglected city-center spot.
For our previous article, we consulted Chief Architect of Terézváros István Matus, who was glad to fill us in on the details together with project manager Sarkar Nirmal.
The most evident change locals will be quick to notice is that the square’s complicated structure has been simplified. The old, run-down areas are now neat and clutter-free, and the area looks much cleaner from every direction. The decorative limestone and granite paving adds a sophisticated touch to the overall look: “Our aim was to create an interesting visual experience by mixing up the width, color, and texture of the stones. There is a certain rhythm to the surfaces, especially with each row being positioned a little bit to the left or right in relation to neighboring rows.”
The new glass-and-steel railings are both functional and pretty to look at, as they have strings of LED lights running through them. Even though large trees were not an option, the square has indeed become greener: about 1,300 plants now flourish inside the steel plant boxes, which have a modern, wooden rim for busy Budapest residents to sit on. The uniform design of the street furniture, including the decorative lighting, bicycle racks, waste containers, and benches also contributes to the polished look of this busy downtown hub.
And that’s not all: the rotating clock and the fountain are back, the walls have been treated to repel graffiti, the nearby section of Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Avenue is now safer thanks to a brand-new pedestrian crossing, and a CCTV system with four cameras will soon be installed to improve the square’s safety.
The renovation of the city-center square was carried out in the framework of the TÉR_KÖZ tender, published by the Budapest Mayor’s Office, which has been instrumental in the execution of several other Budapest beautification projects from Szervita Square to Hullám Boat House. Nyugati Square is a fine example of how relatively modest funds can go a long way in turning Budapest into a more pleasant city.
“While the funding we received in the TÉR_KÖZ 2 tender helped us complete the current stage of the Nyugati Square renovation project, it’s not sufficient to cover the costs of further phases of redevelopment. Nevertheless, we hope that we can make this a much more comfortable space by continuing to add innovative and green elements,” said Chief Architect István Matus.
Use and upkeep are the two key issues that are very important to consider when planning the redevelopment of such a square. A public space like this can only come to life if people have enough room to use it – that’s why it can be frustrating to find a freshly renovated area overcrowded with too many elements. Another unfortunate-but-typical occurrence is that minor repairs are often ignored: repainting a bench is not a costly task, and wood, which is a popular material for outdoor seating nowadays, must be regularly treated to withstand the rigors of nature. Judging by the attitude of the architects, which would be beneficial to replicate in other areas of town, deterioration won’t be a problem here for a long while.
All in all, Nyugati Square is now a much more welcoming, spacious, and elegant urban plaza than ever before, and we certainly hope that many other corners of the Magyar metropolis will be updated to reach such standards of aesthetically pleasing living space in the near future.