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Budapest’s UNESCO-listed Exchange Palace shines anew as Váci1

The much-needed renovation of the magnificent building at the corner of Vörösmarty Square and Váci Street, now called Váci1, was finished years ago, but the planned luxury department store couldn’t open for varied reasons, keeping the public from going inside to admire the architectural beauty of this urban palace. The UNESCO World Heritage site has been waiting for its real opening for a long time, but now a clothing store has moved into this traditional gateway to the Pest shopping district, meaning that anyone can stroll inside and take a look around – and we were happy to do just that.

As we reported earlier in our annual Budapest to the Future coverage, despite the fact that renovations of Váci1 were finished years ago, the opening of the planned luxury department store or a so called "flagship" unit has been delayed so far. Luckily, our prediction that 2016 would be the year when this building would finally reopen turned out to be correct, and the building unlocked its gates to the public.

There is plenty to look at even for those who aren’t into fast-fashion pieces – the elegance of the First Savings Bank of Pest, designed by Ignác Alpár, is outstanding even among other Budapest architectural landmarks.

Ignác Schöckl, the Józsefváros-born architect with Styrian roots, was a specialist of bank buildings. This building has stores opening from the street while the upstairs areas provided space for apartments; the simple façade showcased monumentality with three-story-tall columns and rounded edges.

The interior spaces of the reinforced concrete building were defined by luxury, longevity, and noble materials. The best craftsmen designed and created the furnishing and decoration, and the bronze gate, the gilded red-marble columns, and the galleried hall that was once furnished with leather sitting sets, simply took the visitors' breath away.

Luckily, modern-day French designer Chritian Biecher was able to keep these high standards, and they were also kept during the renovation planned by the Kőnig and Wagner Architectural Firm.

The walls are covered in various types of stone; the spaces around the grand staircase have glass windows painted in Miksa Róth style.

The new clothing store is a bit sterile, yet still more polished than the usual. The mirrors on the columns make the interior more interesting. The light bulbs of the central area, which also receives natural light from above, are hung at various lengths, creating a figure-eight form. This latter design move has a simple yet pleasant result.

1052 Budapest, 8 Türr István Street The recently opened clothing store occupies the first two floors, generating significant traffic in the building. The confectionery downstairs has been operating for a while now, while the roof was equipped with a 400-square-meter terrace.

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