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Abandoned giant – take a look inside the ghostly Stock Exchange Palace

Writers

  • Bartha Dorka

17/06/2020 11.46am

The last time anyone was running around the grand empty Stock Exchange Palace on Szabadság tér, it was 2049, and Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling were being filmed for the sequel to ‘Blade Runner’. The last year this abandoned landmark was in regular use, however, was 2009, when State Hungarian Television (MTV) was just moving out. Photographer Tamás Pataki has just visited its ghostly interior to take these amazing images – have a look!

The shape of downtown Szabadság tér (‘Freedom Square’) looks as if it has been delineated by a ruler, with careful consideration. This is quite close to the truth as, until 1897, the walls of the Újepület (‘New Building’), a former barracks, ran around the edges.

At the time of its construction, this was still largely on the outskirts of the city, but by the turn of the century, Budapest, developing rapidly, was keen to remove the military complex. The building was not only dilapidated, but it contained a bitter past.


Prime Minister Lajos Batthyány was executed here by the Austrians in 1849 and many Hungarian soldiers were imprisoned in it. Naturally, locals did take to the place, and its demolition had been called for since the 1870s. By 1898, it was knocked down and was replaced by the carefully designed Szabadság tér, which was intended to feature its own grandiose, representative building.

‘Bank Builder’ Ignác Alpár immediately submitted two plans for the tender for the building of the Stock Exchange Palace, with which he won the first and the second place. Whether he played any major role in its construction is not known, however – when the building was erected in 1907, it created one of the largest stock exchange buildings in contemporary Europe, of a scale far beyond Hungary’s requirements.

On either side of the central dome hall of this 145-metre-long building, the commodity exchange operated in the north wing and the stock exchange in the south, The halls were 60x22 metres in size, with huge windows. In his book BUDAPEST – A Critical Guide, András Török writes that this was all thanks to the grain-merchant lobby, whose finished wing featured windows enlarged by nine metres so that the lighting conditions were perfect. 

There were, of course, plenty of other rooms available for rent in the building, soundproofed telephone booths, a post office, an indispensable café and a telegraph office on street level. The stock exchange operated here until its abolition on 25 May 1948, when the Lenin Institute moved in, then the House of Technology, before, in 1955, Hungarian Television started to set up. The first broadcast ran on 1 May 1957. 

The entire building was taken over by 1969, and at the same time, the original interior was completely remodelled and, according to some, destroyed. Stock rooms also became studios, only the central staircase remained in its original form.

Finally, it was bought by the Canadian Tippin Corporation in 2006, when it was declared a national monument. MTV moved out in 2009 and the building has been empty ever since. 

Its current condition can be seen in these photos by Tamás Pataki. The last news of the Stock Exchange Palace renovation was in 2017 – the time of the Blade Runner 2049 production – when luxury offices and retail units were being talked about in the context of an opening in 2020.

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