Archive for the ‘Mindenféle’ Category

A socket to fit the town jewel

12:19 AM


(From previous issue No.41)

Sopron is one of our medium-size towns still retaining much of their medieval character in their structure, while the buildings are reminiscent of a city milieu predating modernism. As the Napoleonic Wars brought technical innovations (such as military hot air balloons), and the urbanization trend had cities sprawl beyond their medieval limits, city walls were fast becoming redundant and obsolete. Many European cities opted to demolish their old perimeter walls. Inevitably this formed new open spaces which, according to different respective development concepts, were adapted to circuit roads, promenades, green rings, marketplaces, or developed land. In case of Sopron, the marketplace concept prevailed. Based on local historical data, the progressive Viennese trend has made less of an impact on urban life here, which would have prompted the adoption of a promenade or public garden (as in case of the Ring in Vienna). Yet it is evident that aside from the entire section of Ógabona tér and Petőfi tér being developed for construction, what used to be the rampart and moat system along the city walls is now a sweeping network of free spaces, a belt of public space encircling the almond-shaped old town center, the Sopron castle district. Vehicle transport and parking all but consumed this sweeping spatial network, which gradually slipped from its market function into a transport oriented public road status.

Only by 2009 did a new concept emerge for moving the Castle District's quality beyond the status quo. In this process, EU development funds, the city’s will of traffic calming and the domestic renaissance of a need for pedestrian dominance met each other in a competition. In this design contest, Hetedik Műterem and Geum took part jointly and received the second prize (no first prize was awarded.) Led by Levente Szabó DLA, the Hetedik Műterem architect studio and their regular project partners Geum landscape design office (Csenge Csontos, Borbála Gyüre, Gergely Lád) approached the Castle District issue with their usual zen minimalism. The result is a low profile jet black urban / open air carpeting, dotted with liberal splashes of green cover, conveying an overwhelming functional message of redistributing space with a vantage for visual unity.

Evening aerial photo of the town center

Evening aerial photo of the town center
(photo: Danyi Balázs)

Certainly it produces a distinctly contemporary layer overlaid on an organic urban periphery, interconnecting an organic medley of medieval, Baroque, and early 20th century wall sections, distinct with its own neutrality and lack of affect. This contemporary neutrality underscores the historical medley of periphery walls, boosted by the contrasting color scheme. The rondella bastion's breached outer wall not only reveals a section of surviving city wall, but also connects this project to another architectural feature, the Várfal sétány promenade beside the recently excavated old wall. It is as much a tip into time travel as it is a zone of urban privacy.