Character-forming role of building stones in the urban landscape on the example of Dunazug-hegység (Dunazug Mountains)

March 5th, 2014

VAJDA Szabolcs

(From previous issue No.28)

The use of traditional building stones often plays a fundamental role in forming a unique landscape and settlement character in Hungary’s mountainous regions. The geology of our mediumheight mountain ranges is so diverse that the use of traditional building stones can vary from town to village.

The traditional architecture of our rural regions was characterised by significant regional differences until the end of the 19th century. For builders and developers the most important considerations were the practical aspects and the economizing on resources; environmental factors heavily influenced architecture. This both meant adjustment to climatic factors, ground features and also to building materials which were determined by their immediate surroundings. In the 20th century, mainly after WW2, a strong and still decisive adverse process has started. Regional differences quickly diminished; village architecture started to become integrated and homogeneous.

Limestone fence

Oolitic limestone fence and gate post, Etyek

The apprehension about losing the distinct local character created the regional approach in architecture, in the sense of vernacular architecture, in the second half of the 20th century. Its main aim was to restore the regions' local architecture's traditional features. Possible methods for doing
this are judged very differently by architects. In my opinion, the unique character of rural landscape in Hungary could be ensured by a cautious return to the traditional details and scales of vernacular and anonymous architecture, also by jointly applying local materials and building techniques.

My research in PhD involved the thorough exploration of the use of traditional building stones in Dunántúliközéphegység (Dunántúl Mountains).

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Landscape architecture in climate protection

March 4th, 2014

by DÖMÖTÖR Tamás

(Frome previous issue No.26)

We celebrated the 190th birthday of Frederick Low Olmsted on 26 April 2012. Regarding his work, we can say that climate adaptation gained a key role as early as landscape architecture emerging in the second half of the 19th century as the Emerald Necklace of Olmsted, with its green areas and surfaces of water, as well as the chain of roads and objects threaded on this, served recreation and the balancing of settlement climate at the same time. In his city plans, through the introduction of the green ring, he also wanted to achieve the same balancing role. It is part of the whole truth that in those days emerging industrial cities were not familiar with the concept of climate change and their endeavours to improve targeted the preservation of health. However, the outlines of the mission of landscape architecture to create balance – their task in present-day challenges - were beginning to show even then.

The fact of climate change is still surrounded by debate; however, as the individual social groups find their own answers to the questions posed by the challenge, the phenomenon is becoming increasingly accepted. It is clear for landscape architecture, as a professional area striving for balancing, that the over-use of the potential of a particular area or the integration of new, exterior elements into the system (e.g. fossil sources of energy) will by all means result in the break-down of the ecological system. We cannot provide solutions to the truly major questions of global crisis, as stopping overpopulation, overproduction and overload caused by consumer society or providing for an increasing demand for energy but designers and, within that, landscape architects are to find answers to the challenges related to territoriality and spatiality.

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Characteristics of contemporary Chinese landscape design


(From previous issue No.25)

Chinese economic expansion has had many consequences in terms of changes to the landscape and urban spaces, and a number of problems have emerged as a result. Environmental problems in China are numerous and extensive (in terms of general negative influences, the intensity of these influences, and their expansion over a wide space) and are often the result of poor planning or unsuitable environmental and development policies. Because this paper aims to illuminate characteristics of contemporary Chinese landscape design, we will not address these specific problems in detail. Suffice to say that in the last ten years, the fields of landscape and environmental planning have been growing stronger in China, and the social, political, and economic spheres have contributed to this trend by promoting Chinese landscape architects who have been educated abroad. The fact that landscape architecture as a discipline has been gaining recognition in Chinese society means that it is encountering a number of banal problems such as the establishment of professional terminology. In the Chinese case, in addition to lacking words, written characters must also be created that can be used to communicate with other disciplines that intersect with landscape architecture.

Although the final product of landscape designers is an open green space (often designed to the least detail), the distinction in China between landscape planning and landscape design is disappearing and the various levels of landscape arrangement have begun to merge and complement each other. For example, a number of notable Chinese projects that have to do with the reclamation of derelict landscapes begin with an assessment of environmental impact and are carried out with recommendations that reduce impact included in the final design. There are many more projects focusing on open public spaces in China’s enormous cities and sprawling suburban agglomerations where landscape design solutions necessarily overlap with the urban planning and urban design approaches. The rapid growth and sheer size of China’s cities are inconceivable in Europe. In the last thirty years, new industrial cities of more than ten million inhabitants have grown in places where the population was once only ten thousand. Such an explosion of urban settlements causes numerous problems including the design of public spaces, from built to green open space.

Chinese design

Horticulture has a long tradition in China and numerous plant types that are in use in public plantings around the world come from this tradition. Difficulties in this general design approach include colour saturation and unnecessary kitsch elements.

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No.32 is off the press

December 20th, 2013


Issue No. hot off the press.

(Magyar) Mőcsényi Mihály professzor kapta a tájépítészet “Nobel díját”

September 11th, 2012


Proceeded to second jury round: CC183 – Agoraphilia

March 12th, 2012

Massimo ACITO, architect, team leader; Marco BURRASCANO, architect; Luca CATALONO, landscape architect; Annalisa METTA, landscape architect; Luca REALE, architect; Caterina ROGAI, architect; Lucia DE VINCENTI, architect; Francesco D’IPPOLITO, draughtsman (Osa Architettura e Paesaggio, Rome, Italy)

Agoraphilia: bird's-eye view from Csingeri Road

Agoraphilia: bird's-eye view from Csingeri Road

Problems tackled

  • Lack of identity of the city centre: Today Ajka is more a summa of settlements than a city, the identity of Ajka has been the industrial district since 1960, and today there is no city core yet.
  • Green character to preserve: The structure of the settlement is based much more on natural elements than buildings and infrastructures, this concerns the old villages but also the socialist modern district.
  • Isolation of the project site: The project site is isolated, surrounded by routes and not linked with the public services around; all the area suffers a lack of quality in architecture and public spaces.

Conceptual approach

The public space as urban structure: The quality of public space will define the new city centre, a town centre in a classical sense with a big, paved space, a piazza, connecting the public services and working as an intense core for public life.

Urbanity [...]

Revitalisation [...]

Pedestrian priority [...]

Vegetation [...]

Density and concentration [...]

Connectivity [...]

Identity [...]

Sustainability [...]

Environmental planning [...]

/read the rest of this writing –including more plans and renderings– in issue No.17./

Proceeded to second jury round: HS138 – Human scale

Zsuzsanna TÓTH, architect; Csaba HORVÁTH, architect; Tamás HOFFMAN, architect (Budapest, Hungary)

Human Scale: madártávlati kép a Csingeri út felől

Human Scale: madártávlati kép a Csingeri út felől

Although Ajka has a history of many centuries, it has been a town for fifty years and is the home of a wide range of industries, it has not been able to develop a city centre of urban character. [...]

One of the major problems of the centre is that in many cases closed backside facades are facing the valuable public spaces. [...]

Our concept is to create a structure that provides the separation and the connection of the masses and the voids both in a vertical and horizontal direction. This way the directions, masses and spaces are united in a meaningful coexistence. [...]

A classical Agora has to be provided with entertainment (cinema, exhibitions), shopping, market, and office facilities. This way the traditional urban activities such as looking and being seen, strolling, communicating will be supported. [...]

As Ajka has missed some stages of historical development, no religious or other major public building could become the focal point of urban activities. Therefore while reinterpreting the centre, besides dealing with the new buildings, we also have to create the public space system of the area.

/read the rest of this writing –including more plans and renderings– in issue No.17./

Runner-up: AJ111 – Ajka Transforum

Christina LENART, architect; Ernst GRUBER, architect; Michael KLEIN, architect-urbanist (Wien, Austria)

Ajka Transforum: inner square

Ajka Transforum: inner square

What if you enter a competition for a modernist city in times of financial crisis? How to tie people’s urge for individual expression and private property to a city centre that has been born out of the idea of collectivisation? DIY-urbanism instead of waiting for the one to come!

Yet the city is now experiencing the wellproven habits of “the market” – facing city-life sucking vampires that carry names like Tesco. Just as anywhere else, society is increasingly individualising and the wish for private property outrules the sense for community, amplified by the repetitive housing slabs, a result of the former housing policy. People commute between their single-family houses and the shopping malls on the outskirts, passing through the city centre at 50 km/h.

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Winner: RI749 – Dense/ Lite

Martin JANČOK, architect; Irakli ERISTAVI, architect; Pavol ŠILLA, architect; Silvia MIKLUŠOVÁ, architect; Milan VLČEK, architect (Slovakia, Prešov)

The winner: Dense / Lite

The winner: Dense / Lite

A successful strategy for Ajka´s new urban face has to pay respect to existing potentials of the area. Present and well functioning structures should be integrated into the new entity. The strategy is based on counterbalancing the development density in the area. The acceptance of the loose structure on the perimeter of the area allows to generate higher density in the focal area as a kind of antipole. Concentration will give the centre of the town a new appearance and character.

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Europan 10 – Ajka, competiton results

February 22nd, 2012

42 teams registered on the Ajka site. The number of submitted entries was 31. In accordance with the rules of Europan the jury awarded one Winner and one Runner-up prize. No Honourable mention prize was awarded. Three further projects were selected to the second jury round of the competition.


Results of the competition:


  • RI749 - DENSE/ LITE: Martin Jancok, Irakli Eristavi, Pavol Silla, Silvia Miklusova, Milan Vlcek (Presov, Slovakia)


  • AJ111 - AJKA TRANSFORUM: Christina Lenart, Ernst Gruber, Michael Klein (Wien, Austria)


  • HS138 - HUMAN-SCALE: Tóth Zsuzsanna, Horváth Csaba, Hoffman Tamás (Budapest, Hungary)
  • CC183 – AGORAPHILIA: Acito Massimo, Caterina Aurora Rogai, Marco Burrascano, Luca Reale, Annalisa Metta, Luca Catalano, Lucia De Vincenti, Francesco D’Ippolito (Rome, Italy)
  • AJ111 - PUBLIC URBANITY: Casciu Mario, Francesca Rango, Davide Negro, Simone De lacobis, Sara Trippanera (Cagliari, Italy)

Sites: Wien, Graz, Eisenstadt and Ajka

  • Bettina GÖTZ, architect - ARTEC Architekten, Wien – president of the jury
  • Maria Auxiliadora GÁLVEZ, architect - Gálvez+Wieczorek arquitectura, Madrid
  • Vasa PEROVIC, architect - bevk perovic arhitekti, Ljubljana
  • Socrates STRATIS, architect – Nikosia, Europan 4 winner, member of the European Scientific Council of Europan
  • Martin FRÜHWIRTH, architect - Europan 9 winner
  • Lesley Naa Norle LOKKO, writer/architect – London
  • Joachim KRAUSSE, scientist on architectural design - Berlin/Dessau/Weimar
  • Georg KOGLER, developer - Europan 3 winner
  • Michaela MISCHEK, developer
  • FINTA Sándor, architect
  • Lisa SCHMID-COLINET, architect -Europan 8 runner-up - substitute
  • SÁNDOR Gergely, architect – member of the National Committee Europan Magyarország – substitute
  • SZABÓ Árpád DLA, architect – national coordinator of Europan Magyarország – substitute for the Wien, Graz and Eisenstadt sites, nonvoting member for the Ajka site
  • Bern VLAY, architect, secretary of Europan Österreich - non-voting member

All projects submitted to the Ajka site and the jury reports are accessible at the webpage of Europan Magyarország:
Results of the competitions at the other sites can be reached at the webpage of Europan Europe: