November 20: a bevy of building-beings

2012/11/20 § Leave a comment

On this day in 1935 Imre Makovecz was born.

To say that Makovecz (who died in 2011) followed his own star would be an understatement by yards.  Either by natural tendency, or in reaction to the numbing quality of Soviet Hungary in which he matured, his interests in Catholicism, folk traditions, and Hungarian culture were highly pronounced in a stew of deep imagination.  Oftentimes compared to Gaudi for similar flights of fancy inspired ostensibly by nationalist sentiment, Makovecz’s work, as a whole, does not bear characteristics common to an identifiable, personal style (unlike that Catalan).  Makovecz approached each of his projects differently, seeing them as “building-beings,” individual children he nurtured and loved and then thrust into the world.

Cut off from central lines of patronage in the capital, he instead built mostly in rural villages and on the fringes of Budapest, places where it may have been easier to play make-believe and get everyone to sing along.  Makovecz himself denied any political slant to his work, instead pointing to the influence of such architects as Wright, Aalto, Goff and Lechner, each of them in their own way engaging in something “organic” (although the slipperiness of that term is proven in each architect’s various approaches to design that really only have in common a stance against universal and mechanistic properties of the your average mid-century glass box).  Even so, each of these architects had a healthy-enough (or more so) ego, unlike the Hungarian who considered himself some kind tool of a greater force, the hands of an ethereal will to design: “My buildings do not come from me.  They come from the landscape, from the local environment and from the ancient human spirit.”  It would be great to have more of his theory in translation since it’s just not fair that only the world’s remaining Hungarian speakers have access to the full context of statements like “My aim is to counteract the subsensible spell of technical civilisation using supersensible imaginative power.”  More, please!–especially when the work he left behind is so lively: undulating overturned boats, mountain ranges of shingles, avian Carnival masks, beaks, horns, spiky roofs and cavernous vaults, memories of Magyar tents and fairy tales.  witness the mortuary chapel at Farkasréti Cemetery (Budapest, 1975), this ski lodge (Dobogókő, 1980), the Hungarian Pavilion at the World Expo (Seville, 1992), the Stephenaeum for the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (Piliscsaba, 2001)–which must be a weird joke about Peter Eisenman–and a few wild churches: St István (Százhalombatta, 1998–check out the interior too), another at Csíkszereda, 2001) and the spectacular catholic church at Paks (1990), which is an amazing wax rendering of Bohemian Gothic.

Image: portrait of the architect by Vesa Sammalisto (from this source)

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