The Hungarian Pavilion

Eleonora Raspi


The choice of architectural language for the Pavilion of Hungary in Turin 1911 reveals Hungary's desire for political and cultural independence and its attempt to wrestle free from the Austrian Empire. There was no better occasion to show the Nation’s intentions than a Pavilion at a World’s Fair, or any as other celebrative monuments and public buildings. Budapest’s decision to feature Belgian Art Nouveau or English Arts and Crafts styles in many of its new buildings and projects, instead of Wien design and decorative motives, had an eloquent political meaning.

The Pavilion of Hungary is based on a strictly symmetrical design. Visitors following the CTI itinerary, would see, on their left, “a tall conical tower rising from a blocky base flanked by two wings with conical roofs.”

Here, is the main entrance to the “tent” with a remarkable historiated half-dome with bas-relief figures and guarded by kolossal armed knights made by Nicholas Ligeti, (one of the main hungarian sculptors at that time) underscoring the connection of the pavilion with the Hungarian military tradition.

Light filters inside from the top of the central glass dome and its effect is amplified by the various ornamentals mobiles.

On the external walls, the windows are tripartite: each one has four sliding fake columns with flourished capitals and a decorated frieze above. A tall historiated cornice, spaced out by small windows, stands out from the yellow walls and circles the building. It displays stories of national heroes. The view from the Po on the back side is even more fantastical, with two multicolored spires flanking the rear hall and framing the tall, conical tower (Alofsin 218).

The Pavilion of Hungary should be evaluated in the specific context of the Turin 1911 exhibition as well as in the wider context of other exhibitions and contemporary Hungarian art and architecture. The external structure of the pavilion is an act of homage to the Castle of Buda and, especially, the Halaszbastya (literally “fisherman bastion”) – created by F. Shuleck from 1899-1905. The Castle of Buda was marked, like the Hungarian Pavilion, by several towers on different layers in order to make the overall structure more dynamic. Like the Buda Castle, all the towers of the Pavilion of Hungary have pyramidal roofs.

The side portal of the “Jewish Charity Home” created by Bela Lajta in 1909-1911 had the same features of the portal of the Hungrian Pavilion, including bas reliefs and inscriptions in stone, floral motives and geometrical patterns. Both have a rigif geometrical base surmounted by a half dome. In the case of Turin, the dome is jutting out, and reminds one of a tent, the one of the Charity Home is a simple half-arc.

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