Recently, an article on Index.hu revealed the fate of many old and deserted buildings in Budapest. Citizens and tourists alike pass by these antique monuments not knowing what will become of them and are often curious about their future. While some of these buildings will certainly be restored, others are being strangled in ownership disputes, and yet others are beyond hope with respect to utilization.
The recent demolition of the “Press Palace” on Blaha Lujza square called attention to the existence of these deserted buildings. The Blaha Lujza square complex was home to many newspapers during the Communist era but has been empty for nearly 10 years before it was pulled down in the end of 2005.
On the eve of demolition: the Press Palace covered in random posters
Two of the most significant “ghost buildings” on the Buda Castle Hill. One of them is the building that was formerly the home of the Army’s Supreme Headquarters. The building, located in the heart of the Buda Castle complex, still wears the marks of World War II, and has not undergone reconstruction ever since. Each government had plans to begin renovation, but actual works have never begun. In theory, such a plan is on the agenda of the current/next government too, as announced earlier by István Hiller, leader of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage.
The other well-known building of Budapest is the Castle Garden Bazaar at the bottom of Castle Hill, along the Danube. This lengthy building complex was built by the celebrated architect Miklós Ybl in 1870, and was once a major sight of Budapest. It was closed in 1984 after it began collapsing on visitors. The restoration of Castle Garden Bazaar is part of the same plan as that of the Supreme Headquarters building. During the past years private investors have shown interest in reopening the Bazaar as a shopping center, but none of them managed to obtain the necessary permissions due to the concerns of the local council.
The Klotild Twin Palace, overlooking the Pest end of Elizabeth-bridge has also been awaiting restoration and utilization for years. The twin buildings facing each other on the two sides of the street were built in 1900 and fascinated the people of Budapest, tourists, investors, and even movie directors even with their turn of the century degraded look. There have been plans to utilize the buildings as a hotel or office complex, but in the end the lack of nearby parking space always changed the investors’ minds.
A bit out of sight, but still visible from many places in Budapest, on the top of Rózsadomb, is the SZOT (National Committee of Trade Unions) Hotel. The building, along with its name typical during the Communist era, comes from the early 1970’s. The Hotel was closed in 1991 due to the lack of maintenance. The restoration of the building had commenced in recent years but was brought to a halt by a private group sworn to defend the sights of Budapest. Unfortunately, the SZOT Hotel in its current half-built form does not add much to the image of the Buda Hills either.
Although there are many more “ghost buildings” in Budapest, not all the antique and unused structures end up with such a grim fate. New York Palace, another old building near Blaha Lujza square has been sold after 10 years of unsuccessful attempts in 2001. After some hardships, thanks in no small part to Hungarian bureaucracy, this building is being reopened as a luxury hotel this month (May 2006).