the arcade of forgotten dreams...
I don't know what is says about me, that the building I most wanted to see on my recent trip to Budapest was an abandoned shopping arcade.
To call the Párizsi Udvar (Paris court) just a shopping arcade is to do it a huge disservice.
This magnificent Art Deco creation is a glorious creation with a heady mix of architectural styles ranging from Moorish, Venetian Gothic, Art Deco, and Neo Gothic.
I hardly have the words for how it felt to stand inside it. I shot a little video which is basically me saying "oh my god" over and over. I will try to upload it tonight...
The main entrance of the Párizsi Udvar is located on Ferenciek tere, one of the oldest squares in Budapest. In 1817 – at a time when this area was one of the most popular in the city – the József brothers decided to set up their business there. The building which they commissioned was named Brudern-ház (Brother house) and was designed by the Hungarian architect Mihály Pollack.
Inside the Budern-ház lies a glass-roofed shopping passage which was modeled after the “Passage des Panoramas” in Paris – hence earning it the nickname Párizsi-haz (Paris House).
Construction began in 1909, and a year after Schmahls death, the building was completed in 1913. A hidden elevator was constructed as well in 1911, but it was only unveiled/opened at the end of construction in 1913. The new building, again called Budern-ház was designed with a mixed use in mind, with a lavish shopping mall on the lower two floors and office space on the upper floors. The arcade was named Párizsi Udvar (Parisian Court) in reference to the original shopping passage.
The arcade has a vaulted roof made of colored glass and a striking hexagonal glass dome, designed by Miksa Róth. The arcade is decorated with cast-iron and sculpted wooden ornaments (though these are hard to spot in the darkness) The floors have beautiful mosaic tiles, the balconies and windows are decorated with bar tracery, pediments and sculptures. If you can spot them – there are several reliefs of bees, symbolizing thrift, a reference to the bank that commissioned the construction.
The Building survived the second world war relatively undamaged – but the communist regime had other plans for it. The Building was nationalized, “renovated”, and converted into apartments. In the process almost all of its splendor was either covered up and/or destroyed.
Some Shops did move back into the building in the mid 1950s. The Building was renovated again in the 1970s and 80s, but this was done in such a poor fashion that more was actually destroyed than renovated. The Párisi Udvar had become a dark lonely passage, and all the shops slowly moved out. The building was sold off in 2010 to the SCD Group, but the ongoing financial crisis put a stop to that plan.
Today the building is empty, except for two security men who open the arcade up for curious visitors...
These shots don't do justice to the overwhelming beauty and the elegiac feeling I had while walking through.
If you listened really closely you could almost hear the voices of those who had walked there before me...