According to index.hu, the building of the Paris Court (Párisi udvar) originally functioned as an office building before becoming the country’s first mall. It was everything, except for a hotel – until now. The executors of the hotel that is expected to be opened next summer want to make it one of Budapest’s top 5* hotels.
One of the first Hungarian malls was opened in the place of today’s Paris Court in 1817. The building was designed by Mihály Pollack (architect of the National Museum) and it was named Brudern House after its owner. But some people called it Paris House, because it was known for its French passage: a small street with 32 shops on the side crossed the building.
Photo: Wiki Commons by Szilas in the Kiscelli Museum
The office building became obsolete by the beginning of the 20th century, but the property became quite valuable after the construction of the Elizabeth Bridge. It is believed that in 1906, when the Downtown Savings Bank bought the building, it was the most expensive property in the capital city. They wanted to construct an elegant and elaborated building.
Henrik Schmahl was chosen to design the new building. He was the architect of another building on Rákóczi Road, the Uránia Theatre. The style of the two buildings are quite similar, both have a slightly Arabic, Morisco touch and both are very elegant and sophisticated.
Hexagons played a key role in the design of the new savings bank, because the architect wanted to refer to the cells of a beehive, which symbolised financial institutions. An elegant passage was formed on the ground floor for shops, while offices were designed on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors.
An incredible amount of decorative elements were used for the façade and interior of the building. According to János Hermész, the leader of the reconstruction works, more than 400 types of Zsolnay ceramic elements were used, which is an unbelievable fact in itself, but what’s truly amazing is that it meant 100 thousand Zsolnay pieces all together. It was Europe’s greatest ceramic façade.
However, the real miracle was the ceiling of the passage, a glass cupola, which looks like the sun, is always shining through it. But it was actually lighted by electricity with the help of Luxfer prisms, which was the innovation of the time that bent light evenly.
Then came WWII and a quite miserable time in the history of the Paris Court. Although, some shops like the legendary Jégbüfé flourished in the socialist era.
In 2014, the municipality sold the property for 2.1 billion forints (~EUR 6.7m) so that the new owner could turn it into a hotel. The soon-to-be director of the hotel, Tamás Fazekas said that they are not only building a 5 star hotel, but they want it to be one of the top three 5 star hotels of Budapest.
Well, the makings are great, the location is great and it is one of the most beautiful monumental buildings which is currently being renovated from 12.5 billion forints (~EUR 40.2m). A part of the Zsolnay elements will be reproduced, but fortunately most of them can be restored as during the excavation of the building, original pieces were found in the cellar, attic and between the walls, which are worth 10 million forints (~EUR 32,000). These were probably replaced in the 1960s with quantity products.
Nevertheless, most people are interested in the fate of the passage, because it is believed that it will be privatised and will function as the lobby of the hotel. But the owners promise that they won’t forbid the crossing of the passage. They promise that everyone will be allowed to enter, just like in the case of any lobby. Moreover, there’s going to be a café and restaurant open to everyone. So it will be a public place and a lobby at the same time. But realistically, time will probably decide whether or not this is an accomplishable solution.
Featured image: MTI