The first Hungarian woman engineer: Eszter Pécsi
Eszter Pécsi was born on the 8th of March 1898, 120 years ago. She was a famous Hungarian structural design engineer and worked on some iconic Hungarian and American buildings, reports szeretlekmagyarország.hu.
Not many people know this, but she made the structural design for the indoor swimming pool on Margaret Island, the Emergency Hospital on Fiumei street, the hospital on Kútvölgyi street and several other modern villas.
She grew up in a poor family, with several siblings, but had the chance to study at the Berlin-Charlottenburg University between 1915 and 1919. Later, when the Budapest University of Technology and Economics (Budapesti Műszaki Egyetem, BME) finally allowed women students, she came home to get her degree here in 1920.
Along with Marianne Sternberg-Várnay (architect), Villa Máhrer (mechanical engineer) and Irma Simonyi-Hajós, she was one of the first women in Hungary to study at the BME.
From 1920 to 1930 she was chief engineer at Guth and Gergely when she designed parts of the indoor swimming pool on Margaret Island. Then until 1944 she and her husband, József Fischer were running their own company. She was the structural design engineer of almost every Hungarian team on the CIAM (Congres Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne).
After the war, she was the one verifying the condition of the buildings that suffered a bomb attack, plus she managed the restoration of the National Theater’s damaged roof. From 1949 she worked for the Ministry of Metallurgy and Engineering Industry as chief engineer.
In 1956 she was elected to head the Revolutionary Council in Budapest, which is why she lost her job in 1957. She left the country and started working in Vienna, where she designed the first multistory parking garage in the city center, on Neue Markt.UNKNOWN ENGINEERS – THE HUNGARIAN ROOTS OF THE FAMOUS VOLKSWAGEN BEETLE
Then she moved to New York in 1958, but unfortunately, her husband could not go with her. She designed the reinforced concrete structure of the Hotel Americana, the tallest building in New York at the time. Today the building houses the Sheraton Hotel. Eszter Pécsi designed the towers of the Columbia University, rising 30 stories above the rocky cliffs over the Hudson River. She was named “The Years Best Structural Engineer” for developing the technique for the foundation of the towers.
In 1964 her husband could finally join her in the United States, but sadly Eszter Pécsi had a stroke 6 years later and became paralyzed. She died in 1975. Her ashes were brought home and buried in the Farkasréti Cemetery.
Featured image: building on 14 Baba street, Budapest, designed by Eszter Pécsi and József Fischer www.hajosalfred.hu