What does the former Sasok house have to do with 15th-century Japanese pottery, how can two floors be added to a building while preserving the main facade, and how can we renovate a building from the end of the 19th century in a contemporary way? We talked to Tamas Tótszabó, one of the founders and designers of Pyxis Nautica, about the renovation concept of the Irányi utca house, which was handed over in 1897 and is now a locally protected building. (With the history of the house we covered it in detail in the previous section.)
The main facade on Irányi Street is one of the short sides of the long, irregular rectangular lot on which the house was built. This feature of the floor plan became decisive during the renovation; we will discuss why in several places, but first let's take a look at the architecturally decisive interventions carried out following Pyxis' plans!
Since the client will want to operate the building as an office building, one of the most important aspects was to expand the building with a floor and an attic. This was made possible by the installation parameters, and it was extremely important for the investor to get the most usable floor space.
The regulations stipulated that "only a high roof could be used, and we could only design a tile-covered, classically designed roof. At the beginning, we were thinking about a edgier, metal sheet covering, a contemporary covering, but the planning council strongly steered us towards the natural brick tile covering and the plastered walls, Tamás revealed. – The strictness of the planning council is understandable, after all, we are talking about a world heritage site, where the proximity of the Danube and Andrássy út is decisive. In this area, they take great care of the rooftops, and most houses here have pitched or pitched roofs covered with tiles, and as few buildings as possible can hang out from this.
Dismantling and replacing the elevator is an important moment, because according to the regulations, the elevator must continue to operate. The new elevator had to be installed in the house, and in order to do this, a vertical column had to be cut out of the house, which runs through every level, in which the new, reinforced concrete elevator shaft can be accommodated. The cutting of the 120-year-old walls in half will be dissected in the next part, when the execution challenges and solved structural tasks are presented, but now we will look at the third important architectural intervention, the cleaning of the various additions and joints.
Several of the additions can be seen in the diagram below, where these parts to be dismantled are marked in red:
For example, a smaller cube was added in front of the ballroom's window, and when they were removed, the ballroom regained two windows. In the past, a room was won with similar methods, but now the ballroom has been enriched with natural light, and the back terrace has become a large, continuous, well-usable space.
On the ground floor and the first floor, the plot is 100% built-in, but starting from the second floor, the building will have a U-shaped floor plan, with a flat roof covering the middle part. A glass dome stood here according to the original plans, as it did one floor below, meaning that natural light came down through the first floor to the ground floor. During previous reconstructions, the upper glass dome was demolished and replaced with a glass slab, but later concrete was also added to it. The Pyxis reinstated the lighting function that had been eliminated in this way, only with a more modern solution: a slab breakthrough was created above the ground floor, and a walkable glass slab was placed above the first floor.
Here, the original design intent was brought back in a contemporary way. It is also worth mentioning that the hanging corridors lined with wrought iron railings were demolished because the client required a wider walkway. A new, cantilevered suspended corridor system was built, with a glass railing, which modernized the interior facade, and at the same time made the area more usable and suitable for serving the offices.
The main stairwell with curved arms runs through the building, more precisely, the U-shaped staircase on the 3rd and 4th floors was remodeled on the 5th floor, and on the 6th floor it continues as a spiral staircase. "Due to the height of the roof ridge, the elevator can no longer come up here, and we did not want to put an ugly elevator box here, as it disfigured the building before," explained Tamás.
And the U-shape explains that by leaving the main facade on Irányi utca - which closes with a gable roof - intact, two more levels could be added to the building. There, the roof level was rebuilt with the original ridge height and keeping the original street roof level, so you can't see anything from the addition from the street. However, the new roof level facing the street has received six large roof level windows, from which there is a magnificent view towards the Klotild Palace.
Interior design solutions
A fundamental question was the approach to the historical elements. On the one hand, where these values appeared - artificial stone, stucco, decoration - they were restored, on the other hand, where office functions are formed, the structural properties of the house are shown with a small change. “We leave a brick wall; we leave a Prussian bottle slab; we clean-impregnate-paint the beams, but leave them; mechanical engineering is visible and there are suspended light sources - lists Tamás. "With an honest design, we show that this is a 120-year-old building with an exciting structure that you don't see in a new building.
On the other hand, the flooring, lighting, and furniture are contemporary and create a good contrast with the old, raw surfaces and the reconstructed hundred-year-old decorations.
The application of the kintsugi-principle was invented precisely because of the duality of the task, with the help of which they could show what was added to it now and what was already there. What is it about? Kintsugi means "golden repair, golden touch". The technique was invented in the 15th century by Japanese potters to repair broken ceramic vessels. In this way, not only did they not let the damaged object go to waste, but with the help of gold mortar, they created an object that is even more beautiful and exciting than the original.
“Obviously, we are not Japanese, and the building has nothing to do with Japan originally, but it is a good technique. We also drew the line of the addition, where the new meets the old. Whenever a new beam enters the building, the internal user can also see what was there before and what has been added now.
There are places where trenches carved on exposed brick surfaces are filled with golden mortar, but the technique is also used for wall covering changes, and "we ourselves are curious to see how legible this will be in the interior spaces.
From the ballroom to the offices
During the creation of the concept, the architects had a lively dialogue with the client, that is, they could make suggestions and come up with ideas. On the other hand, it was a difficulty that they did not know who the tenant would be, so they designed it for a general office function, mainly with an open office layout. The future tenant will be able to ask for a few more partitions, but the basic layout is given: the right and left wings will have office spaces, the middle wing will have meeting rooms, kitchenettes, and washrooms. By the way, this is suitable for most tenants - those who have been interested in the department store so far only require minor modifications.
Actually, the floor plan of the ground floor and the first floor is unusual: the ballroom, the vestibule connected to it and a separate staircase, the elongated space connected to the rear terrace, and a room suitable for a cafe can be found here. For this reason, lounges, social spaces, and meeting rooms will be available, while the office function will start from the second floor up.
On the whole, the designers of Pyxis Nautica were able to define the functionality and aesthetics of the contemporary elements more freely, while the respect for the past appeared on the one hand in the protection and presentation of the intact values, and on the other hand in the in demolishing additions. We will write in detail about the construction challenges and structural solutions that made the conversion difficult in the next post.