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Installing an elevator shaft in a one hundred and twenty year old house, or renovating Irányi 17

A Prussian glass slab from the turn of the century is amazing, but how do we ensure its fire protection? What will happen to the original structure of the house if a column is cut out of it for the sake of a modern elevator? During the renovation of Irányi 17, the architects of Pyxis Nautica faced many similar dilemmas.


The stormy history of the building at 17 Irányi utca was previously covered in a longer post we presented it and then wrote in detail the former house of the Eagles about the renovation concept as well.


Now the building has once again reached an exciting chapter: the results of the renovation taking place according to the plans of Pyxis Nautica are beginning to unfold. , obstacles and special challenges arose during the transformation of each structural element.

Tamás stops me right behind the entrance and points out a difficulty that only the initiated can know, and which the uninitiated cannot notice at all. Here stood a reinforced concrete elevator shaft, the comprehensive cube of which had to be bitten out of the house, even so, in such a way that a crater had to be created in the building through six floors - supported from everywhere, underpinned, and temporary beams built to prevent the house from collapsing. Because two very massive main walls also fell victim to the transformation. But the elevator had to be put there because there was simply no better place for it.


In order to find a solution, they cut through the house, then installed the reinforced concrete elevator shaft from bottom to top level by level, and then as they progressed level by level, they were always connected back to the existing slabs. This is how the house regained its static stability, as the elevator shaft from the basement to the fifth floor was completed. Now its static role is to support horizontal structures, and in one place where it was pushed into the main wall, it also has a vertical load-bearing role.


Stuccos, glass slab, golden smoke


Standing at the same point, opposite the entrance and the elevator, we look up: here was a very beautiful stucco false ceiling, part of which had to be restored due to the transformation of the elevator shaft. The new plaster decorations are already very attractive, even when painted, and will form a uniform surface.


We enter the circulation space of the lower level, where the original lighting function is restored with a floor breakthrough - and with the walkable glass floor on the level above it.

This will be the new lighting with the walkable glass ceiling
Turning to the right, one of the jewels of the building, the former ballroom, welcomes you, which is relatively close to its final state.

We don't know how much it was originally gilded, in any case, when the current owner bought the house, he found a heavily over-gilded ceiling here. Together with the restorers, the owners and the design colleagues, we decided not to rebuild it, but to restore it with a finer gilding," says Tamás. Only one contour, curve, line, frame was given gold smoke, and otherwise the surface remained white, both in the case of the ceiling and the walls. And there will be new window and door frames, in a pale, pistachio green color, and the same wall covering will run around waist height. The latter was also included in the original building, it just had to be remanufactured. The space has four main tracts, where there will be mirrors with a wall arm, a wall lamp in the middle, and there were protrusions imitating a fireplace, which will be rebuilt and will also have a function in ventilation. From the street front, there are two small loggias, which had to be completely renovated after the support brackets were already broken. Here, the barrier remains in its original form, but it is lifted from below, as today's standards require a minimum of ten centimeters higher than before. Opposite the balcony is a small stage, which will have its own light and sound control unit and stage lighting.


It will be a very modern, rectangular rail lighting system, into which spots will be placed, and with which it will be possible to create different lighting images: we can illuminate the walls, the space below, the ceiling or all at the same time. This will be managed from an iPad control interface.


The ballroom has a Prussian glass beamed ceiling above a plaster false ceiling. Although it is not visible there, it remained in other rooms, and was even made visible on purpose. This was quite a challenge, because today's fire protection requirements had to be met, except that with this type of slab, the steel beam can be seen below, which was long ago covered by a ceramic brick element, which broke off in many places, so it was ugly. After the covering was uniformly knocked down, the base of the steel beam was exposed, which could melt and collapse in a possible fire, and the slab could lose its stability.


It was a very long time, it was difficult to figure out how to solve the fire protection while maintaining the view.

Finally, the nose bricks were knocked down, the holes on the two edges of the steel beam were sealed with fire protection mortar, and after they were smoothed down, the entire lower surface was plastered and painted with a fire protection paint as a beam cover, and then painted: the mortar was brick-colored, the beam was black. So it looks like the bare beams are still there, but they got a protection, plus a reinforced concrete head plate above, a concrete base, which stiffens the entire slab and also provides fire protection from above.


The preservation of the slab is a good indication of the thoroughness of the renovation: they racked their brains until they solved the problem, which "required two static engineers, two fire protection specialists, and our determination.


A similar delicate detail is the restoration of the original railing of the side staircase, or the tidying up of the terrace overlooking the backyard. The small rooms that were later added to the ballroom were demolished from the terrace, which made the ballroom brighter, and of course you can also go out onto the terrace freely. The brick wall of the rear facade was given a rustic mortar coating, with a smoothing of the window frames, which gave it a cottage character, while the superstructure received a white flat plaster.


These were the biggest challenge on the old, lower levels, but there were plenty of interesting things higher up.


Brick wall, kintsugi, light play


In several parts of the building, the Kintsugi principle, originally invented by Japanese potters in the 15th century, will be used, which means "golden repair, golden touch". At that time, it was used to save broken pots and pans, often making the saved objects even more interesting and special. In Irányi 17, the gilding decorates and highlights - in addition to referring to the thin gold stripes in the ballroom.

Perhaps it will appear most uniquely on the floor: between the floor covering of the old, remaining slab and the floor covering of the new slabs, a golden separating profile will be inserted, which will run along the floor, but in some places it will also run up to the wall and ceiling. "We practically circle the part where we reached into the house and installed new structures.


The original main stairwell is also special, starting with the original, historicizing decoration, up to the third floor, where it will have a more puritan look, while the two levels built on it will have a modern effect.


But let's stay at the second one, the original boardroom, whose false ceiling, plasterboards, and steel structures will be saved like the one below. The piano nobile, the original first floor, was once the main floor, with an interior height of almost five meters, with amazingly large glass windows, which is quite a rarity from the age of the buildings handed over in 1897.



The changing ceiling height also required unique solutions for the main staircase.

On the general levels, the stairs are U-shaped, but higher up this was not enough, so it turns another quarter, i.e. a total of 270 degrees. A special technical feature is that since the staircase cannot be ventilated separately on each level, a pressurized staircase had to be provided. In the event of a fire, an internal overpressure is created by mechanical engineering and blowing to prevent smoke from entering, so people fleeing can leave the house through a smoke-free stairwell. "Squeezing" this mechanical engineering into such an old house was by no means a simple engineering task.


Upstairs, on the new levels, in the widened gang corridor, we find a glass railing, inside plasterboard partitions, glass-walled meeting rooms, a contemporary overall effect with freely variable office spaces, while the past lurks here too, if more carefully: for example, in order to preserve the rooftop landscape, the angle of the roofs, the color of the tiles preserved, after all, it has to fit into a heritage environment. Under the roof, the cable trays and mechanicals are only covered with a loose covering, creating a loft atmosphere in the spaces above - although this is not only displayed on the top two floors, but in all office spaces from the second floor up.


When connecting the fifth and sixth floors, a challenge arose again: the original roof ridge and the street-facing roof plane had to be preserved even after the reconstruction. At the same time, instead of one level, two levels have now been built in, which was solved with a space left empty under the roof plane, and only further inside, towards the courtyard, is it divided into the fifth and sixth floors.


The original five small skylights were replaced with larger ones, which now illuminate the space beautifully. The sharply shining sun paints specific contrasts on the wall, gives rhythm to the space, and creates a specific play of light as the sun moves.

Parts of visible concrete remain inside, through which the structure of the concrete comes through, but with a painting, the very patchy, ugly color changes disappeared. You can feel that it is concrete, yet it creates an orderly effect. By the sixth floor, the elevator no longer goes up, instead you will be treated to a magnificent view: you can see the Clotild Palace, the Matilda Palace and the Párisi Udvar.

Prior to the final handover, glass walls and partitions will be installed, the final floor and wall coverings will be completed, and most of the office spaces will be designed according to the tenants' needs. In the courtyard, ivy will be run over a mesh wire from the green roof cassette on the 2nd floor to separate the space from the neighbors. However, we will report on the "final" state of the building after handover in a separate article.

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