During the first week of our research we explored District VIII in a way that we call ‘District VIII through fresh eyes’. We walked all over the district to find points of interest and things that stood out for us. The first thing we recognized was that District VIII is a district of contrasts. We started our walk at the beautiful palace district (commonly known as Palotanegyed) with the national museum, beautiful aristocratic palaces and of course Mikszáth tér. We were amazed by the colourful buildings and the wide pedestrian areas. There was also a lot of green in the neighbourhood, with spring around the corner, blossoming trees and the sunny weather we couldn’t think of better circumstances to explore the district.
From the Palace District we walked west to explore the rest of Józsefváros. From this point the contrasts began to show. Old and badly maintained buildings were packed in between buildings that were already restored to their formal state. When we got further to the west, and after that to the north, we saw a constant variety of parts that we really liked, for example Mátyás tér, and parts which are in need for some improvement. In some parts you could really see the history of the district all around you, in some buildings the bullet holes from the 2nd World War or the 1956 revolution are still visible.
From here we took a walk to the Keleti train station, Budapest’s main entrance. We were astonished by the size and beauty of the building but we also saw some downsides in the area. There are some ‘urban holes’ around Baross tér, which are not the best first impression of Budapest. For many people it’s the first thing they see from the city when they arrive at the train station. From here we walked to the Kerepesi cemetery. It was quite hard to find the entrance but we were surprised by the big green area in the middle of the busy city life. Inside the cemetery it’s possible to wander around for hours if you want, far away from all the noise and perfect to clear your mind. From the cemetery we went to the southern part of the district. We walked along Dioszéghy Sámuel utca, which is stated as ‘Budapest’s most dangerous street’.
When we walked there we couldn’t agree with that statement. We noticed that the street had some bad parts but the street was also very alive, the sidewalks were full with people. On the other hand, people started asking us for cigarettes and if we were interested in buying drugs. When we arrived at the most southern part of the district we noticed that this part was very different from the rest of the district. There were no 6-story buildings anymore but only single-family houses. This part gave us a ‘village’ feeling. Trough Üllői út we walked back to the palace district, where our journey had started. At one point we decided to cross a corner and we were amazed by what we saw. In between the historic 19th century buildings there suddenly was an enormous, hyper modern urban area: The Corvin Promenade. We had mixed feelings about it, on its own it was astonishing, but we had a feeling that the connection with its surroundings was missing. In the end we had a really positive feeling about the district, it is in need of some improvements but is has a lot of potential.
Now we know some more about District VIII we have a good base for our further research. We are really looking forward to the next three months and we are challenged to put all our effort in the research and our work at Mindspace.
Text and photos: Frank Meijer, Daan Sanders