Szervita Square: A Reflection of the Past Meeting the Future
Built amidst Art Deco and Baroque structures, Szervita Square stands as a lone glass structure that reflects the city’s cultural past to its modern-day present. It stands out as a “sensible reaction” to its surroundings, merging characteristics of industrial architecture with art deco details. The site had a rich historical background dating back to the 13th century, and it was critical for the developers to preserve and respect the area’s long-standing ties to Budapest’s core. The building functions as a public space as well as a commercial establishment, bringing people and cultures together to one functional yet sustainable infrastructure.
Designed by the all-Hungarian Architecture Firm DVM Group, the building respects the culture and heritage of the country it proudly stands in, while being a testament to the award-winning designs and projects of the team. In an exclusive interview, BluPrint talks to Szervita Square project team about the concept, construction, and cultural impact of the structure.
The Glory and Jest of Natural Light
“The inspiration was to design a soft and wavy glass sculpture instead of a building, which can reflect the neighboring historical buildings. We think that the light is the soul of the building so we designed a shell, which lets the light into the spaces and brings light to its surroundings.”
DVM Group continued, “With the addition of the inner atrium, we managed to create a safe, protected bright interior courtyard which may provide extra light to the middle zones, and also provides private entrances for the residences on the two upper floors.”
On the note of its design in contrast with its surroundings: “One of the dominant architectural styles in the downtown area is art deco, which we decided to rethink in a modern way and designed the building with its decorative details. That means we followed the subtle architectural solutions of art deco, but we found out details which could be produced with industrial technology. We used floor-to-floor glass elements curved at all the corners of the building. This way, we define a smooth contour for the building. The light color of the mullion system of the façade structure also makes a connection with the art deco style.”
From Digital to Physical
Technological innovations made it easy for the DVM Group to design the façade of the structure. Designed using BIM software from Graphisoft like Archicad and BIM, the planning and construction of the Szervita Square was made easy. Having to build on such a small space, using prefabricated elements made it possible to finish the outer shell in just four months.
“We used many IT innovations during the design process. Archicad Teamwork made it easy to integrate all the design members in the design process. It provided online communication based on the 3D building model and [has a] manageable software platform. The biggest advantage was that designers can concentrate on design work instead of managing their software. With Archicad, we easily had different types of output for 3D visualization, which made the communication with the developers a lot easier.”
Contributing to its sustainability, BIM models helped the DVM Group prevent unexpected issues occurring onsite. In a Fire Dynamic Simulation, the DVM Group was able to convince its strict fire authorities of the safety and integrity of its structure, adding to its sustainability. “The BIM models help to prevent unexpected issues accruing on the construction site. If we can avoid such a problem, we spare time, work, materials, and of course, money. I think the better prepared an investment is, the fewer resources are needed to build it,” they explained. Furthermore, Szervita Square is the first LEED Platinum certified mixed-use building in Central and Eastern Europe under the new LEED rating system, which is considered as one of the outstanding achievements for the team.
Built for The People
A contrast to reflecting the history in its vicinity, Szervita Square was bold enough to revise an urban planning misstep from a time gone by. Lead designer László Gellár of the DVM group explains that, “Before we started the Szervita development, there were two buildings on the site from the 1970s. The urban developments at that time were not really designed for people and did not consider the historical evolution of the city. The major cultural change was in the way of thinking. We decided to integrate the building in the city’s life. Part of the plot and the atrium of the building was developed as a public area. We opened up the narrow streets and the small public square and added green surfaces.”
DVM Group enumerated few design choices that made the structure more open to the public: “By positioning the greenery at the square, we managed to integrate restaurant and café terraces next to the ground floor façade of the building. The main staircase leads the public to the main entrance surrounded by two openings via which we may have a glimpse of the public space on the lower floor.”
These decisions, along with their use of Graphisoft technologies along the process, makes Szervita Square a model of how buildings can be planned and constructed today. This is their vision of the evolution of architecture in the Budapest area, and Hungary as a whole: “Because of the innovations we are able to use in our design and execution projects, we can provide more sustainable, user-friendly, and smart buildings. With the cooperation of the different professional designers and engineers with whom we work with, we can easily collaborate using the same models. We may manage to provide more detailed plans which can be a good start for prefabrication of the structures. This way, we might be able to shorten the whole process of developing a building.” Design Director Ida Kiss also shared that investing in softwares during the design phase paid off in the end because it significantly facilitated the site’s smooth construction process.
Though built with the latest technology to design and construct, the Szervita Square remains a reflection of its city’s rich history by reflecting the city’s tangible heritage. The team believes that technological advancements can assist us in designing a greener and better future.
Photos by: Ed Simon