Blaha Lujza square holds a special place in the hearts of many Budapest locals, evoking nostalgia and a sense of loss. Once the site of the National Theatre, which was unfortunately demolished in 1965, and the location where the magnificent Corvin department store building was covered up, the square’s historical significance and the evolution of the city have left their marks. Over time, the square’s condition gradually deteriorated.
The primary goal of the reconstruction project was to transform Blaha Lujza square from a simple, bustling city junction into a vibrant public space adorned with vegetation and trees, adding value to the area and complementing the surrounding buildings. The newly designed square now serves as a practical meeting point, providing ample space for people to gather and spend time, whether for a brief stop or a longer stay.
The main idea behind the comprehensive reconstruction was to create a transparent and spacious public space in the heart of the city. In addition to facilitating smooth transportation connections, the square was given its own distinct character as an independent public space. Alongside landscaping and quality improvements, a key focus was enhancing pedestrian accessibility while simultaneously limiting vehicular traffic. Moreover, efforts were made to seamlessly integrate the square with the active storefronts of the surrounding area, with the fortunate coincidence of the ongoing Corvin department store reconstruction aiding in this endeavor. As a result, Blaha Lujza square now serves as a pedestrian-friendly continuation and a prominent focal point of Népszínház street.
A water feature has been strategically placed to serve as a defining element, aligning with the visual axis of Somogyi Béla street. The presence of water not only enhances the aesthetics but also contributes to the local microclimate, offering relief during the summer heat. To shield the inner square from the heavy traffic on Rákóczi street, a dense wooded grove has been created. This area provides a more serene environment, adorned with street furniture and bicycle locking facilities.
The main highlight of Blaha Lujza square is the elevated planting beds, featuring arched margins that double as seating walls. These beds are populated with a total of 80 deciduous trees, while additional trees have been scattered throughout the square. The Stockholm tree planting method was implemented for all the trees outside the planting beds, covering an extensive planting area of 2400 m², making it the largest continuous example of its kind in Budapest.
Given the square’s rich historical significance, great care was taken to preserve its intellectual and cultural heritage during the planning process. For instance, ruby-red swivel chairs have been placed throughout the square, symbolically representing the original velvet-covered theatre seats that were scattered around following the demolition. The motifs of theatre perimeters are also echoed in the pavement design, and a memorial tablet as well as the relocated Theatre memorial stone further commemorate the square’s theatrical past. Additionally, miniature bronze sculptures can be discovered along the edges of the planters, depicting a colorful ball-like cavalcade inspired by caricatures and photos from the era when the National Theatre once stood.
Preserving its iconic identity, the mushroom-shaped fountain has been renovated and relocated, serving as another poignant reminder of the square’s historical significance and cherished memories.
Landscape architecture: Lépték-Terv
Other designers involved in the design of the landscape: Közlekedés Kft. – Uvaterv Zrt. Consortium
Project location: District VIII, Budapest
Design year: 2019-2021
Year Built: 2022
Manufacturer of urban equipment: ORNAMENTIKA, METALCO, WIENERBERGER, HOFEKA