"It was wonderful for me as a student to see my design become a reality”

Project by BME’s recently graduated architect is selected as one of the five most promising student designs at one of Central Europe’s most prestigious architecture conferences.

BME’s newly graduated architect and guest lecturer at the Department of Industrial and Agricultural Building Design has received the highest recognition to date for the Faculty of Architecture at the International Architectural Exhibition Piranesi. Gergely Sági designed two wooden pavilions to house temporary exhibitions and shows at the archaeological site of Roman ruins in Calugareni, a small village in Transylvania with a population of a few hundred, mostly Hungarian, people.

The Piran Days of Architecture is an international architectural conference with a long history, showcasing the newest architectural trends and innovative spatial design ideas of Central Europe in the medieval Slovenian town every year since 1982. The event includes a number of professional programmes (workshops, presentations, shows)  the most important  being the International Architectural Exhibition Piranesi participating Slovenian, Czech, Slovakian, Austrian, Italian, Croatian, Greek and Hungarian architects. The professional forum presents five outstanding architectural projects realised in the previous two years from each country competing for the Piranesi Award, which has been awarded by an international jury since 1989.

In 2008, the organizers of the International Architectural Exhibition Piranesi decided to involve students as well and invited several European universities offering architectural-engineering programmes to participate. The first Hungarian university to be invited was the Budapest University of Technology and Economics in 2014. Each higher education institution delegates two student projects for the Piranesi Student’s Honorable Mention award dedicated to future architects. (Editor note: The list of national and student nominations for 2017 is available on the event’s website.)

Student projects nominated by the BME’s Faculty of Architecture for the 2017 award:

Gergely Sági: “Time Box” – temporary exhibition pavilions in Calugareni, Romania (mentor: Zsolt Vasáros DLA, associate professor and head of the Department of Industrial and Agricultural Building Design, Faculty of Architecture)

Anna Táncos: Amerigo Tot monument and art space (mentor: Tamás Karácsony DLA, associate professor at the Department of Public Building Design, Faculty of Architecture)

From the 24 student projects nominated in total for the award, Gergely Sági’s design was short-listed in the top 5, the best result ever achieved by a Hungarian student at BME’s Faculty of Architecture. Anna Táncos’ art design won the Hauszmann Award of BME’s Faculty of Architecture in 2017.

This year’s Slovenian conference focused on the connection between time and architecture and the nominated projects were also required to concentrate on that theme. „Time has many alternative interpretations beyond the traditional concept in architectural design. The submitted projects included some very abstract ideas: designers combined materials discovered at various times in history or used a unique clockwork to incorporate the notion of time in their works,” Dávid Szabó, assistant lecturer at the Department of Industrial and Agricultural Building Design at the Faculty of Architecture (ÉPK), who was engaged as a curator in the selection process of the student projects to be nominated by BME, said of some of the outstanding designs submitted in 2017.

Award criteria included the demonstration of advanced technical competence, the quality of the designs, the authenticity of the design concept and trends preferred in previous years’ competitions. “Projects awarded prizes in recent years were dominantly wood designs with the combination of contemporary and traditional folk architecture also a preferred feature by the jury. This approach is partly rooted in the traditions of Slovenia’s architecture,’ stated Dávid Szabó who believes that this professional event is specifically based on the architectural design approaches applied by the participating Central and Southern European countries: this region traditionally focuses on small and medium scale constructions while Western European trends dominantly prefer monumental, ultramodern and often futuristic designs. What was unique about BME’s student projects was the inclusion of architectural motifs typically used in this region. “As international relations are extremely important for us, we are particularly proud of Gergely’s achievements and knowledge supported by his dedication, talent and also our faculty’s support,” ÉPK’s lecturer said in praising his student.

Gergely Sági first introduced his idea for the pavilions located near the Roman ruins in Calugareni in his Scientific Student Conference paper in 2013. This theme was announced by the faculty’s Department of Industrial and Agricultural Building Design as an optional project topic. Every summer, a three-week-long international professional workshop is organized at the Roman border guard fortress near the Transylvanian village attracting a large number of archaeologists, historians, geophysicists, restorers and students learning these professions, mainly from German, Hungarian and Romanian higher education institutions. They all work together to find the remains of the fortress and to reconstruct the nearly two-thousand-year-old ruins and the everyday life of its inhabitants.

The young architecture student designed two temporary wooden pavilions. These can house the findings of the workshops and an exhibition presenting the events of the specific time in history throughout the year. It was not only at BME’s Scientific Student Conference where his project was a huge success; his idea caught the attention of the local museum as well: after the competition, the designer and the faculty were requested to work together with the museum to further elaborate their initial plans. After two years of joint design work, the pavilions were completed and opened in May 2016.

“The pavilions are truly the product of comprehensive collaboration,” Gergely Sági said of the construction process. In total, around 30 villagers were given jobs at the building site, however, he says the biggest challenge was not the construction: they had to make immense efforts to win the community’s support for the pavilions. “Initially, the conservative, mostly Hungarian-speaking population did not feel any connection with the Roman ruins.

They did not have any historical affiliation with those times and they mostly considered this initiative to be part of Romanian state cultural propaganda,’ Gergely explained as to why the villagers’ reaction to the project was apprehension rather than enthusiasm. The design process put special emphasis on diminishing local concerns about the pavilions: the inhabitants and tradesmen of the village were asked to build the pavilions, they used local construction materials and paid particular attention to presenting local traditions. In time, their efforts paid off: after the initial concerns, villagers embraced the initiative and now have a strong affection for the pavilions and have even lobbied to prevent the ultimate disassembly of the buildings as originally planned.

The window of one of the pavilions faces the Roman command centre and bathhouse and the pavilion’s interior shows a reconstructed image of the ancient surroundings. Both buildings house collections of the original remains discovered on the site or their precise copies and an exhibition of everyday life from around 1800 years ago.

“It was wonderful for me as a student to see my design become a reality,” said Gergely Sági, who was actively involved not only in the design phase but in the fieldwork and the construction of the pavilions as well, looking back on the project. The young architect, who now works in an architecture firm, noted that the experience he gained and the knowledge he obtained during the project offer great benefits in his everyday work. In his words: “As an architect, I believe that the required theoretical knowledge and mental competences should be very importantly complemented by continuous communication and familiarity with the practical side of this profession by following and understanding how all that we envision sitting in an office becomes a reality.”


Photo: Ildikó Takács , Gergely Sági