Look up and discover the subtle details

If we want to truly explore our architectural treasures, we should also pay attention to subtle details. Apart from the architects and designers who we know from the books, the buildings’ histories and styles were also shaped by hundreds of craftsmen and artists, from painters of stained glass through blacksmiths to ceramists, who all left their mark and a part of their personalities on the works.

Building ceramics

Using ceramics on buildings started in the mid-19th century and its popularity peaked with the art nouveau movement throughout Europe. The use of ceramics on the outside of buildings was hindered as the material had to satisfy the criteria for density and frost resistance because, on average, frosting and defrosting alternated 40 periods per year in Hungary. Vilmos Zsolnay and his team of experts developed the pyrogranite that met these high expectations, and the use of the ornate building material became widespread.

 

The Zsolnay factory was well known for its glazed ceramic products as well as this self-manufactured material, pyrogranite; and their continuous technological development elevated the factory into the international elite. Initially in Hungary, it was the difficult to acquire, more expensive stone elements that were replaced with ceramics. First it was used for balcony brackets, chapiters and ledges and later, when the need for ornaments increased, for friezes and window frames. Zsolnay ceramics earned their due recognition in the history of Hungarian as well as international architecture through Ödön Lechner’s works.

Banisters and wrought-iron gates

We will find more beautiful details if we observe the iron parts of our buildings. For a decade starting from the mid-1870s, the railings of gates, stairs, balconies and hanging corridors, as well as other structural or ornamental details, were primarily designed with first Renaissance, then baroque style elements. The talented blacksmiths of the era were able to deliver matching ironworks for facades and interiors designed in any style. Gyula Jungfer was one of the most sought-after craftsmen of the era, who prepared outstanding wrought-iron elements for buildings in the styles of Neo-Renaissance and baroque revival. His workshop primarily made decorative railings for prestigious public buildings and private palaces, all with high artistic quality. One of the best known architects of the time, Miklós Ybl, regularly worked with him, for example on the railings of the Opera House and Várkert Bazár.

Architectural sculpture

Sculptures are the most important and most natural tools with which to decorate a building. Architectural sculpture includes works that are present on the facade or in the interior, subordinate to the building’s functions. Almost every sophisticated classicist and Neo-Renaissance facade has caryatids and statues above the Roman arch of the windows. It is worth also paying attention to these architectural elements as they are often figurative, meaning even those who are not very open to abstract works can appreciate their beauty.

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