Under deconstruction: Fontana building being torn down

Hungarian version of the article: Már javában bontják a Fontana-házat a Belvárosban

Written by: Gyöngyi Kővári

March 3, 2021 at 5:00 PM

Those wanting to take a last glance at the Fontana building, built in 1984 on the corner of Váci Street and Régi Posta Street, should hurry. The large-scale demolition works are already underway. The former shopping centre will soon be replaced by a more modern building on Budapest's top shopping street.

Another construction project has begun in the 5th District, just a few hundred meters from Szervita Square. A markedly modern glass-walled office building was recently completed. The owner, Müller Drogéria Magyarország Bt., has commissioned a similar, contemporary-styled structure on the site of the Fontana Building on Váci Street.

As part of the real estate development, retail locations will be built on three levels at 16 Váci Street and 17 Régi Posta Street. Large flats will be created on the upper floors. The works will be completed in 2–2.5 years.

The Fontana Building – also known as the Belvárosi Shopping Centre, Fontana Fashion House, and the Aranypók-Konzumex Clothing Store – on 26 February 2021. Heavy machinery moved in to carry out the demolition (Photo: pestbuda.hu)

On Váci Street looking towards Szabadsajtó Street, passers-by first see the railings and temporary offices set up for the construction site (Photo: pestbuda.hu)

Looking from the side of Régi Posta Street closer to the Danube, one realises that demolition of the lower floors has begun (Photo: Balázs Both/pestbuda.hu)

The corner of Váci Street and Régi Posta Street in 1963. Preparations for the construction of the Fontana Building began in 1969 (Photo: Fortepan/No.: 3794)

The Fontana Building was built instead of the low building in the centre. It only opened in 1984. In 1963, Váci Street had not yet been pedestrianised, and shoppers were forced onto narrow pavements (Photo: Fortepan/No.: 3795)

As a result of the work, the reinforced concrete frame of the building emerged in February 2021, while a poster still decorated the side of the building (Photo: pestbuda.hu)

A three-storey residential building, which was torn down after World War II, stood on the Fontana building's plot. The Fontana now suffers the same fate (Photo: Balázs Both/pestbuda.hu)

The Fontana building opened as an eight-storey shopping centre in central Budapest in 1984. The store occupied three levels, above which rose three office towers, separated slightly from each other visually. A restaurant operated on the ground floor of the building for a long time. The zigzagging design of the building and its densely built-up surroundings never allowed the Fontana Building to shine. Preliminary preparations for the store's construction – known as Belvárosi Shopping Centre, Fontana Fashion House and Aranypók-Konzumex Clothing Store at various times – began in 1969, while actual construction started in 1977. The tower always stood out from its surroundings, with its staggered facade and windows protruding towards the street. The geometric building had always been a divisive sight - leading many to expect its destruction for some time.

The four-storey residential building built by Count János Mocsonyi once stood on the plot. József Hild designed the house. Count András Bethlen completed a minor remodelling in 1888. His widow commissioned a complete exterior renovation in 1912. It was eventually demolished in 1947 due to damage it sustained during World War II. Only the iron railings of the hanging corridor remained for posterity. Its pieces were used on the balcony of the Military History Museum on Kapistrán Square and the Pest County Hall.

The intersection of Régi Posta Street and Váci Street in 1983, in the centre, the Fontana Department Store, in front of the Hermész Fountain (Photo: Fortepan/No.: 67096)

The building opened in 1984 and was criticised immediately. The building's geometrical facade and protruding windows created a monumental appearance that stood out from its surroundings. (Photo: pestbuda.hu)

A modern building will soon be erected on the plot: retail premises will fill three floors, while flats the upper levels (Photo: Mai Belváros)

The architect of the Fontana Building, architect György Vedres also designed the building at 11 Várkert Embankment (Photo: pestbuda.hu)

11 Várkert Embankment (Photo: pestbuda.hu)

The building on the corner is 11 Várkert Embankment. Its geometrical forms are slightly alien among the ornate buildings of the embankment.

The much-criticised Fontana Building was designed by the architect György Vedres. He penned the detailed redevelopment plan of the city centre, which was approved in 1965, the transformation of Ferenciek Square (then Felszabadulás Square) and the construction of passage systems such as Kígyó-Courtyard, and retail-oriented reconstructions in the 5th District. He designed the residential buildings at 11 Várkert Embankment (1959) and 30 Bem Embankment (1967). The creation of the arcade at the corner of Kossuth Lajos Street and Petőfi Sándor Street was also part of his concept. He is noted for saving the art Noveau pharmacy in the area.

György Vedres was not only involved in the transformation of the Pest city-centre. The building at 30 Bem Embankment was also built according to his designs (Photo: pestbuda.hu)

Cover photo: The Fontana Department Store in the city centre is already being demolished (Photo: pestbuda.hu)


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