Half a century ago, the Ministry of Construction and Urban Development announced the tender for the arrangement of the Nyugati Railway Station and its surroundings together with two other topics. At that time, ideas were also sought for the new department store to be built on Inner Ring Road, next to the City Hall, and for the construction of one side of the then Moszkva Square (now Széll Kálmán Square).

Nyugati Railway Station during its construction in 1877 (Fortepan / Budapest Archives. Reference No.: HU.BFL.XV.19.d.1.05.201)

The reconstruction of the Nyugati Railway Station was also timely because the construction of the north-south metro was already underway, and Nyugati was one of the stations where passengers had to be transferred from the metro to the railway and many other means of public transport.

The Népszabadság newspaper reported on the tender results on 8 July 1972, under the title Híd a Marx tér felett [Bridge over Marx Square]. In the article, we read that 33 works were submitted for Marx Square, now Nyugati Square, but the decision-makers were not completely satisfied with any of them. As it was written in the paper:

" none of the 33 applications received independently solved the extremely complicated task in its entirety and with success - that's why the first prize was not awarded - following the joint evaluation of several projects, the future contours of one of the most frequented points of the capital were clearly outlined."

Despite this, thirteen applications were awarded a total of 460,000 HUF, and the creative team of Iparterv and Buváti each received a second prize of 60,000 HUF. Despite the fact that there was no real winning bid, the article describes in sufficient detail how the future of the square was planned half a century ago. Many things have been realized from the ideas raised at that time, some that are out of date today, and some that are still waiting to be realized. The rebuilding of the square was calculated in two stages, in the first stage tasks directly related to the construction of the subway would have been carried out:

" At that time, the road traffic on Marx Square will still operate at the same level, but with traffic lights, and tram traffic will cease on Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Road. The award-winning plans condemn the building opposite the Nyugati railway station, 122 Lenin Boulevard, and the so-called West End arch to demolition. In their place, a modern commercial facility, a department store, and a catering complex are planned to cover the current trolley bus stop. In the station hall, the pairs of rails will be shortened by 20-25 meters to make room for the underpass leading to the metro station."

The two buildings were indeed demolished, a bus station was built on the site of the Westend house, and a shopping centre was built more than 30 years later, although it was no longer in the style usual in socialism. The tram also stopped running on the Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Road, which they want to restore according to the current plans. In the end, the subway does not arrive in front of the tracks within the station, although there is indeed a large area in front of the tracks today, and there are still plans to change the function of the hall.


Nyugati Square before the reconstruction. Stone cube paving, roundabout, and the curved Westend house on the corner of the square (Photo: Fortepan, Uvaterv) 

As stated in the title of the quoted article, the tenders of fifty years ago already counted on the overpass. At that time, the aim was to route car traffic through the city via several inner-city expressways, in addition to the east-west axis running along Rákóczi Road, a Buda and a Pest route were also considered, and the latter would have followed the line Váci Road – Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Road. For this, it was deemed necessary to separate car traffic, not only here, but also at many other intersections, for example at Astoria or Kálvin Square. The article noted about the overpass:

" The overpass will curve along the current station building to Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Road so that cars do not disturb the tranquility of the residents of the apartment buildings at the beginning of Váci Road."

The plans from half a century ago also counted on keeping the historic station building, but at that time it was already said that the train traffic would be moved out of the hall, and the new station would be located further north, in the area of the Ferdinánd bridge. This was actually not a new plan, since the construction of a large, new railway station instead of Nyugati, much further north, had been on the agenda for decades. According to the ideas of 1972, after the reconstruction, the hall would only serve the railway and subway passengers, while a two-story car park was dreamed of next to the building.

The project of Grimshaw International Limited, which won the first place in the current design competition for the Nyugati railway station (Source: nagatistervpalyazat.hu/palyamuvek) 

By the way, the idea of the winner of the just-concluded tender is very similar (without the overpass above the square, of course), because it would also give the hall a new function. The railway tracks would be slightly further back, but it would not be placed behind the Ferdinánd Bridge, but between the bridge and the monument hall, and not only on the surface, but also below the surface, as the long-term plans state that the railway lines will be laid in a tunnel under the Danube and they would connect with the Déli Railway Station.

Many things were realized from the tender fifty years ago, and it contained ideas that will only become reality in the future, however, the basic concept was quite different in the 1970s, when they expected a significant increase in car traffic within the city, which the square specifically wanted to help planning concept, while now the focus is more on pedestrian and public transport, which is why, for example, it is planned that the tram will run again on Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Road and that there will be more greenery.

Cover photo: The West in 1972 (Photo: Fortepan, Uvaterv)