"After fifty-five years, Blaha Lujza Square, one of Budapest's busiest intersections with significant historical and intellectual heritage, has been given a new, sophisticated character," reads the website of the Budapest Transport Centre (BKK). According to the BKK, which carried out the renovation on behalf of the Budapest City Council, the square was reborn as a meeting place with groves and trees, which the citizens of Budapest could take possession of on 10 December. 

The renovated Blaha Lujza Square on the handover day, 10 December 2022 (Photo: MTI/Szilárd Koszticsák)

As they write, it took almost a year and a half to modernise the centrally located, historically and culturally valuable Blaha Lujza Square. Thanks to the investment that started in July 2021 and lasted a total of 505 days, not only the surface of the square, but also the upper slab insulation of the underpass, the roadway above it, and – as a related development – the Somogyi Béla Street were completely renewed.

The entire work cost gross of 3.68 billion HUF, of which 2.68 billion HUF was provided by the City Council and 1 billion HUF by the government.

Burgundy-coloured public chairs and tables were placed on the square (Photo: BKK)

They also reported that three new zebra crossings have been installed at the intersection, so that along with the existing József Boulevard one, people can walk in all four directions on the surface, on the accessible pedestrian crossing. In addition to the trees suitable for saving, 80 new ones were planted and the two oak trees transplanted from Tabán were preserved. In addition, they renovated the mushroom fountain and the theatre monument, created plant cassettes that can also be used as seating, and built a water feature that shoots up from the square's covering; small sculptures were also placed on the seating surface of the plant cassettes.

It also turns out that burgundy-coloured outdoor seating and tables referring to the chairs of the former National Theatre were placed, and the outline of the demolished building was displayed in the cladding. Two new MOL Bubi collection stations and individual bicycle supports were also installed.

According to BKK, eighty new trees were planted on the renovated square (Photo: BKK)

The planned renovation of Blaha Lujza Square was announced in 2017 by the General Assembly, which in March 2018 allocated 1.8 billion HUF for the renovation. Planning has begun, and the final concept was completed by March 2019. "After fifty-five years, one of the busiest squares in Budapest, Blaha Lujza Square, will be renewed as a square with a new, uniform appearance" - read the announcement of the Mayor's Office on 11 March 2019, explaining the details of the renovation (although 3.5 years have passed since then, the "fifty-five year" in the communication about the renovation has still remained today - Ed.).

Even then, it was announced that the main goal of the transformation of one of the busiest junctions in Budapest is to make the space liveable. It was called an important aspect that, following a unified concept, a generous inner-city public space with a new face, corresponding to the needs of today's urban use, would be created on Blaha Lujza Square. "The high-quality architectural renovation ensures the restoration of the spiritual and cultural heritage of the square, the increase of friendly, liveable pedestrian areas, and the creation of a unified, extensive public space that also includes green space," they added.

Ilyen lesz a megújuló Blaha Lujza tér (képek)

The 2019 – that is, not realised – concept, with the trees in front of the Corvin Department Store (Source: budapest.hu)

In detailing the concept published in March 2019, it was also announced that a row of trees will also be installed in the asphalted central island of Rákóczi Road, the proportion of green areas will increase in the new, pedestrian-friendly public square, steam and water features will be installed, a building for cultural purposes and an event venue will also be built. They added: the intersection will be fully accessible, the underpass will be renovated, and new pedestrian crossings will be established to make the area fully passable.

They also announced the renovation of the Blaha Lujza Square underpass, which they said will be cleaned up and given an image that meets the requirements of the present, and will also be expanded towards the square: a BKK customer centre and a public toilet will also open there, and their accessibility will be ensured by a newly built elevator. It was announced that there will be two MOL Bubi collection stations and that Somogyi Béla Street will be renovated all the way to Gutenberg Square. It was also announced that the traffic order of the roads bordering the square will also be partially changed: for example, it will be possible to turn right directly onto József Boulevard from Rákóczi Road.

The design renders presented in the spring of 2019 clearly show the pedestrian crossings that ensure the passage of the square, as well as the tree line planned for the middle of Rákóczi Road (Source: budapest.hu)

At that time, the design renders were also presented, but negotiations with professional and civil organisations were still ongoing, which is why the start of construction was scheduled for the fall of 2019. It was also announced that the estimated cost of the renovation, which includes the listed program elements, is 4 billion HUF, and it is available from capital and government funds.

After the municipal elections in 2019, the newly composed General Assembly decided to redesign the renovation, so the actual work could only start in June 2021. This is the reason why, although we have been talking about the renovation of Blaha Lujza Square for more than 5 and a half years (see our articles below), the renovation was only completed recently with significant modifications, and reduced program elements: among many others, the planting of the tree line planned for Rákóczi Road, for example, was dismissed.

On the day of the handover, BKK announced that there may still be minor works on the square and its surroundings (e.g. electrical network development), the accessible toilet and the FUTÁR display will be put into operation shortly, and the water feature that shoots up from the surface of the square and the mushroom fountain will start working after the end of winter.

Mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony, Government Commissioner Dr Zsolt Láng, as well as Péter Niedermüller, the mayor of the 7th District and András Pikó, the mayor of the 8th District, gave speeches at the official handover on Saturday.

Source: Budapest Transport Centre, Pestbuda.hu

Cover photo: The renovated Blaha Lujza Square was handed over (Photo: BKK)


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