Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Crumbling City

Our Building Entryway
Budapest is a beautiful city; I am amazed at how many old interesting historic buildings I discover every time I take a stroll around. I see buildings decorated with elaborate stonework and sculptures, and wonder what they must have been in their prime. They are now offices or apartments, but surely such elaborate design must have been something important. As you walk into the building where the apartment is, you see high arched ceilings and decorative glass accents. The central courtyard has real stained glass windows on every floor. This building has been extensively renovated and restored but retains it’s 1850 flavor. Other buildings in the neighborhood and around the city have not fared so well. The Ruin Pub I wrote about earlier occupies a crumbling shell of a deserted building, and there are a number of buildings looking very dilapidated in this area.

Leaky Window?
Crumbling Building
Fortunately, Budapest encourages the restoration of older building rather than tearing them down. I believe there is a bylaw of some sort limiting the height of buildings, and there are no skyscrapers in the city center; you must look out to the outskirts to see modern glass buildings. Interestingly, although we are on the “4th” floor, I count six levels below this apartment. Apparently the first floor is partly below street level so is ½ floor and does not count, next is MF, and then I think they count from “0”, so the bylaws are a bit vague . . . Efforts are being made to restore the old buildings, and just down the street I have been watching the progress as new thermal windows, modern doors and new marble trim is being worked into an old building.
The downside of this is that there are many crumbling buildings. The stone in many of the buildings lasts forever (well almost . . . ), but the masonry is only good for so long before it starts to crumble. You see many chipped and crumbling corners, doors that no longer close like they used to, and old windows with gaps beside them. You can see where missing stone work has been replaced with brick and cement to “look” correct for a few years. It looks to me as if the repairs over the years were not up to the original standards, as the expense was too great, but the result is many building looks pretty good, but a closer examination shows some are crumbling around the inhabitants.

Repairs needed
On one hand, it is lovely to see the old buildings being maintained and restored, showing Budapest as the beautiful city it was, and still is, but I wonder how long these buildings will last. For example, I notice that the new windows I saw being installed were being made to fit old openings using spray foam insulation; energy efficient perhaps, but will it last another 100 years, and that nice marble trim being added to the building was literally being glued onto old stone and concrete.

I don’t have any answers . . . I guess that when you spent a few weeks visiting one place you start to notice things, and you have seen my pictures of old doors and I’ve written before of my love of detail. So I wander, I notice and I wonder. . .

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