In Depth, 16/03/2021

Little Derzhprom Found in Budapest

Last year, prior to the “plague,” I had the pleasure of visiting your city and would have returned if it was not for what is still obvious and apparent today. Meanwhile, I await my next move while walking the streets of my neighborhood in search of worthwhile stories. And on one particular day, I got lucky and found Little Derzhprom.

It’s interesting how some close-to-home architecture, which may have been redundant in one’s mind beforehand, unexpectedly springs to life when it relates to recent travels.

Since my time in Kharkiv, I have seen various elements of your city within local buildings here in the Hungarian capital and elsewhere. Perhaps this is not so surprising as there are still plenty of pre-20th-century enclosures with various touches of imperialistic décor around Central and Eastern Europe. So really, such similarities as these are not too difficult to either find or compare.

But there is one particular landmark here, which is the nearest comparable to your Derzhprom, simply because it stands out from all else. I am referring to the OKISZ Székház, – Hungarian Industry Association Headquarters. It was built in 1971-1973 and designed by architect Mónus János. This is a small office block and conference center, found within the leafy confines of 60 Thőköly Road, east of the capital in District XIV.

Even though this and your distinct landmark don’t necessarily look totally alike. But they at least have similar attributes; and perhaps more so than the frequent and regular Soviet and Cold War architecture. Regardless of design, both were elaborately assembled with reinforced concrete wire-frames in the same way, irrespective of taste, style, proportions or scale.

As for me, when I go about my daily routine, this unique one-off landmark, which is generally ignored or unheard of by most, now strikes a distinct chord with me every time I pass by.

Before I came to your city, this retro-futuristic oddity near my home meant almost nothing to me. Other than it had some curiosity value. As it is so out of place with all else. But as far as I am concerned, this is Little Derzhprom and has now become an event.

Still, I must accept the real differences between these two surreal sittings. The object de gris at my end is a mere miniature, and a long way off from receiving either tourists or a UNESCO heritage sign. Perhaps this accolade is in the post and will arrive tomorrow.

Finally, I wonder, if anyone else has experienced this same occurrence. When this story first went out in the Budapest Times last December, I sent this link around to all my Ukraine connections here in Budapest, including the Embassy. Although some intrigue followed, nobody has come forward yet.

Text, photo: Alexander Stemp.