This article concerns the works by two hungarian secession architects whose buildings are at the same time very original but maybe not so known: Sámuel Révész és Jószef Kollár. Their buildings facade are full of symbolic elements, while the wholesome design of the projects contains, often, a remarkable quote from the ancient tradition of italian Gothic style.
Maybe the most noticeable of their buildings is the apartments house, former xxx, in Deak Ferenc Ter. It’s a very catching eye buildings at first because of its very central position, just in the outside of the only one crossing point metro station of the three Budapest’s metro lines; second, because its dimension and its very particular style, in which are mostly evident quotes from the gothic style; third, because it’s just in the middle between the very touristic popular Vaci utca, and the new fashion street in xxx utca. But the building’s own uniqueness resides, at least by an artistic, aesthetic and even philosophic point of view, in the design of the facade, including the very symbolic decorations.
The general architectonic structure was conceived after the study of the masterpieces of the italian gothic buildings, specially as far as the cathedrals are concerned. As an example, take a look at the Duomo of Orvieto, in central part of Italy:
The two styles, the Romanesque and the
Gothic, melt together to wonder in the superb façade, where the development to
height seems limited by the evident line of crowning, the plain surfaces, the
chromatic and pictorial effect they prevail on almost total lack of plastic and
aggregating elements. The vertical lines are a constant contrapuntal from the
horizontal lines. The whole façade rotates around the quadrilateral inside
which is found the rose window, circumscribed by a series of niches.
The whole appears as an elegant structure
in constant equilibrium of spaces and geometry, from the ample curve portal to
the equilateral triangles of the eardrums, where every element finds its really
meaning in the composure and in the harmony of the whole.
The ample exploitation of the pictorial
decorations and the mosaics, its composition, makes the façade of the Duomo of
Orvieto a monumental and precious fourteenth-century tryptych, whose wealth
stays an unique example in Umbria. Its variety of styles and solutions, lent to
represent the vivacity of influences and affairs that, supported by an original
creative imagination, they represent the expression better than the Umbrian art
Vertical lines are a characteristic of many gothic cathedrals: they had to catch the visitor eye in order to let his sight fly up to the sky. Contemplating a masterpiece of this kind of architecture had to be as contemplation the God’s own Highness. The climbing vertical lines of the general design could give the very effective sensation of a spiritual ascending movement towards the Holy Highness.
The Sámuel Révész és Jószef Kollár’s buildings, used the same architectonic movement, however the effect was totally different.
Here the human characters who decorated the facade are facing a super-human, quasi-Sisyphean effort.
The climbing of the architectonic vertical lines are not an ascension one, but perhaps a fighting, suffering path which only brave men’s can afford. It’s somewhat a Nietzschean movement, in which the Willing is stronger than the Sufferance. This climbing effort let the man keep in touch with an higher knowledge, an higher entity symbolized by the masks at the very top of the building:
The don’t represent any form of a Goodness or of a Right Deity: on the contrary they are a symbol for the mysterious (noumenic) nature of the Transcendent, the Unknown Face of God.
This reprisal of the gothic architecture trough the use of a sort of exoteric symbolism characterized the building by the two hungarian architects situated in Vaci utca, n°11.
Again, on the facade there are some Atlantis as a symbol of human sufferance and fatigue.
In this building, too, the movement of the design was conceived from the ground until the highness of the sky. And the effect is performed with the use of vertical emboss of the facade’s marble. Those sort of stone’s routes, combined with the scarce light of the Vaci street itself combines into a dark/light effect that’s very remarkable:
In addition, on the facade, is also noticeable the presence of some insertions: they are very stylized and sqare-shaped bronze lions:
The beasts here have the role of guardian of the entire building. By symbolic point of view, lions are effective-element of defence. For example, in the jewish tradition lions are often painted (or engraved) as a decorative element of the Torah, the jewish Bible containing the sacred Law. Lions, in that case, protected against misinterpretation of the Holy Writings and, as a consequence, against the misunderstanding and violations of the Law.
By an esoteric point of view, Lions are defensive characters, too, against who couldn’t afford the true deep meaning of the Secret Art (in Alchemy, for example, beginners without any experience are called simply blowers; on the contrary, true alchemists are the ones who mastered the very deep secret and knowledge of the Art). As stated in an alchemical text of the XVIII century, written by the german Michael Maier and entitled “Atalanta Fugiens”, “Who wants enter the Garden of Philosophers without the key is similar to one who wants walk without the foots” …
The crumbling design of the building conjugated with the symbolic elements of the facade give to the whole construction a sort of esoteric feeling that, in my opinion, is the very characteristic of the works performed by Sámuel Révész and Jószef Kollár.
Close to the former Martinelli ter (today Szervita ter), between Vaci utca and Deak ter, another buildings by the two hungarian architects can be seen. It’s in evidence because its front completely adorned with a bronze cover:
Lines here are both horizontal and vertical and the whole design of the lower part of the facade is, without any decoration, smooth and curvy. The buildings is distinguished in two part: while the lower one served as business unit, the upper was conceived as apartment unit. The decorations of the upper part are now lost.
Even outside the inner district of Budapest you can find some works of the two architects. For example in the XIII district, and precisely in Hegedűs Gyula utca 8:
The architectonic elements are typical of the style of Révész and Kollár: from the monumental, gothic quoting design, to the squared mysterious faces (or masks), to the geometric forms of the balconies and windows. . The geometric shapes in the Révész and Kollár works haven’t the same function as, for example the essential architecture of Adolf Loos and school; nor it’s close to the geometric of the Wiener Werkstaette productions, such as those of Koloman Moser. On the contrary, the squared and geometric shapes of architectonic and decorative elements are functional to the very symbolic effect of the whole design. The symbols à la Von Stuck, joined with the inquietude of the Kubin’s terrific incubus enclosed in a very particular and astonishing shape. The symbolic element is certainly one of the main goal of the production of Sámuel Révész and Jószef Kollár (and the so frequent cite from the gothic architecture, symbolic par excellence, is not casual at all): their works continuously represent a sort of challenge for the interpretative and hermeneutic abilities of a conscious observer (the one who possesses the key), being able to fascinate him through the unfix dark/light effects, and the inquietude and deep sight of the squared marble faces …
Also in Nepszinhaz utca, a street in which there are a lot of hidden treasures to be rediscovered (and you have to expect an article soon on it) there are a couple of buildings designed by the two. The first, very simple, at number 17 of the street, has the same rounded angular design of the one in the XIII district:
The other building, at number 37, was designed with less complex design, if compared to the one in Deak Ter, with dark frame around the windows which resemble the large windows of the cathedrals.
Other astonishing element in this building is the frieze:
It represents a sort of (life) dance with warriors embracing very beautiful women with an evident love attitude toward them. By stylistic point of view, the human characters in the frieze are similar, even by the perfection of the body and the muscles, to some frieze which adorned ancient greek temples but, on the contrary, the love affairs which pervade the whole scene have the characteristic of an italian reinassance scene (the so-called “amor Cortese”).
Different, if not contrary elements are, again, melted together and used paired in order to realize a very effective symbolic effect. Gothic style combined with Secessionist one; geometric shapes and lines paired with terrific masks and strange characters; clean design combined with numerous symbolic decorative elements. Contradiction and syncretism were used by Sámuel Révész and Jószef Kollár to reinforce the multitude of interpretations of the symbols behind their works. The resulting effect is terrific: an enjoyment for the sight, an exciting challenge for the interpretative capabilities of the intellect, a final checkmate for the unifying efforts of the reason.
Full gallery follows: