The Twelfth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2010
Berkeley Prize 2010

Holly Simon Proposal

Where the Past and Future Meet: Cultural Regeneration of a Forgotten Block

Historic buildings tell the stories of our cities, both tragic and triumphant. This year’s Berkeley Prize theme has had deep meaning for me as I reflect on the potential of heritage preservation and reuse in strengthening our communities. In my essay submission, I explored how preservation in arts districts can create quality public space that has transformative affects. Art centers have at their heart human connectivity and resolve, exemplifying the social art of architecture.
Goal for the Berkeley Travel Fellowship: It is essential to my study of heritage preservation and culture-led adaptive reuse that I directly experience projects of social depth and quality being achieved in real time.

Learning strategy: To travel to Pecs, Hungary and participate in heritage preservation and adaptive reuse projects through the 2010 European Capital of Culture Program. This 2000 year-old Eastern European industrial city has undertaken a comprehensive set of projects including the adaptation of a historic factory into a new “Cultural Quarter.” Through participation, I will learn first hand about the challenges and opportunities of heritage preservation and adaptive reuse as a catalyst for positive change in a community.

Pecs (pronounced “Paych”), (pop. 180,000), was named the 2010 European Capital of Culture (ECOC) along with Ruhr, Germany and Istanbul, Turkey, enabling a dynamic year of events and strengthened cultural infrastructure. The ECOC program recognizes Pecs’ architectural and cultural shift in response to their tumultuous 20th Century history (of world wars and the Iron Curtain). Pecs is transitioning from a post-industrial economically depressed city to a culture-led economy. Heritage preservation, contemporary architecture and the establishment of cultural spaces are at the core of their renewal strategy and relate well to this year’s Berkeley Prize theme and my essay topic.

About Pecs: Located in Southern Hungary, Pecs gets its title, “The Borderless City” from its close proximity to the Southern Cultural Zone of Europe, which includes Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Slovenia. Pecs is architecturally and culturally significant with visible influences from the Ottoman Turks and fourth century Christian burial sites protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also home to Hungary’s first university founded in 1367 and has always had a strong intellectual and artistic core.

Pecs was an important industrial city after World War II. However, after the collapse of communism in 1989, important mines and factories of Pecs were closed and unemployment rose significantly. This aggravated the already problematic segregation of low-income residents, particularly the Romany people. “The familiarization and recognition of Romany culture and the issue of equal opportunities” was declared a priority for Pecs in its planning for the ECOC.

I’ve always been drawn to the rich and tumultuous history of Hungary and Eastern Europe. My father and his parents fled the country during the 1956 Revolution. I grew up at an arms length from Hungarian culture, listening to my grandparents’ pride and irreverence towards their past. Influenced by my family history, I am passionate about engaging in and creating architecture as a social art because architecture embodies who we are, where we come from and where we are going as a society. I would use the Berkeley Travel Fellowship to explore the impact of heritage preservation and adaptive reuse in the creation of a resilient and inclusive civic fabric.

Details on the travel fellowship opportunity: The creation of the Cultural Quarter in Pecs involves the preservation and renovation of the historic Zsolnay Ceramic Factory, whose craft is well known across the country and beyond. The 41,000 square foot factory, built in 1853, is adorned with “colorful roof tiles, ornamental facades, statues and garden ornament all telling of the artistic work in the renowned factory.” The factory is being converted to include several smaller communities within the Cultural Quarter including:

• Craftsman’s Quarter – for the exhibition of the rich craft history of the city • Creative Quarter - home to exhibition halls presenting contemporary art, studios, creative workshops, rehearsal rooms and public spaces for gathering • Family and Children's Quarter - including a home for a local puppet theatre, a new stage and spaces for arts and crafts for families • University Quarter – providing spaces for the Faculty of Music and Visual Arts

The Head Project Architect for the Zsolnay Cultural Quarter, Gábor Sztanics, has welcomed me to join his team for two weeks in August. Agreeing to take me under his wing, he says that I will be able to learn directly about heritage preservation and adaptive reuse through the revitalization of the Zsolnay factory. I will gain first hand knowledge of “how a large-scale redevelopment project unfolds in reality”, as Mr. Sztanics put it.

I have been offered the opportunity to participate and learn about architectural solutions that answer the following questions I have: 1) What are the choices being made and techniques used in the heritage preservation of the Zsolnay Ceramic factory? 2) How can contemporary architecture respect and redefine a heritage space? 3) What are the social impacts of such a revitalization project on the city for all income levels and cultures involved, (including minority groups such as the Romany)?

I will volunteer for the architectural team, assisting them in their work for two weeks. Mr. Sztanics has confirmed that August will be a good time to gain an inside view to projects recently completed and others under construction. I will interview current tenants and visitors of the cultural quarter so I may better understand the impact of these projects. (I have basic Hungarian language skills and English is quite common.)

Finally, to reinforce my inquiry into the above architectural questions, I will travel to nearby Austria to observe heritage preservation and adaptive reuse in the cities of Vienna and Linz (ECOC 2009). I have been in contact with Elke Krasny (Vienna), an Austrian curator and theorist invested in the social art of architecture. She has agreed to meet and assist me with my research in Austria. I am planning to visit: • Linzer Tabakwerke" (Linz) - a former tobacco company to be turned into a cultural/art site • “Ars Electronica Center” (Linz) • “Gasometer City” (Vienna), adapted by architects: Jean Nouvel, Coop Himmelblau, and others. • Rinderhalle St. Marx (Vienna) - formerly a slaughter house, now used for cultural activities • Schloss Rothschild Waidhofen/Ybbs, former castle turned into a museum

This travel fellowship presents an exceptional opportunity for my academic and career goals. I would be honored to extend the good work of the Berkeley Prize community through this travel fellowship as a student dedicated to architecture as a social art.

Itinerary: August 13th – Fly from Halifax, Canada to London Gatwick, UK August 15th – Fly to Budapest, Hungary, train to Pecs. August 16 - 27 – Volunteer for ECOC Pecs in Zsolnay Cultural Quarter August 28 – Sept 3 – Visit nearby cities of Linz and Vienna, Austria Sept 4 – Train to Budapest Sept 5 – Fly Budapest – Halifax via London

Budget: Charter flight rtn from Halifax to London: $850 Low budget European Airline (Easyjet) rtn London-Vienna: $135 US Flights Total: $985

Other costs: Trains within Hungary and Austria: $175 Accommodation and per diem (including museum admissions): Austria (7 days): $125/day US ($875) Pecs: (14 days): $75/ day ($1050) Total other costs: $2100 US Total trip cost: $3085

(Not included are 3 days expenses in London and Budapest that I will cover.)

Pecs ECOC published material: http://en.pecs2010.hu/p/pecs_introduction

Contact: Gábor Sztanics Development Project Manager / Architect Zsolnay Cultural Quarter Project Pecs European Capital of Culture sztanics@pecs2010.hu phone: +36-30-633-40-59

Elke Krasny: http://www.kulturaxe.com/kras-e.html elke.krasny@blackbox.at


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Holly Simon, Dalhousie University School of Architecture, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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