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The Research Methodology of Budapest100

Translation by Júlia Morován

  

2011–2012

Since its launch in 2011, much has changed in the research methodology of Budapest100. Due to the small amount of relevant literature, in several cases it is unclear when exactly Budapest’s buildings were built, therefore, the list of houses celebrating their hundredth birthday is basically based on the books on the architecture of the era [1], the publications on local history [2], and the conservation lists of the Scientific Department at the former National Office of Cultural Heritage and the district governments. The task of issuing occupancy permits, which documents can be considered as birth certificates for houses, belonged to the districts’ construction authorities, but they did not lead indexes to genuinely reveal the construction dates. Instead of using full topography and database, it would have been possible to publish a call to see which houses celebrate their centenary in a certain year, but in case of dwelling houses this knowledge is quite rare.

At the moment, only the historical topography of Buda and Pest [3] is available, from which we know the identification number of the Castle, Krisztinaváros, the city centre, Lipótváros, Terézváros, and Ferencváros, and even though the identification number allows us to start the scientific research at the Budapest City Archives, the literature on the history of architecture is quite insufficient. Therefore we can say that in the absence of the basic research, doing research on the history of Budapest is a life-long challenge. Furthermore, the Budapest100 research is also special because of the fact that we consider a constraint factor that is not a natural limiting factor: it is quite rare that someone quests for a vast number of houses from a certain year – a much more natural research goal would be for instance collecting buildings from an architect or a constructor, maybe studying the history of a small area, or looking at some architectural styles.

Under such circumstances, our volunteers refined the obtained list in the Budapest City Archives during the autumn-winter period preceding the celebration of Budapest100. This workflow was somewhat independent of which houses opened up eventually, but more thorough research was always carried out for the houses involved in the program.

2013-2015

In the autumn of 2012, we tried to work out an optimized workflow based on the most accessible mass data: the architectural magazine ‘Építő Ipar’ (Construction Industry) published between 1871 and 1921, which covered public building approval reports. These weekly reports included the construction permits that the builders issued to the houses to be built. This collection contains the original addresses, the parcel numbers, the builders and the architects, which data has to be converted to the contemporary addresses. With this method, we managed to have a list of 300 to 400 items that yet had to be verified: whether the building was not only authorized but also built, and whether or not the same building was still at its place or a new one has been erected since then. This process was continued until the first meeting with the tenants, and afterwards, volunteers and organizers had been doing research on the history only of those houses, which applied to be part of the program.

By the end of 2014, the festival has become very successful, but due to the upcoming centenary of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the number of hundred-year-old houses turned out to be very limited. For that reason, in 2015, we organized Budapest100 on a thematic-based form, operating with a modified concept and research methodology, and we invited those buildings to participate, which celebrated their birthdays between 2011 (the start of the program) and 2015.

From 2016

At the end of summer of 2015, the series of thematic festivals were launched with the title “Budapest100 presents”, and the first theme was Nagykörút (Grand Boulevard). The new concept resulted in redesigning the research methodology again: it has partly been increased and partly simplified: the optimized workflow that was set in 2013 could be omitted, and in the months preceding the festival, we could directly start by exploring all the potentially celebrating houses. There was no research task or uncertainty in the compilation of the address list; all the Grand Boulevard addresses had to be considered. Due to the predictability, a stronger relationship was established also with the Budapest City Archives: the plan documentation of the houses on our list was available to our volunteers in weekly assignments and with consultation possibility with other research groups. Thus, almost all the houses on our ‘Nagykörút journey’ had documentation, independently whether it was open or not during the festival.

This row continued with the celebration in 2017, when buildings along the Danube river received the attention from our researchers.

Although the research methodology has changed over the years, the aim of the Budapest100 research coordinators has not: we keep teaching laic and professional volunteers to understand and use complex archival resources. Our research manual has been developed for many years, in order to provide help for volunteers in the simplest and most understandable way. Public institutions have already been supporting this democratic process, and a growing number of resources can be accessed at the Internet, as well (a trivial example: since 2013, houses don’t necessarily need to be checked personally, as this can be done on virtually via Google Maps Street View). Also, databases are evolving on the website of the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library and the Budapest City Archives, meanwhile digital copies of documents are often available through a search engine from home, at the website of the Hungaricana (Hungarian Cultural Heritage Portal).

Recently, we have transformed our website to provide visibility to this knowledge and to make searching our database more convenient. For the purpose of retrieval, we are using footnotes, therefore, the website can also serve as a common index for the architectural history of Budapest.

The modified home page has been constantly updated and eventually it will contain the documentation of each house from the period between 2016 and 2011.

As our database is constantly evolving, we encourage and invite online visitors to send us further suggestions or clarifications to kutatas.budapest100@kek.org.hu.

Footnotes

[1] A századforduló magyar építészete. Szerk.: Gerle–Makovecz–Kovács. Budapest, Szépirodalmi Könyvkiadó, Bonex. 1990)

[2] Déry Attila: V. kerület – Belváros, Lipótváros. Budapest, Terc, 2005. (Budapest építészeti topográfiája 2.), uő: VI-VII. kerület – Terézváros, Erzsébetváros. Budapest, Terc, 2006. (Budapest építészeti topográfiája 3.), uő: VIII. kerület – Józsefváros. Budapest, Terc, 2008. (Budapest építészeti topográfiája 4.), Adalékok a Víziváros történetéhez. Szerk. Mészáros György, Mészárosné Herczog Magdolna. Budapest, Budapesti Városvédő Egyesület, 1991., Adalékok a Belváros történetéhez. Budapest, Budapesti Városvédő Egyesület, 1993., Adalékok a Külső Terézváros történetéhez. Budapest, Budapesti Városvédő Egyesület, 1998.

[3] Buda város topográfiai mutatója. I. Vár, Krisztinaváros. Összeállították: Felhő Ibolya, Gál Éva. Budapest, Budapest Főváros Levéltára, 1980. (Topográfiai mutatók II.); Pest város topográfiai mutatója. 1. Belváros, Lipótváros. Összeáll.: Bácskai Vera. Budapest, Budapest Főváros Levéltára, 1975. (Topográfiai mutatók I.); Pest város topográfiai mutatója. 2. Terézváros. 1—2. Összeáll.: Bácskai Vera. Budapest, Budapest Főváros Levéltára, 1982. (Topográfiai mutatók III.); Pest város topográfiai mutatója. 3. Ferencváros. Összeáll.: Bácskai Vera, Hidvégi Violetta. Budapest, Budapest Főváros Levéltára, 2000. (Topográfiai mutatók IV.)