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Competition: Hungarian Museum of Transport

The Hungarian Museum of Transport has announced an international contest for a landmark new home in eastern Budapest (Deadline: 10 September)

Open to teams with relevant experience, the anonymous competition seeks innovative proposals to create a new headquarters for the historic museum on a prominent site within a 7ha former rail maintenance depot in Kőbánya.

The project will transform an enormous mid-20th-century diesel hall into a pioneering new venue for the museum featuring exhibition spaces and learning areas intended to double the number of items on display and double annual visitor numbers to 350,000.

Contest site in Kőbánya, Budapest

Contest site in Kőbánya, Budapest

Contest site in Kőbánya, Budapest

Eleven teams have already been invited to participate in the contest, including Amanda Levete Architects, Bjarke Ingels Group, Caruso St. John Architects, Foster + Partners, David Chipperfield Architects and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Up to 15 teams will be chosen for the second round.

The museum’s general director Dávid Vitézy said: ‘The ongoing, comprehensive renewal of the Hungarian Museum of Transport has reached an important milestone: we have launched an international design competition to select the best team of architects for the design of the institution’s new home. For the first time in its history, the Hungarian Museum of Transport will have a suitable venue for its specific needs, which is intended to be a contemporary architectural landmark of Budapest.

‘The redevelopment of the former Northern Maintenance Depot of the Hungarian State Railways is among the most ambitious brownfield revitalisation programmes in Europe. We are committed to creating an open, visitor-friendly, 21st-century museum. As a multigenerational community space, it will offer experiences to children and adults, families and seniors, tourists and locals alike.’

Founded in 1899, the transport museum features a variety of trains, buses and automobiles is thought to be one of the oldest of its kind in Europe. Last year, the Hungary government announced it would relocate the museum from its present city centre site to a new base in Kőbánya.

The competition focuses on transforming an enormous 110m-long diesel hall which was built between 1958 and 1962 and features nine parallel naves capable of exhibiting railway wagons, tramway cars, buses, automobiles and other vehicles.

Contest site in Kőbánya, Budapest

Contest site in Kőbánya, Budapest

Contest site in Kőbánya, Budapest

The project aims to deliver new exhibition spaces for the museum along with conservation and storage facilities, education areas and conference and events spaces.

The competition languages are English and Hungarian, and applications may include up to 12 pages of illustrations and 20 pages of technical specifications. A total of 15 shortlisted teams will receive around €30,000 to participate in the design phase of the competition.

Proposals will be judged on architecture and urbanism, institutional vision, technological considerations, and sustainability. The overall winner, to be announced on 28 February, will receive around €80,000 and the design commission. Three further prizes worth around €20,000 each will also be awarded.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 4pm local time on 10 September

Contact details

Csaba Horváth
Hungarian Technical and Transport Museum
Rákóczi út 42.

Tel: +36 703903757
Fax: +36 17990141 

View the contract notice and visit the competition website for more information

Museum of Liverpool case study: Q&A with Kim Herforth Nielsen

The founder and creative director of 3XN discusses lessons learned designing a new city museum for Liverpool, England

Museum of Liverpool by 3XN

Museum of Liverpool by 3XN

Museum of Liverpool by 3XN

How did your project deliver a landmark new city museum for Liverpool on a sensitive waterfront site?

It was an interesting challenge to design a new building located on a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We took a humble approach and started by researching the history and conditions of the site. 3XN’s philosophy is that architecture shapes behaviour, so we spent a lot of time talking to locals to understand how they perceived the site and how they thought it could be improved. Our conclusion was that the building should be a nexus between the city and the River Mersey. We won the competition on that vision. After that we presented our vision to the client, the local authorities and CABE (the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment), and had an open dialogue with them and thereafter we reached the final concept and design that was respectful of it historical surroundings, found inspiration in the maritime environment and made it a better place.

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

It was important to us that the design reflected the history of the site and improved the area. We designed a sculptural building that didn’t compete with the neighbouring buildings and that reflected the site’s original use. Our building was lower and angled to allow full view of the listed buildings next to it. The Museum of Liverpool’s design is reminiscent of the trading ships that once dominated the harbour, while the façade’s relief pattern offers a new interpretation of the historical architectural detail in the ‘Three Graces.’ The enormous gabled windows open out towards the city and the harbour, symbolically drawing history into the museum while simultaneously inviting the curious to look in. We wanted the building to become an integrated part of the harbourfront and connect the city with the river. The outdoor areas around the museum offer seating with views of the water, adding to the dynamic urban environment and serving as a meeting point for locals and visitors alike. The theme is carried through into the Museum of Liverpool’s central atrium, with its sculptural sweeping staircase leading up to the galleries further encouraging social interaction. Besides having created better connectivity in the area, the museum building also offers shelter to the plazas behind it, which means people can enjoy the outdoor facilities despite the often-strong winds on the river.

Museum of Liverpool by 3XN

Museum of Liverpool by 3XN

Museum of Liverpool by 3XN

What advice would you have to contest participants on transforming a former rail depot into a new Hungarian transport museum?

Basically, any building should strive to improve the area where it is built. It is important to consider both the building, the site and the existing surrounding urban environment and find a way to refer to the history when you design a building on historic sites. It is important to involve the local community and authorities and have an open dialogue about the design.

Museum of Liverpool by 3XN

Museum of Liverpool by 3XN

Museum of Liverpool by 3XN

Q&A with Dávid Vitézy

The director-general of the Hungarian Museum of Transport discusses his ambitions for the competition

Dávid Vitézy

Dávid Vitézy

Dávid Vitézy

Why are your holding a competition for a New Hungarian Museum of Transport?

It was clear from the beginning that hosting a design contest is the right approach to select the best team of architects. The New Hungarian Museum of Transport is a highly complex project that combines the creation of a new museum with the preservation of industrial heritage, landscaping, brownfield revitalisation, urban planning and the development of public transport and pedestrian connectivity. The accomplishment of these tasks requires both professional expertise and creativity. Similar design contests for large-scale cultural projects in Budapest had already proved that a combination of local and international submissions can result in broad range of original and thoughtful design proposals.

What is your vision for the new museum?

What we set out to do is to completely redefine an iconic institution. This project reaches far beyond mere relocation and spatial development. Our new complex will be the ground on which we build a cutting-edge, experience-based and visitor-friendly cultural hub facilitating the merger of technical and architectural heritage, preservation and meaningful entertainment. We expect that the new museum will be an architectural landmark and an exemplary cultural development. Planned facilities on the approximately 70,000 m² site are exhibition and storage areas, restoration workshops, a new library and archive, a 450-seat conference hall and additional visitor areas. Two listed heritage structures should be preserved, and at least 20 per cent of the area will be green space. Sustainable solutions are essential both in the design and operation of the museum, and they are a decisive part of the evaluation criteria.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The contest is open to anybody who meets the professional requirements as specified in the brief. Several world-famous and well-known local architects were invited by the museum, but we also encourage smaller firms and fresh talents with bold ideas to participate. After the pre-qualification phase, 15 applicants will be selected. International teams can participate in the contest on their own, but the winner should have a valid architectural designer’s license in Hungary as a prerequisite for signing the contract. (There are different ways to fulfil this legal requirement, including collaborations.)

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

In the following years, we will be focusing on the realisation of this project that encompasses all the other aspects mentioned above. We are also working on another important cultural development, the House of Hungarian Innovation located in Városliget (City Park) on the site of the former home of our museum. A much-loved 1896 exhibition hall is set to be reconstructed but the design team for this task had already been procured. Smaller art and exhibition schemes are also in the planning stage, but these are not exactly design projects.

Are there any other recent transport museum projects you have been impressed by?

Our team visited several transport museums in Europe and North-America to get acquainted with the best international practices in museum and exhibition design. We have been much impressed by Train World Brussels for their innovative use of exhibition techniques, state-of-the-art light and sound effects, storytelling and the black box concept of the exhibition space. Another compelling example is the London Transport Museum with its strong focus on the social context and the multifaceted relationship between urban development and the history of transport.

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