Following the stringent rules of design competitions, the entries were submitted anonymously to Budapest Development Centre’s international architectural design competition launched last October, announced for the architectural, urban and landscaping renewal of Budapest Nyugati Railway Station and its surroundings.
36 applicants tendered in the first round among whom—based on criteria announced in advance—12 were permitted to continue on to the second round, where specific ideas had to be presented in large conceptual plans. The bidders who went on to the second round have been involved in almost every major European railway station development projects of the past 15-20 years. All 12 have made their submissions, with tableaus and descriptions of predetermined scale for the various parts of the project. In the coming weeks, experts and members of the Evaluation Committee will evaluate the entries according to a predetermined schedule and criteria, without knowing who submitted the actual entry out of the 12 submissions. Apart from them, others will not even be allowed to look into the submitted plans until 26 March, when the results and the winners will be publicly announced.
The Chair of the International Evaluation Committee is Balázs Fürjes, State Secretary for the Development of Budapest and its Agglomeration, and the Vice Chairs are Dávid Vitézy, CEO of Budapest Development Centre, and Zsolt Füleky, Deputy State Secretary for Architecture, Construction and Heritage Protection. Members of the Evaluation Committee include Zoltán Erő, Chief Architect of Budapest, as well as the deputy mayors and chief architects of the three districts concerned, i.e. Districts 5, 6 and 13, representatives of MÁV Zrt. and NIF Zrt., and architectural executives of rail infrastructure operators Network Rail (United Kingdom) and Sprava železnic (Czech Republic).
They will evaluate the entries according to a schedule and criteria, without knowing who submitted the actual entry out of the 12 submissions. Apart from them, others will not even be allowed to look into the submitted plans until 26 March, when the results and the winners will be publicly announced.
Bidders who have been selected for the second round:
As the capacity increasing reconstruction projects of the railway lines reaching Budapest are completed, an increasing number of trains have to depart from and arrive to the city, as described in the Budapest Agglomeration and Railway Strategy. The objective is to make it possible for more people to commute by rail instead of using their cars. The most challenging problem emerged at Budapest Nyugati Railway Station, where 5 of the 11 railway lines arrive at. Hence the need for increasing the number of railway lines received by the busiest Hungarian railway station, besides the fact that a thorough modernisation of the Nyugati and its surroundings in terms of technical aspects, passenger comfort and urban development is more than due.
The solution is the construction of an underground railway station, partly underneath and partly behind the existing station hall, which, with the help of its platforms and concealed entry tracks, will increase passenger capacity, and will able to receive approximately 50% more trains than presently, when the capacity expansion projects of the lines leading to the station will also be completed. The reason why the Nyugati will have to be constructed underground is that it will also serve as the receiving station of the railway tunnel crossing the Danube, to be built later. According to this long-term concept, the Nyugati will go beyond its present function of being a terminus, as it will be partially converted into a through station, i.e. its train reception capacity will be even higher, serving about three times as many passengers boarding and disembarking here than nowadays.
The underground deep station with 4+4 tracks, and the 13 surface tracks, the lead tracks and the interlocking equipment will naturally meet 21st century technical requirements (in contrast to the present situation), and the same will be true to passenger services, e.g. approaching the trains will be wheelchair-accessible.
However, this development project is not only a railway development project but also one of urban development and landscaping. The building of Nyugati Railway Station, especially its central hall, is a precious Hungarian monument, therefore its values need to be preserved during modernisation. There will be no tracks in the hall in the future—it will be converted into a freely passable public space, inviting the public to spend some time inside, while being organically connected to the tracks running underneath it. The pedestrian zones will also have to be converted to cater for the massively increased future pedestrian traffic.
The surroundings of the station is one of Budapest’s most valuable areas, but also badly lacking green surfaces. Along with the Nyugati station, the surrounding public spaces will also be renovated; more human-centred, liveable, greener areas will replace today’s car parks or other underutilised railway rust-zones. Removing the overpass at Nyugati Square will open up the area for the Pest interconnected tramway lines, that is, the connection of the tracks now ending at Lehel Square with those now terminating at Deák Square.
The bidders had to present their ideas in the following specific topics: