Based on the decision of the Evaluation Committee of the international architectural design contest, a team led by international architects Grimshaw will design the new Nyugati Railway Station and its surroundings. Two entries were awarded second prize in the contest launched by the Budapest Development Agency last October: the firm of Austrian architect Albert Wimmer and AREP Architects from France. The consortium of Zaha Hadid Architects and Finta and Partners Architects won third place and the Evaluation Committee have also offered to purchase the entry of the Japanese-Hungarian duo of Kengo Kuma & Associates + M-Teampannon.
Based on the Budapest Suburban Railway Strategy approved by the Hungarian Government, the Budapest Development Agency (BFK) launched the architectural design contest for the Nyugati Railway Station in October 2021. BFK expected the bidding architecture companies to do a complex task, designing modern, worthy urban spaces and lots of green areas, but the Evaluation Committee has never for a moment forgotten what Nyugati really is: a railway station and a metro station, therefore the bidders primarily had to present a design proposal for a modern transport hub for passengers. And, amongst other things, this is why the winning bid came out as the strongest one, promising not only a beautiful, but also a usable station that can definitely be built and easily operated in the future.
The winner is the team led by international architects Grimshaw with team members Nautes Architects from Budapest, global engineering firm WSP, landscape architects Vogt from Zurich, and global project management company Turner & Townsend.
Of all the applicants, Grimshaw was one of the most experienced station designers. Grimshaw was founded in London in 1980 and has now grown to have 7 offices worldwide (London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Dubai, Melbourne and Sydney). Thanks to the company, London Bridge Station was redesigned to accommodate 90 million passengers per year and has since won numerous architectural awards. Grimshaw is also involved in designing the line-wide architecture for the soon-to-open Elizabeth Line London a new rail line stretching 60 miles from the west and east of London, and the new terminus for the UK’s High Speed Rail (HS2) project currently under construction. The design of the Biljmer ArenA railway station in Amsterdam, which welcomes 60,000 passengers a day, is also credited to the company. In Australia they also designed Melbourne’s Southern Cross railway station and design all 19 stops for Sydney’s Central Business District and South East Light Rail scheme. The renewal of the Fulton Center subway transit hub in New York is also one of the firm’s notable projects.
The Hungarian company Nautes Architects is involved not only in the renovation of old buildings (Aquincum Museum, the building of the new Hungarian Museum of Transport in the diesel hall of the former Northern Vehicle Maintenance Depot) but also in transport planning, for example, when designing the future Közvágóhíd station of the Southern Railway Ring in Budapest, and right underneath it, the new stations of the Ráckeve and Csepel suburban railway lines, commissioned by BFK.
As Balázs Fürjes, Chair of the Evaluation Committee said during the announcement ceremony held in Budapest: “The Nyugati Station’s original designer, the famous Eiffel office was selected in an international competition back in the 19th century, the first of its kind in Hungary. Now, in the 21st century we are opening a new historic chapter in the life of Nyugati with the selection of the world class future designer of the extended railway station. Nyugati will be more than just a transport hub with many railway lines and two metro stations but a meeting point and an urban community space. Railways are the gold reserve of urban transport which we need to exploit.”
“There are now 18 million people using Nyugati on an annual basis. Our goal is to double that figure by 2040. We will build the largest railway hub not just in Budapest but throughout the country as the crown jewel of our long-term strategy. The hub’s architecture, design, urban environment, and functionality all need to reflect the key role of Nyugati plays in the future while paying tribute to the historic Eiffel Hall.” – added Dávid Vitézy, Co-chair of the Evaluation Committee, CEO of the Budapest Development Agency responsible for regional railway developments in the Budapest metropolitan area.
A 21 tagú nemzetközi zsűrit Fürjes Balázs, Budapest és az agglomeráció fejlesztéséért felelős államtitkár vezette, társelnöke Vitézy Dávid, a Budapest Fejlesztési Központ vezérigazgatója, illetve Füleky Zsolt építészeti, építésügyi és örökségvédelmi helyettes államtitkár. A zsűri munkájában számos tapasztalt építész vett részt, a MÁV, a Magyar Építész Kamara és a Magyar Mérnöki Kamara delegáltjai, valamint Erő Zoltán fővárosi főépítész, Iványi Gyöngyvér országos főépítész, Massányi Katalin XIII. kerületi főépítész, Győrffy Máté, Terézváros alpolgármestere, valamint a brit pályaműködtető Network Rail és a cseh pályavasút Sprava železnic építészeti vezetői is.
Balázs Fürjes, State Secretary for the Development of Budapest and its Agglomeration – Chair
Zsolt Füleky, Deputy State Secretary for Architecture, Construction and Heritage Protection – Co-Chair
Dávid Vitézy, CEO of Budapest Development Agency (BFK) – Co-Chair
Gyöngyvér Iványi – National Chief Architect
László Mosóczi – State Secretary for Transport Policy, Ministry of Innovation and Technology
Marianna Szetei-Szőke – MÁV, Head of the Chief Architect’s Office
Zoltán Erő – Chief Architect, Budapest Capital
Máté Győrffy – Deputy Mayor of District VI of Budapest responsible for Urban Development
Katalin Massányi – Chief Architect, District XIII of Budapest
Anthony Gall – Ybl Award-winning architect
Katalin Csillag – architect
László Molnár – civil engineer, transport economics engineer
Bálint Dományi – Head of Urban Development and Design, BFK
László Somodi – Director-General of Transport Development, BFK
Csaba Tóth – Building Construction Lead Expert, BFK
Judit Z. Halmágyi – Pro Architectura Award-winning architect
Anthony Dewar – Professional Head, Buildings and Architecture, Network Rail
Mojmír Nejezchleb – Deputy Director-General for Railway Modernisation, Správa železnic (Czech Railway)
Tihamér Szalay – Vice-President, Hungarian Chamber of Architects
Sándor Fegyverneky – architect
Judit Rab – Head of Urban Planning and Design, BFK
The protected historical building of the Eiffel Hall, which has recently been renovated as part of a government investment project, will remain unchanged, but there will be no tracks on the ground floor of the Hall itself, only underneath it, as the ultimate goal is that the building would serve as the entrance to the planned railway tunnel from the Nyugati Station via Széll Kálmán tér to Kelenföld Station. Under the Hall there is enough space for four tracks — this will be a section designated for suburban trains. Behind them, in a wider space but still under ground, will be another section of the station for long-distance trains. Partly above this, meaning also behind the Hall, thirteen tracks will remain on the surface.
One of the requirements of the design contest was that these 13 tracks should also be covered by a hall because passengers also need to be protected from rain, snow and sunshine, and the station should look like a station in the cityscape, not merely as a set of tracks. For each bidder, this new hall was where they could best show their design skills, making it the centrepiece of the architectural designs, as neither of the applicants wanted to change the basic outlook of the listed hall, which, by the way, was not even allowed in the contest. The winning design provides an exemplary solution to the relationship between the two halls: the new one does not want to outgrow the old one, but at the same time, with its clearly separate mass, the independence of the new hall is also highlighted, while its colours and materials and the angle of its roof evoke the Eiffel building. It is a rare, interesting and innovative solution that the roof ridges of the new hall are not parallel to the tracks, but perpendicular to them.
The main reason why the Evaluation Committee awarded first place to the UK team was that their entry was assessed to be the best in creating a well-functioning station from a practical point of view. Pedestrian movements throughout the whole area have been well-considered. The plan is that Nyugati will become Hungary’s main railway station—it is the busiest station already, but many more trains will stop here, and trains will come from a significantly higher number of Hungarian cities in the future, as the capacity of the station will be increased. 300,000 passengers will pass through here every day, but the area serves not only them, but pedestrians also. The design of the underpasses, the underground spaces, also excels in not forgetting that Nyugati is an important transit point to the existing metro line 3 and the future line 5. Using cut-outs to let in natural light and air proved to be a great idea, and they also play a part in providing a safety boundary for the railway area. However, the surface is also important, with the cross axis between Váci út and Podmaniczky utca running as a pedestrian walkway in front of the end of the surface station tracks, thus directly connecting the station to the park along Podmaniczky utca and to Nyugati tér, essentially along the line of the main entrance to the Westend City Centre shopping mall. Passenger service facilities, shops and rentals are optimally located in the main direction of passenger flow.
The roof covers all the platforms, and behind it a new transverse pedestrian walkway is opened from the Millennium Courtyard of the Westend City Centre, more precisely the central courtyard of the shopping centre where most of the escalators and lifts can be found. This will provide easy access from Újlipótváros (District XIII) to the railway station via Westend City Centre, or to the new park planned along Podmaniczky utca and to Terézváros (District VI), by crossing the tracks on the roof line.
While showing respect, the UK team was also brave enough to make some changes to the Eiffel building, proposing to open up its sides, so that the hall can be easily accessible from three directions, making it an ideal station lobby with good access to both the surface and underground platforms. People walking along the Grand Boulevard will essentially be able to take a short detour through the Eiffel Hall, spend some time in the beautiful historic building which will retain its function as a station, as there will be 4 tracks underneath, accessible from the hall by lifts and escalators.
Another great idea that is worth mentioning is the solution applied to the road traffic on Lehel Square to create a space for pedestrians and trams. It should be noted that BFK’s design contest has been built on the long-time plan of removing the Váci út overpass, which will create the possibility to connect the tram lines ending at Lehel Square and Deák Square. The humanisation of Nyugati Square and the demolition of the overpass were also supported by the Evaluation Committee.
The call for entries published by BFK in October 2021 attracted 36 entries from several continents, and it was clear already back then that the best station designers in the world were interested in the Nyugati Railway Station architectural design contest. Out of the 36 offices and consortia, 12 bidders were shortlisted in early December 2021 based on previously announced objective criteria and references. We organised a conference and a tour for them and answered their questions to provide a solid foundation for them to work, as in the next round they had to present their ideas on design drawings and visual designs for some parts of the tasks for the renewal of the Nyugati Railway Station and its surroundings. On 1 March 2022, we opened the tenders which were labelled with numbers only, and the Evaluation Committee started to pull them to pieces. Therefore, the identity of the designer could not play a role in the Committee’s decision: the design contest was confidential. The winner, announced on 26 March 2022, will be given the task of designing the details of Hungary’s new main railway station, the underground and above-ground parts of the new Nyugati and its surroundings. However, the final result does not necessarily have to represent the Grimshaw team’s original entry, as a lengthy design process will be undertaken over several years and ideas from other awarded entries will be used to further develop the winning design.
The Evaluation Committee selected two bidders as runners-up. One of them is the office of the Austrian architect Albert Wimmer. They designed the main railway station in Vienna, and a similar style can be seen in their design for Budapest. Their other major similar development project in Vienna was the Praterstern Station, but they have also worked in other cities of the region. The Austrian architecture company submitted a thoroughly developed professional design with a roofing solution previously applied at the Vienna Main Station and now further developed for the Nyugati Railway Station.
Second place went also to AREP, which was set up in 1997 by the French State Railways (SNCF) as an independent design company and, as such, has been involved in the development of many railway stations in France.
BFK was looking for ideas for the regeneration of the whole area, from Dózsa György út to Lehel utca and Podmaniczky utca. The aim is to have not only a modern railway station, but also a more liveable urban space, freeing up areas of redundant railway functions and making them green, with a new congress centre on a private land. Bidders had to present an urban vision for the whole area in a so-called master plan, with less details than in the case of the new track hall.
In this category, the Evaluation Committee found the French entry to be the best. The French team very cleverly connected Districts VI and XIII with a large green area and also with three separate bridges that are easier to build. In their design, the layout of the park parallel to Podmaniczky utca and the buildings of the area is also ingenious and varied, opening up the space in front of the remaining building of the former locomotive site (which will of course be given a new function), and the design of the space becoming narrower towards Dózsa György út is also very clever.
The Evaluation Committee placed the entry of a British-Hungarian-Italian consortium of well-known names in third place. The team of architects led by József Finta have been active in Budapest for decades, and they had designed the WestEnd City Centre shopping mall, which was completed in the 1990s and is connected to Nyugati Railway Station. Named after its late world-famous founder, the Zaha Hadid office has designed several railway stations in Central Europe. Buro Happold, one of the world’s leading engineering firms, is involved in the design of the new Galvani Bridge and the Museum of Transport, both in Budapest. According to the Evaluation Committee, the use of materials and colours showing respect towards the Eiffel Hall and the generous green connection between Lehel tér and Vágány utca are noteworthy in this entry.
BFK will also purchase the entry of the Japanese-Hungarian duo. M-Teampannon, headed by Tamás Noll, an Ybl Prize-winning architect, was founded in the 1990s and has become known for its residential and public building designs. The Japanese Kengo Kuma & Associates, founded in 1988, has offices in Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and Paris, and has a proven track record in fixed-rail transport planning, including the Shibuja Station in Tokyo, designed by the company and opened in 2019, which, as a hub of nine railway lines, serves millions of passengers every day. According to the members of the Evaluation Committee, the strength of this bid lies in its master plan, i.e. its vision for urban development. It includes a good proportion of green spaces and organises the underpass system and the passenger flow very efficiently.
In the area of transport, the main problem in Budapest today is that most people living in the metropolitan area commute to the capital city by car, because there is no high-quality, fast, dense fixed-track transport available. Many experts believe that the development of railway and suburban rayway lines is the solution, as has already been done in many big cities like Budapest, both in Europe and around the world. The Budapest Suburban Railway Strategy, adopted by the Hungarian Government at the end of 2021, envisions this development package.The crown jewel is the strategy is the Nyugati Station which is underpinned by capacity increases all throughout the rail lines entering Budapest, these days all ending at classical terminal stations.
However, no more trains can arrive at or depart from present-day terminal stations. The only way to increase suburban train services is to unblock the dead-ends of such terminal stations. Taking all circumstances into account, the above solution can best be realised by connecting Nyugati Station in Pest and Kelenföld Station in Buda by a railway tunnel in a way that the Déli Station in Buda moves underground as an intermediate stop on the railway tunnel in the area of Széll Kálmán tér. Thanks to the through stations capacity is multiplied.
The new Nyugati Station must therefore also have an underground section so that the tunnel planned for the future can start from there— more pecifically, from the suburban platforms under the Eiffel Hall. However, the size of the suburban section is limited by the foundations of the walls of the historic Hall, which is why there would be additional, longer platforms for long-distance trains behind the Hall. As long as there is no tunnel (i.e. the underground section of the station will continue to serve trains as a terminus), this design will increase the capacity of Nyugati Railway Station, together with the remaining tracks on the surface, if the railway lines leading to it are upgraded. And when the tunnel is operational, many of the trains that now only run from Kelenföld to Déli or Keleti will reach Nyugati, making it the main railway station. The station of Liszt Ferenc International Airport will also be accessible from here when the new railway line between Monor and Kőbánya-Kispest is completed, easing the passenger burden on the Cegléd line.
The design contest and the preparatory works are supported by the Cohesion Fund of the European Union and the Government of Hungary.
The results of the international design contest launched by the Budapest Development Agency (BFK) were presented by Balázs Fürjes, Chairman of the Evaluation Committee and State Secretary for the Development of Budapest, Dávid Vitézy, CEO of BFK, and Zoltán Erő, Chief Architect of Budapest.