Delicate, beguiling and studded with trees, the museum has landed in a Budapest park – but behind it is a controversial €1bn vision by rightwing populist leader Viktor Orbán
A great big crumpet appears to have landed in the middle of Budapest’s City Park, its circular hole-studded mass impaled on a thicket of trees. It droops down here and there, revealing little terraces cut into its top, and flares up elsewhere, showing off a sparkling underside of tiny golden leaves.
This surreal sight is the work of Sou Fujimoto, a Japanese architect known for making his models out of piles of crisps, washing-up scourers, or whatever else may be to hand. In this case, it wasn’t a crumpet but a lotus root that inspired this canopy, which now provides an otherworldly home for the capital’s new House of Hungarian Music. In a city that already has a renowned opera house, music academy and numerous concert halls, what could this €80m (£67m) project possibly add?
“We want to show the wonder of music to a younger generation,” says music historian András Batta, managing director of the new centre, which opened on Hungarian Culture Day this weekend. He is standing in the building’s glade-like interior, where oval openings bring light down through the swooping ceiling, and an aperture in the floor gives a glimpse of the exhibition level below. Faceted glass walls enclose a 320-seat concert hall and a small lecture theatre, while a suspended staircase spirals up to a library, cafe and classrooms, housed in the undulating roof. “Budapest has a very rich musical life already,” he adds, “so we didn’t want to repeat what you can get elsewhere. This is not just for high and classical, but ethnic, folk and pop – the really exciting side of music.”
The building is one of the first major elements of the €1bn Liget project, a controversial vision concocted by populist prime minister Viktor Orbán’s rightwing government to transform the Városliget area into a showcase of Hungarian national culture. A €120m Museum of Ethnography is nearing completion nearby, in the form of two gigantic sloping wedges rearing up out of the ground, clad in a strange lacy wrapping that nods to Hungarian national dress.