The Radetzky Barracks lost protected status and will be demolished by pro-government investors
A permit for the almost complete demolition has been issued for the Radetzky Barracks, which has until recently been protected as a monument in the historic 2nd District of Budapest. Earlier, conservation organisations and experts, and even UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee warned the government not to let the 180-year-old former barracks be destroyed, yet the investment was granted a special status by the Hungarian government, which overwrites architectural heritage protection restrictions.
The two companies owning the building are now planning a hotel and modern offices to replace the former barracks. One of these companies is owned by government commissioner György Wáberer. In his official position Wáberer, a billionaire businessman is responsible for the development of the Tokaj-Zemplén region, part of which is a UNESCO listed world heritage area. Meanwhile one of his companies is one of the owners of a construction project destroying a historic building on the rim of the Budapest World Heritage site.
The investment has been given the status of “of national economic importance” associated with the abolition architectural heritage protection restrictions on previously protected buildings.
This is not the first time when a protected building is sacrificed to government-friendly real estate investors in Budapest. The same happened in the case of Heinrich Court, a monument building in the 8th district of Budapest, and also in the case of the MAHART House, an investment in the 5th district by a company owned by the Prime Minister’s son in law and the former head of the Hungarian National Asset Management Inc.
A construction company with good political connections (Heinrich Passage Ingatlanfejlesztő Zrt.) managed to achieve that a 130 year old building in central Budapest partially lost its status as a protected monument. A recent government decree gave the building project including this court (the Heinrich Court) a special status of
We have been covering the increasingly uncertain fate of the former Radetzky Barracks in several articles. We also described how difficult it was to get any information from government institutions during the preparation of these articles. We were only given access to the executive summary of the report sent by the Hungarian government in reply to UNESCO after the organisation objected to several points in the practice of monument protection in Hungary, also mentioning the situation of the Radetzky barracks.
From the demolition plans obtained by Atlatszo we learned that the investor intends to demolish almost the entire building except for the front wall overlooking Bem Square.
At a public forum on the Radetzky investment organised by the local council on 8 October, all opposition parties were represented, collecting signatures, protesting with signs, asking questions from the representative of the construction company. At this event, the investor tried to present the project as a way of “tidying up” Bem Square, serving the interest of locals. He highlighted the poor condition of the building and the fact that it was not particularly valuable from an architectural point of view.
As it was revealed at a recent press conference, this construction has the full support of the government and that one of the permits was granted by Minister Gergely Gulyás himself. The district government is trying to take action against the demolition of the building, but the authority acting in the matter has not even given them a “client right” which would allow them to be informed of procedures related to the building.
Activists and an opposition MP, Bence Tordai launched online petitions to save the former Radetzky Barracks. Tordai also turned to the Ombudsman and submitted an amendment to the law in oder to give local governments a say in such priority investments. A local council member in the 2nd district, Veronika Juhász (representing the Two Tailed Dog Party) is also vocal about the issue, and complains on lack of information from the relevant authorities.
Written by Gabriella Horn, aerial photos by Dániel Németh. Click here for the Hungarian version of this article.