Communist Factory Bricks

Or how L’oreal reused the old and then lost its way and headed to Buda…

Or something like that. We live in the 14th District. On a corner not too far from where we live, there is an interesting sort of reverse archaeology going on. Back when my wife was just a tad younger, and after the regime change in 1989, L’oreal found itself wanting to make inroads into Hungary. They moved into an old communist factory building that had been (either they or some developer) made up to look quite new. My wife remembers them there quite distinctly because it was the first and only time she ever saw someone on their hands and knees trimming grass with shears. Hell, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone doing that. Anyway, the building is now being demolished, but you can still see some of its former glory from a movie trailer that was partially filmed in said building. On a side note, the air conditioning was out while they were filming this movie. The actors were apparently sweating like mad.

Now, a salvage company of sorts has begun to cherry pick what it can from the building. So, instead of a derelict building on the corner that was used to some extent by the homeless and graffiti taggers, you now have a half deconstructed building that sadly may be left in such a state. The interesting bit of reverse archaeology is that the bricks of the former Communist factory building have been re-exposed. You can even see later work where newer bricks replaced older ones when a new door was added to the factory. Have a look at the photos below to see what I mean.

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Now, cross your fingers with me that this won’t be left in this state. I have a strong feeling it will be until yet another overzealous developer comes along and builds a new office building on the corner. Until this happens, Hungária & Egressy is kind of the black hole of Zugló. Off the train line, sandwiched between Embassy row further up Egressy and between the somewhat pleasant confines of the leafier end of the 14th distritct that is home to nicely priced houses and a somewhat large number of luxury cars. Then there’s that corner again.

….Alas, some of the above information is wrong, or at the very least, poorly informed. In cases like this, I seek out the help of my Hungarian wife. Now, if she were to write this blog post, she would edit herself to lose at least 20 percent of her sarcasm and the like, but not so when I choose to include her reply to an e-mail I sent asking what she knew/could find out about this building. So, building deconstructed and blog writing process deconstructed as well. She is much more detail oriented than me. Also, she is often much funnier than I and also more on point. Just try to figure out who wins arguements between us (never mind who writes better blog posts in my opinion).

**My wife’s e-mail begins**

The building was originally redeveloped by Kontrax, a post-regime change company that had the first sexy commercials on tv and which also died a dubious death soon thereafter. They were about the launch the first private telecommunication company with a good number of future subscribers when it all came a-crumble.
The building is still celebrated as a landmark architectural development of the 1990s: the interiors were designed by Chicago-based architect Heimi Velez of Skidmore, Owings & Merill. There is a fairly recent article about how this building and this company was like a whiff of Manhattan / cosmopolitan power business. Anyway, Loreal was only renting it for a couple years after the collapse of Kontrax. The other thing people remember it that there was a large slab with the brand engraved right in front of the office building, like in films. It was at the time very far from Hungarian reality. In this battle of culture titans, the shiny Western business world did not take Hungarian reality by the hand to soar into new heights together. Instead, Hungarian reality seemed to bring it all back down to earth.

Interestingly, the bankrupt company was bought up by the Texas-based Jim Sowell Co for 1.5 million dollars. I don’t know if the building is now owned by them or someone else.
The article has many links to the 1990s commercials and the present state of the building.

The film was ‘Overnight’ with all the power actors of the time.
Film, suits, power, office technology – somehow Manhattan never really happened.

Some time ago I was looking for some images of the original tool factory or whatever it was, but couldn’t locate anything. The area behind it used to be the Aquincum organ factory, which has also been demolished in the process.

**My wife’s e-mail ends**

There was yet one more communique about this building site and corner. It contained the interesting information that the budding pro-wrestling community of Hungary had a couple of get-togethers in the short-lived Oli Beer garden that was established in place of the Organ factory. America IS HERE after all. You can even see a different side of the half-demolished building in the background of the photos. I have to admit that these wrestling photos look a bit like Sunnyvale Trailer Park (this reference is only for fans of the Trailer Park Boys). Where that hell is the Green Bastard?!?











There you have it. Now I fully understand that as a reader who also might be a tourist staying at our apartment here in Budapest that you probably won’t come out and see this wonder of wonders (see sites as they call them), but I always find it interesting to discover these oddities of normal life when I travel somewhere.

As for L’oreal, they eventually regrouped in a corner of Buda somewhere.

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