Posts Tagged ‘building’

Communist Factory Bricks

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

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.

We’re Open!

Monday, April 21st, 2014

We are now open and available for rent!

You can find us on Airbnb. Our ID number is 2764708.

The price should show your currency if all is working properly.

Our kitchen

Our kitchen










We have really enjoyed fixing this place up and we hope you like it to.

The White Room

The White Room










Come enjoy all Budapest & Hungary have to offer.

The Green Room

The Green Room










We look forward to hearing from you!

The Living Room

The Living Room










Come see us already!

Travelling Time for Tiles: Mettlachi

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

We had a little adventure in the land of flooring last month and I’ll take this opportunity to broaden your horizons about 1950s flooring in the Eastern Block, just in case you’re contemplating going on Mastermind or shooting an atmospheric film about the cold war.

To cut to the chase, one of the major decisive factors that made us fall in love with the future Chez Street & River was the fact that it still had all the 1953 floor tiles in surprisingly good condition. These floor tiles used to be pretty much the only thing available for hard floors in the 1950s. Everyone in Hungary (and probably in the rest of the CEE gang) is familiar with the sight of 10x10cm burgundy-and-cream or black-and-mottled cream tiles adorning everything that needs a good wet mopping time to time, from prisons, schools and hospitals, to your grandmother’s kitchen, bathroom and pantry. They usually came in two-tone checks, or when jazzy creativity or necessity struck, in broken-up mosaic form. The ubiquity of the stuff obviously resulted in a whole generation growing up hating it, but younger people begin to look at it with increasing fondness.

The more evolved and poncey cousins of our humble checks, the much-coveted Spanish and Moroccan cement tiles are now in vogue and available in Hungary, and their trendy lack of sheen revived a nostalgic longing for the simpler, utilitarian style of the Eastern European fifties.  The internationally fashionable industrial decor, which normally doesn’t resonate well with average Hungarian tastes, also began to lead some adventurous spirits back into the arms of grandmother’s checkered floors. (Floors, arms, oh it’s late, innit. Sorry.) Although, they are now normally sold at the same vintage stores, the tiles in question are not to be confused with the prohibitively expensive, but stunning cement tiles, which have quickly become the most sought after option among shabby chic aficionados.

The likes of Iamart and  and the wonderful Moza are normally bigger, thicker tiles made of a cement-based material. They have beautiful patterns and a rather porous surface that allows graceful aging. Our modest little two-tone tiles, however, are made of a hard, compressed clay-based material, which is coloured, but never patterned or glazed, and then fired at a high temperature. It is called mettlachi, after the name of the German town of Mettlach (now best known as the proud home of Villeroy & Boch), probably where it was first produced for export in large quantities. As with most German loanwords, the Hungarian language didn’t treat the odd foreign name kindly in the past six decades, and mettlachi  is now affectionately known and spelled in a thousand different ways.  Our contractor, for example, calls it metlahit, but I’ve seen in spelled as metlaki, meklachi, etc., which makes it real hard to find people selling the stuff on the Internet.

But why, oh why would you look for it on the Internet if you have it all covered, you may ask. Well, life is just ne’er that simple. The flat used to have but a tiny tiled entrance hall, originally designed to have a couple of coat hooks on the wall and maybe a small cabinet near the door to put your bakelite phone and a Sokol radio on. This we decided to enlarge to make room for a small table and chairs, with the added bonus of turning a glazed door around to let more light into this windowless room. This decision, however, raised the problem of creating an extra two square meters of floor in the hallway, which we had no tiles for.

The flat, built in 1953 based entirely on a Russian standard building system, has mettlachi tiles throughout, except the two parqueted rooms. We were dead set on preserving the period tiles, so we decided to replace the original tiles in the bathroom and toilet and use the salvaged material for the extension in the hallway. Little did we know that the ghost of Soviet Russia is still out there having a hell of a time laughing at us, long after the cold war. How inconsiderate.

Designed in Soviet Russia, executed in Communist Hungary, one would expect the damn tiles to come off the cement base just by offering it a shot of vodka, but man, they built this flat for eternity and a day. You have to know that mettlachi is not just sitting on some wimpy New Age water-based glue and then asked politely to stay there, like them superlight trendy little ceramic tiles and bamboo boards. It is laid directly into what Hungarian builders call mischung, a thick mixture of cement and sand. Once that sets, it’s there for good. I was nervously looking at our builders trying to delicately peel the tiles off the old mischung, but it held on stronger than Putin’s fists, which are actually known to have killed all the Chuck Norris jokes by themselves, unarmed. The tiles just didn’t come up. Well, they did, but in pieces.

So there we stood with two square meters of untiled hallway, and now an untiled bathroom and toilet too. Awesome. Then we thought, we just won’t get knocked down this easy. After two days of frantic Internet searching and a visit to a place where they sell replica-mettlachi made of cement tiles for heroin prices (£45/sqm), we located 15 square meters of the good stuff in Öttevény.

Öttevény is situated about a lightyear from Budapest and Clayton’s driving licence had expired some time ago. Awesome again. Things were not looking good.

And then along came Lady Luck in the portly form of Attila, our contractor, who is luckily very much like Rabbit from Winnie The Pooh. He’s not very rabbit-like, but he has innumerable friends, relatives and business partners, which was fortunate, because he happened to know a dude who travels to Austria across Öttevény, peddling spectacle frames. What were the odds? One in a million. Anyway, he got it sorted, and all we had to worry about were the tiles being the right shade. What were the odds? One in a million again. As it happens, they were the right shade. The right size. And all. And the 15 square meters, brand new (well, about sixty years old, but never used) cost us less than £40. They were delivered on time in all kinds of fruit crates, margarine boxes and soggy cardboard – in mint condition.  Lucky!

Our tile guy said he was in the last class that was made to learn how to lay tiles directly into mischung. Had he been one year younger he would have been entirely unversed in this lost art. Against all odds, the tiled hallway is now ready and looks fab, and you really can’t tell it’s not the real thing, because it IS the real thing – with a little recent history.

We have now decided that this flat must love us, as everything is going so well; it hasn’t been the decoration hell we were dreading. Next up: the more visible and exciting part of rebuilding our little downtown pied-à-terre: decorating and laying the parquet! Big shout out to Viki Kiss, who supplied a generous helping of real old-fashioned hardwood parquet. Now, similar to our ‘new-old’ tiles, our rooms will be bedecked in oak, which is really old, but never been laid before. It seems what’s bad for humans is good for floors. With this terrible joke, I shall bid you goodnight, because it’s late and I have to force my jetlagging brain to go to sleep on time.

Not to jinx it, but here’s a little sneak preview

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Some of you may already suspect that we’ve been quiet because we’re busy. Some of you may already have guessed what with. We may have fallen in love. We may have said yes. We may as well be super excited… Here are a couple of mysterious photos to whet your appetite.


Hiding behind foliage is not easy in October




This is not a swimming pool. And it’s not even ours.


Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt – Those who rush across the sea change their sky, not their soul. ― Horace, The Odes of Horace


Street and River. Literally.


The Hood.

More pictures and info to come, but we need to feed the pencil-pushers and ink-lickers of the Republic of Hungary first. We will definitely keep you posted as we get down to the nitty-gritty of turning this place into the best place to be.

I know this is still pretty enigmatic, but do let us know what you think so far!


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