Budapest balcony routine: Architecture

Tuesday, 14 april 2020

Budapest, Hungary

Joshua Straube

All over the world the hoards of art have become their prison. Today more than ever.

The museums are closed. Cultural institutions were among the first to close their doors due to Covid-19.

While people still enjoyed their time in bars and clubs, looking at art was already too infectious. Where otherwise visitors saunter through the corridors and halls, today a few curators and museum staff patrol in the deserted buildings.

They often share their perspective from the museums with the former visitors via social media. Anyone who does not have art at home currently only gets to see it to digital devices.

The screen of the smartphone seems to be the last window to the art world. A challenge for everyone. But especially for our eyes.

How can we still look at art with open eyes when it is merely received filtered through digital devices? I sit in the shade on the balcony. A cold sunlight shines on the houses across the street. Over the branches of the trees that sway slightly in the wind, I can see old facades.

They are stained and their plaster is often crumbling. But they are still here. They seem to me to be unnoticed and trivialy, the few walkers barely pay attention to them. And yet they remain the city's visible face. They are not only run-down witnesses of past times, but also of the restricted present. They limit our horizon. Anything behind them is not visible for us. But between all their stains and broken off parts of the wall, the facades begin to tell a story. If we look closely, we can read them.

The gables and the masonry, the mural reliefs and cornices, the superposition and the bel étage... innumerable art-historical terms refer to individual components of the facades. Their forms, techniques and materials refer back to the long history of architecture. We only have to take the time to decode them. Even well-known and ordinary buildings can surprise us then.

Baroque or Art Nouveau, Renaissance or Gothic, Romanesque or Art Deco...

even if epochs really existed, Budapest is concentrated eclecticism. With the facades we can trace the European architecture since antiquity. We can look back to Vitruv and beyond. It is worthwhile, whether on the balcony or from the window, to take a closer look at the facades of our neighbourhood. Search, discover, ask and see.

Let us keep our eyes active.

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