One representative of the typical triangular blocks of houses bordering the circuses of the Lágymányos district is the block bounded by Kosztolányi Dezső Square, Bocskai Road, Tas vezér Street and Edömér Street. Its development was initiated in 1928 by an advocacy organization of the capital’s public servants. The purpose of the National Association of Public Servants of the Capital, or FANSZ for short, founded in 1919, was to facilitate access to housing for officials in the capital city by taking construction into their own hands. In September 1928, a petition was submitted to the municipality to ask for the capital’s support in the construction of family houses and flats for the organization's members. The development of the block took place between the beginning of 1931 and the end of 1938, on five plots, with five apartment houses. The result was a block with a connecting courtyard, with a large inner garden among the residential houses standing on the edges of the plot, similar to the opposite block on Kosztolányi Dezső Square (then Lenke Square). However, unlike the other Lenke Square block, its development did not take place in the spirit of the housing reform movement before World War I, but within the framework of the trend of building methods and floor plan systems that fit into modern architecture between the two World Wars: the spread of perimeter blocks and three-section apartments with an entry hall. Here, the forms of ownership were not formed as a result of experimenting with a reformer approach – which influenced the development of the other Lenke Square block – but were formed within a consolidated framework. Instead of the initial cooperative idea, the houses were realized based on home ownership, created on the basis of the 1924 condominium law. Although almost all of the five buildings were designed by a different architect – Ferenc Wihart was the only one who was commissioned for two houses standing next to each other in 1935/1936 and 1936/1937, respectively – the joint organization by FANSZ provided a unified framework for the development of the block, even if the construction was carried out here as well on a plot-by-plot basis. The external architectural features characteristic of the apartment buildings of the 1930s also created a uniform appearance of the block.

Available lots

The block of plots came into the property of the capital in 1927 by means of expropriation from the property of the heirs of Ármin Herz and the heir of Jakab Beimel, Sándor Beimel, for the purpose of resuming the construction of small flats in the capital in 1925-1926. At the beginning of 1927, the capital was preparing to launch another campaign to build small apartments. The so-called Herz and Beimel lot complex also came into view during the selection of areas partly owned by the capital city and partly to be purchased for the small flat housing estates to be built, the relevant part of which was offered to the city for purchase by the owners.

Since the development of the block did not take place in a business enterprise, but in an area owned by the city, with the capital's financial contribution and the sale of the land in several installments at a favorable price, the lot regulation and division did not proceed on the established track. According to an agreement concluded in 1928, the area belonging to the capital was used as a mowing field by an entrepreneur until the fall of 1931, when in September 1928, FANSZ turned to the city for support for housing construction. In May 1929, the decision was made that the capital was ready to transfer plots of land to them for the purpose of building condominiums. As a result, the city planning department designated two areas for transfer in November 1929: the plot on the corner of Horthy Miklós Road (today Bartók Béla Road) and Bertalan Street, as well as the block in question (lot number 4491). More specifically, the 6,002 m2 (in contemporary terms, 1669 Klafter) part of the more than 4-hectare (7-Joch) property under this lot number, which has not yet been planned for construction. In the spring of 1930, the general assembly decided to transfer an area of only 2,291 m2 (or 637 Klafter) to the construction of FANSZ condominiums, supporting the housing campaign through a 10-year interest-free loan.

In this case, in the housing construction campaign developed with the financial support of the capital, the lot regulation and division took place not after the purchase of the land, following the approval of the subdivision application, even before the construction, but in parallel with it. While in mid-July 1931, the first house in the block to be built, overlooking Lenke Square, was given a topping-off ceremony, the first division of the block took place during construction only two months before, in May 1931. The large area was divided into two parts, one larger than 3.4 hectares (6 Joche), and a 2,305-m2 (641 Klafter) plot overlooking Lenke Square (lot nr. 4491 was divided into 4491/1 and 4491/2, the latter forming the proposed building lot). This was the first step in a series that successively carved out lots for the purpose of apartment buildings, of the more than 7 Joche (4 hectares) of land once owned by Herz and Beimel, then acquired by the capital in 1927, thus leading to the creation of previously non-existent streets and the formation of the block itself.

In May 1933, the designation of the second housing lot took place with an area of 290 Klafter (1,043 square meters) with the division of lot nr. 4491/1 into 4491/3 and 4491/4, of which the latter formed the housing lot. In October 1935, another plot was divided, this time outside the area of the Lenke Square block, and then the next housing plot was carved out of the remaining area in February 1936 (under lot nr. 4491/8). Finally, the designation of the last two plots took place in September 1936, 156 and 337 Klafter in size (lot nr. 4491/9 and 4491/10, respectively). With this step, the block was divided into five plots and took shape by the beginning of 1936 as a result of the lot regulation and division process that began in May 1931 and lasted for five years, while the remaining part of the area of more than 5 Joche (2.8 hectares) was the subject of further divisions. All but one of the five plots were divided after the finalization of the construction plans or in parallel with the construction; only the last plot on the corner was designated before the start of the actual construction (lot nr. 4491/9).

The parallel process of plot division and construction can be clearly traced in the case of the plot facing Lenke Square: before the creation of the plot, in March 1931, the management committees of originally planned three separate condominiums jointly requested that the building permit be issued for the combined plans of the three residential buildings instead of the three separate condominiums originally envisioned, and they do not want their separation in the land register either. The reason behind the change was that the plot size for the corner house would have been too small according to the original plans with three separate houses. The plot was designated following this request, with the creation of only one plot instead of three separate ones.

Build-up forms and floorplan systems

The five apartment buildings were built one after the other between the beginning of 1931 and the end of 1938, approximately one per year. In exchange for the concession of the area, in accordance with the stipulations made by the capital concerning the construction, the development of the block started from Lenke Square, and the following house was always built on the adjacent lot, so the final one was built at the junction of Tas vezér and Edömér Street. The street line of the block as a whole appeared on the site plan of the houses proposed to be first built on Lenke Square in March 1930. According to this, the building of the block was to follow the principle of connecting courtyards. The implementation corresponded to this plan, the mass of the five residential buildings was realized as outlined in the spring of 1930, with minor deviations regarding the location of the stairwells located outside the inner facade. All of the five houses were built with a connecting courtyard layout, four with stairwells located outside the courtyard facade. Only the last condominium built at the junction of Tas vezér Street and Edömér Street was built with a closed stairwell, without a hanging corridor, adapting to the narrow dimensions of the triangular corner lot, where a hanging corridor would have no longer fit in the courtyard left open to the inside of the block. In the other buildings, the apartments were not accessible directly from the staircase, but through shorter and longer hanging corridor sections. In the first two houses built between 1931 and 1933 according to the plans of Lajos Martonosi Baráth and Tibor Hübner, respectively, the hanging corridors essentially spanned the full width of the courtyard facade. However, in the corner house designed by Lajos Martonosi Baráth, overlooking Lenke Square, this was solved – as a reminder of the originally planned division into three houses – by multiplying the staircases, which, in the case of a stairwell and the corresponding corridor sections, reduced the number of apartments connected to it to three.

Here, the two outermost apartments also had rooms facing the courtyard, although corridor traffic no longer took place in front of them, and thanks to the connecting courtyard, they did not face an enclosed courtyard, but the large garden inside the block. The designer of the house built in 1936–1937 on the side of Tas vezér Street, Ferenc Wihart minimized the hanging corridor, unlike in the house he also designed a year earlier, in 1935, on the plot opposite from the courtyard, where the hanging corridor took on a greater role: it almost went all the way in front of the courtyard facade, although the architect did not design openings to living rooms here. However, in the case of the house on Tas vezér Street, designed in 1936, two apartments were accessible through a short corridor section from each of the two staircases placed directly next to each other. These apartments had rooms opening directly to this pathway as well as other rooms looking to the courtyard but outside the length of the corridor. The low number of dwellings accessible from a staircase or on the same floor was a feature of all the houses, with 3-5 dwellings per floor. This kind of segregation was rooted in the thinking of the pre-World War I housing reform movement and corresponded to the middle-class housing ideal of the pre-1914 and then interwar concept of a flat as a substitute for the detached house, the idea of the architecturally separate private dwelling.

All the houses followed the new layout organization of the 1930s, the three-section plan with an entry hall. In four of the houses this was combined with a staircase and a hanging corridor outside the façade, which resulted in rooms facing the corridor or courtyard, although not always. The range of apartments was dominated by two- and three-bedroom apartments with a hall and a maid’s room, although one house also offered four-bedroom apartments. Only the corner house designed by József Szentgyörgyi, built in 1937-1938 at the junction of Tas vezér and Edömér Streets, had the three-section plan combined with an enclosed staircase that eliminated the hanging corridor. Thus, the apartment buildings of the block, built between 1931 and 1938, represented an intermediate phase in the development of apartment layouts in Budapest between the two World Wars, which preserved an earlier model in the placement of staircases and the access to the apartments, and combined it with the innovation of the layout – a three-section flat with a hall.

The condominium format

In the spring of 1930, the General Assembly's resolution in support of the FANSZ housing project stipulated, among the conditions attached to the land transfer, that the future condominiums should be formed as cooperatives. In November 1930, however, this clause had to be amended, as the officials planned to carry out the construction using the so-called LÁB loan, which was subsidized by the state but was only available to individuals, not to a cooperative operating as a registered company. As a result, the houses in the block were organized under the 1924 Condominium Act, with home ownership recorded in land registers in the form of subdivisions.

The provision of the condominium format was part of the overall housing concept of the capital. In the mid-1920s, financial stabilization and the prospect of the end of fixed housing circulation in the capital brought housing to the forefront of decision-making. The renewed focus on housing construction, through the possibilities of supporting private construction, also brought with it the idea of encouraging the pre-war construction of condominiums in Budapest from 1925-1926. The preference for public subsidies for private construction rather than official housing construction called for the development of subsidy schemes. Condominiums began to play a key role in the development of these schemes. In the debates that took place in 1925-1926, several politicians in the capital saw the condominium as the dominant form of housing of the future, and on more than one occasion they spoke of the condominium as the system of housing to be created in the capital. The idea of the condominium began to take shape at the scale of the housing system as a new form to replace the unsustainable tenement system: politicians who took a stand on this issue envisaged a transition from a tenement to a condominium system. They saw the way out of the pothole of private and municipal housing construction, which was becoming impossible due to lack of capital, in the middle class of the capital's population being able to pay for housing on plots of land provided by the capital through condominium construction, with the support of the city. In fact, the urban policy ideas on condominiums went beyond the urge to support the construction of housing, to the creation of a system of condominiums to run the imagined condominium system. The idea was put forward that the capital city should create a public authority to supervise condominiums, with the main function of ensuring the management and maintenance of the buildings, responding to the fundamental problem that the management of condominiums, entrusted to the community of owners, is a source of constant conflict. Regulation and supervision by the authorities would clearly have pushed the process towards the systematization of the condominium as a form of housing.

The same concepts were also formulated in 1929 in connection with the support of the FANSZ housing campaign in the capital. The basis was the transfer of plots of land in the capital in the form of leaseholds for the purpose of condominium construction, which was the cheapest way of building owner-occupied housing. The subsidy for the FANSZ condominiums would have been an explicit opportunity for the capital to experiment with ways of promoting private construction rather than public housing. The main thrust of this would have been the official development of a condominium system, based on the availability of small middle-class capital and the demand for owner-occupied housing as opposed to rental housing. Instead of the unattainability of a detached house on any small plot, condominiums were seen as a realistic way of building owner-occupied housing, especially in conjunction with the leasehold of plots in the capital, which would have eliminated land costs from the construction bill. And in this case, too, the idea of establishing official supervision of condominiums was associated with this, with official control of the operation of condominiums and then the takeover of housing management.

Ágnes Nagy (Translation from Hungarian: Barbara Szij)