In a triangular area located in Lágymányos, bordered by Villányi Road, Bartók Béla Road (then Átlós Road) and Karolina Road, the construction of two estates consisting of detached houses was started in 1907-1908. The two blocks of flats, located a few blocks apart, were not independent of each other: they were linked by their initiators, their building concept and the underlying suburban vision. Both were inspired by the principles of the housing reform movement. Criticism of tenement housing and the idea of home ownership formed the basis of the idea of a housing estate of detached houses on small plots of land. The family house as an ideal form of home ownership, i.e. comfortable, hygienic, allowing for separate family life and affordable, was intended to be promoted as a solution to the housing problems of the middle classes in Budapest, at the same time as the other direction of housing reform in Budapest, the construction of condominiums, was taking off. Its designers drew on the suburb idea when they thought in terms of units larger than a block, on the scale of a colony, to find the right framework for the construction of council housing that would meet the basic criteria of economical construction and affordable housing for the middle class.
The area south of Villányi Road, targeted by the two development actions, was part of a suburban vision that, given its location, natural features and urban development direction, saw in the area south of Gellért Hill the potential for a well accessible middle-class suburb close to the centre, if appropriate development concepts were followed. In the spring of 1907, an architect, Ferenc Császár, published a paper in which he identified the area between Villányi Road, Fehérvári Road and the railway line to the south as the ideal location for a development zone for middle-class, closed-row houses with a common courtyard layout. (see Ferenc K. Császár: Családi lakóházak. [Family houses.] A Magyar Mérnök- és Építész-Egylet Heti Értesítője, 1907, 18. (19 May 1907) 197–200.) It was precisely at this time, in April and May 1907, that the Budapest Real Estate Bank Ltd., founded the previous year and engaged in real estate transactions, began advertising in newspapers a planned housing estate of detached houses in the area south of the aforementioned triangle, on the other side of the railway and west of Fehérvári Road, with the plan that the estate would be completed in 1908. Due to sewage issues, the settlement never came to anything, however, in November 1908, a newly formed association, the Tűzhely Háztulajdont Szerzők Egyesülete (“Fireplace” Association of People Acquiring House Ownership), started to advertise a detached housing estate in the area under the title "Budapest-Kertváros" (“Budapest-Suburb”), with the designation "the Villányi Road detached housing estate". The map and text accompanying the advertisement also named the other, equally multi-block detached housing estate as the "Átlós–Lenke Road estate", which fitted into the same suburb concept. While the Villányi Road estate, which was the subject of the advertisement, was parceled out and built on at the end of June 1908 with the purchase of the property, the other estate had been built six months earlier, in December 1907.
The first “suburb action” was launched in the southern end of the triangle, between Lenke Roadt (now Bocskai Road) and Hamzsabégi Road, along Dinnye Street, Vincellér Street, Magyarádi Street and Kökörcsin Street, in the area surrounded by Villányi Road, Átlós Road and Karolina Road. The more than 3.4 hectares (6 Joch) parcel of land under the old parcel number 13860 was purchased in December 1907 by the National Officials' Association, in the framework of which Sámuel Holek, a bank official who played a key role in the establishment of condominiums in Budapest, together with two architects, József Fischer and Guidó Hoepfner, and Dr. Ágost Benárd, a doctor, bought the land in December 1907. Samuel Holek was the largest investor, with 35% of the shares, with Hoepfner owning a quarter of the property and Fischer and Dr. Benárd buying 20% each.
They started the development a month later: on 28 January 1908, they submitted their plot division application to the capital (BFL IV.1407.b 1440/1908-II. Plot division application, 28 January 1908). According to the plot division plan, 49 plots were to be created, of which 46 were also marked with a building plan. However, the capital refused to grant the parceling permit on the grounds that the plot sizes were too small, much smaller than the minimum required by the building regulations, and the council issued a rejection notice on 7 May 1908. An appeal was lodged on 29 May. The Council of Public Works of the Capital accepted their arguments this time, and on 11 August they applied to the council for a subdivision permit, which they received only months later, at the beginning of 1909, for fifty plots. By this time, Dr. Benárd had already gone out of business, selling his one-fifth share of the property to the house owner Mrs. Henrik Schmidtbauer née Sarolta Rausch on 12 December 1908. Thus, from that time on, Sámuel Holek, József Fischer, Guidó Hoepfner and Mrs Henrik Schmidtbauer were the owners of the land and participants in the land parceling business.
The smallest of the plots was 117 Klafter (420 m2) and the largest 390 Klafter (1400 m2), but the majority of the plots were between 140 and 250 Klafter (500–900 m2), i.e. smaller than the 300 Klafter minimum required by the building regulations. There was only one plot smaller than 140 Klafter, and a total of five plots larger than 250 Klafter (three between 260 and 280 Klafter and two between 360 and 400 Klafter). More than half of the plots fell within the 140 to 190 Klafter range, and a third of them between 190 and 250 Klafter (twenty-eight and sixteen plots, respectively). The key issue in the late January 1908 plot division application, noted by two architects who also entered the deal as investors, József Fischer and Guidó Hoepfner, was the deviation from the 300 Klafter minimum plot size in Building Zone IV, which was quite common in other areas as well. Throughout their submission, they argued for a plot size of 150-200 Klafter which was much smaller than the required minimum. They cited the healthy and economical nature of this type of development and the lack of capital required for plots with an area of 300 Klafter, which made both apartment building and uneconomic villa building impossible, whereas smaller plots of up to two-storey houses with four to five apartments would be an affordable and beneficial capital investment for those with smaller assets. They also argued that this area will be reclassified to Zone II in the new building regulations, which will provide for a closed row without a front garden on smaller plots.
The sale of plots began in the first half of February 1909 and lasted for four months, until June 1909. Of the forty-nine building plots, fifteen failed to sell, i.e. nearly a third of them proved unsellable during 1909. As for the buyers, five of the plots were acquired by banks, one by the Hungarian General Real Estate Bank Ltd. and four by the Szepes Credit Bank and Central Savings Bank. The emergence of the latter financial institution as an investor among the buyers was no coincidence: the bank was founded in 1900 by Guidó Hoepfner's father, Gusztáv Hoepfner, and after his death, his second son, Gusztáv Jr. became its director.
Although the plot owners’ original idea was to start construction as early as 1908 – eight to ten houses were planned to be built during the year, and in early 1909 they proposed the construction of twenty houses in one of their submissions – the process stalled due to the lack of a permit from the capital. The rejection by the capital, however, pushed the developers towards a more detailed development of their concept. The building plan itself was drawn up by József Fischer in early 1908, who presented it in detail in a supplementary statement of grounds to their appeal of late May 1908, submitted on 9 June 1908. In this way, the concept of the architectural design was verbalized in addition to the plan. In its own development, the capital city has identified the impossibility of building single-family houses as a fundamental shortcoming due to the excessive minimum plot size required by the building regulations. Since, in their view, the high cost of land in Zone II made it impossible to build detached houses, the only option was Zone IV, where the 300 Klafter minimum plot size was too high. They decided that the direction of development in the form of smaller homes should be marked by smaller detached housing estates as the population's desire for their own home became more apparent – something which the authorities decided to help to achieve by allowing smaller plots, an issue which the building regulations shall also put in place. In line with this development, the essence of their plan was to subdivide the area in question into 140-200-Klafter plots for the construction of smaller detached houses, which will in any case comply with the new building regulations.
At the same time, the building plan of the block underwent a transformation in the year between the beginning of 1908 and May 1909. The original Fischer plan was annexed to their application for the subdivision on 28 January 1908. A copy of the same plan, also signed by Fischer and dated 1 August 1908, was also submitted without any changes. No other subdivision plan was subsequently published in the parceling case itself. However, the plans for the licensing of a house belonging to Kálmán Löllbach, who had undertaken planning work on the parcel, were accompanied by a plan of the plot layout and subdivision which showed a different type of development. (Concerning the house at 8 Dinnye Street (old lot nr. 13860/9) BFL XV.17.d.329 – 4515) This plan was presumably made in Löllbach's office, and since it was approved by the Engineering Office of the capital on 24 May 1909, it was probably created a few weeks earlier, in the spring of 1909. The difference between Fischer's drawing of January 1908 and Löllbach's drawing of around May 1909 was not only the change in the development concept, but also the shrinkage of the development plan. The Fischer plan covered the entire area of lot nr. 13860, with the architect omitting only three parcels because of the prohibition of building on them due to their shape. The Löllbach plan, on the other hand, omitted three blocks from the concept and covered only one complete block and two sub-blocks that fell only partially within the area of the property to be subdivided. This meant that only thirty-two plots out of fifty were included, perhaps in anticipation of building difficulties, remaining land adjustments and sales disruptions.
The direction of change between the two plans was towards more enclosed development. The Fischer plan showed a loosely built-up concept with front gardens, in which the maximum two-storey dwellings were either detached – more so on the corner plots – or arranged in groups of two, three, four or, in some places, five. In addition to the eight detached houses, the most common groupings were triples and quads, with only one each of twos and fives. The grouping of houses left the blocks of land open to the interior, with at least four openings in each case. In contrast, the main feature of the concept attributed to Kálmán Löllbach was the enclosure of the blocks. Through the clusters of houses and the detached houses, the original construction, which was interrupted with several openings towards the block’s interior, was replaced by a closed row of houses with only two openings, thus an almost completely enclosed block. The original build-up, loosened up by breaking through the blocks and introducing side gardens, was replaced by an enclosed square wall which ran around the perimeter of the block, almost without opening, behind the front gardens. However, the layout on the even side of Vincellér Street was different, where the boundary of the parceled area did not coincide with the block boundaries created by the rezoning of the area, and cut in half a block in the process of being formed: almost half of it was outside the parceled area.
The detached and triple groups of houses of the Fischer plan, separated by gardens and side gardens, were replaced by the Löllbach plan, on which this area was also defined by a closed row. However, rather than following the solution of a block perimeter, which left the large common inner courtyard unbuilt and was loosened up by means of breakthroughs, he followed a different path of block reform, with the use of a connecting courtyard, which, by extending to several plots, created a meander line. In one place, where this development encompassed three plots, he also added a detached dwelling to the courtyard (the assembly of plots under old lot nr. 13860/41, 42 and 43 (lot nr. 4540, 4541 and 4542).
With these solutions, the loose, suburban construction of the Fischer plan, which was based on detached and grouped houses, was replaced by the closed-row concept of the Löllbach plan, whose tools were in line with the international trend of block reform. Almost all of the buildings were built on the principle of a block perimeter, with a front garden and only a few interruptions (one and two entrances on each side, respectively). In the case of the centrally located blocks of the development area, a large inner courtyard was created behind the block edge building by connecting the rear courtyards, while on the edge of the parcel on Vincellér Street, the closed-row build-up was made airier by courtyards open to the street, in line with the meandering concept of the building reform, which was also becoming popular in international practice.
The concept has also undergone a transformation in another respect. During the protracted administrative process of land subdivision, József Fischer repeatedly outlined his ideas, which were a testimony to the transformation of the character of the type of housing planned for the area. His original idea, from the beginning of 1908, was to build small plots of land with houses containing four to five flats as a middle-class capital investment (BFL IV.1407.b 1440/1908-II. Application for plot division, 28 January 1908). The elements Fischer emphasized included front gardens, the use of clustering to ensure the steady flow of air between the gardens behind the houses and the street, and low building heights of up to two storeys. In their appeal a few months later, however, they spoke of family houses, "which will be a model of economical construction and cheap housing" in "severe and unfortunate housing conditions" (BFL IV.1407.b 1440/1908-II Appeal, 29 May 1908).The new wording indicated that after four months they were no longer thinking so much of tenement houses as of single-family houses. This change of mindset was fully expressed in a further submission within two weeks (BFL IV.1407.b 1440/1908-II Substitute application for the appeal, 9 June 1908), where the focus was clearly on the detached house as something sorely lacking in the city's housing system, while “the desire for a house of one's own, or a smaller home, was rapidly developing and growing among the residents of the capital”. It seems that Fischer and his colleagues have moved on from the idea of small apartment blocks to the idea of a single-family detached housing estate.
In the delayed start of the building process, by the outbreak of World War I, ten of the forty-nine plots had been built on, or one-fifth of the total, which represented barely one-third of the plots sold. Although József Fischer was an investor in the deal, he was not involved in it as a designing architect. The other architect investor, Guidó Hoepfner, also designed only one house. In contrast, Kálmán Löllbach designed four residential houses, while the other six houses were the work of different architects: Gusztáv Reischl, Béla Gy. Takács, and Klenovits & Báthory. László Gyalus was commissioned to design two houses. The first plans were drawn up by Kálmán Löllbach in April 1909. Between mid-April and mid-May 1909, six houses were designed in the offices of Löllbach, Hoepfner and Reischl. Plans for three more houses were completed in the summer of 1910, and one even later, at the end of 1912. By the autumn of 1909, five houses were definitely built, and probably a sixth, and three more were granted occupancy permits at the same time in the spring of 1911, with the house planned for late 1912 being completed by August 1913. Many more plots were built on after the First World War. Three dwellings and a creamery were completed in the first half of the 1920s, and a further five plots were built on in the second half of the decade. Construction continued at a similar pace in the 1930s, and by the early 1940s a further eleven plots had been built on. Thus, in the inter-war period, a further twenty plots were definitely built on after the eleven built on before 1914, while the fate of the remaining properties, apart from those absorbed into the public road, is not known.
The houses built up to 1914 were almost exclusively ground-floor or single-storey detached houses with one flat. Only one house had two apartments on two different levels. One house was built with two additional floors above the ground floor, and one house had a mansard rather than a separate floor above the ground floor. The dwellings had three, four or five rooms – in some cases a hall was added – the predominant number of rooms was four and five, with only one house having three rooms. (No floor plans survive for the house at lot nr. 4541.) With the construction of the 1920s and 1930s, the character of the housing built in the area changed, covering a wider range. In the 1920s, single-family dwellings of single- or two-storey construction were still retained – only one house of this type with two flats was built – and although a condominium was built, it was only a two-storey one with four-flats. These dwellings fitted in with the original building concept. The 1930s, however, brought a transformation. Three- and four-storey tenement houses appeared, while a smaller number of two-storey detached houses, with mostly one, two or three flats, were built.
The detached houses built before the war met the definition of a family house as a single-family home. However, the use of the term 'family house' in those years was broader than that, and included a small number of floors and flats, with one or a few flats per floor, in the housing discourse associated with the domestic followers of the housing reform. This understanding of the family house was based on the principles of housing reform, which, in both hygienic and moral terms, aimed to minimize forced social contact within dwellings in order to ensure healthy housing conditions and the integrity of family life. The appearance on the site of a separate dwelling per floor, which was two flats in its entirety, also indicated the presence of this kind of reformist interpretation of the family house, which also fitted in with the form of the originally envisaged tenement of a few flats, with a maximum of two storeys, although it did not become the dominant one. While in terms of the type of dwelling, the houses built did not correspond to the concept of early 1908 but to the concept of summer 1908, in terms of the building, they followed the Löllbach plan of spring 1909, rather than the earlier Fischer plan. Accordingly, they fitted in with the closed-row, front-garden style of building, with an opening in some places, and a large courtyard left unbuilt in the block interior. The same pattern was followed by two houses built before 1914, whose plots were outside the area covered by the Löllbach plan (plots nr. 4546/3 and 4547). The third plot, which was not covered by this plan, was built in a different way with detached houses (plot nr. 4522). However, the meander development envisaged for the part on the even side of Vincellér Street could not be implemented, as three of the eight plots concerned were not sold until the war and only one property was built on until 1914.
Ágnes Nagy (Translation from Hungarian: Barbara Szij)