Well then, where was I? Off doing a Secret Project, which I promise to tell you about when I’m allowed. And then I had a few weeks’ break from writing to recover from that, and here we are now, off to Hungary to have a look at the latest in bus station architecture there. I know shamefully little about Hungary’s public transport system and its architecture so I am indebted to Máté Vida for background information and the wonderful photos of today’s subject.
In Budaörs, a south-western suburb of Hungary’s capital Budapest, is an award-winning bus terminal, Budaörsi lakótelep (Budaörs Housing Estate) which acts as a hub for local bus services. Budaörs is a wealthy suburb, reliant on its bus network for local public transport since the closure of its suburban rail service in the 1960s.
With an earlier terminal building on the north side of the site reaching life expiry, architects Dobos Botond and Kurucz Olívia of Intramuros Architecture Studio took the chance not only to replace it, but also to address pedestrian safety issues in and around the bus terminal. Pedestrian desire lines from surrounding housing estates and retail locations (not least an IKEA) ran straight over the bus turning area to the old terminal building. By placing it on the south side of the site, Dobos and Kurucz’s new terminal building intercepts pedestrians before they come into contact with the roadway on which the buses circulate.
The terminal itself comprises four individual units (a bus drivers’ mess facility at the west end, a public toilet at the east end, and two retail units in between), made into a single structure by the flat roof which runs across all of them. The overhang of the roof on the north side of the terminal provides shelter for passengers as they wait for their buses.
The terminal’s form is largely rectilinear, although in plan, the two retail units and the public toilet each have one angled wall. The gaps between the units ensure it is possible to see through the bus station from one side to the other, ensuring that waiting passengers don’t feel isolated from their local environment or cut off from the view of passers-by.
This bus terminal’s style might not be the most ostentatious but it works well, looks good, and sits happily in its local built environment. The vertical edges of the roof are clad in unusual aluminum foam panels which extend down to ground level on the end elevations, and down the mess facility and public toilet units on their southern elevations.
The panels are supplied by Hungarian-based Aluinvent, which explains that they provide high levels of natural insulation and ventilation. Made from recycled aluminium, the foam panels are also a low-carbon option for a building facade, and require little ongoing maintenance.
The two retail units towards the middle of the bus terminal have coloured walls, and on the north elevation, all four units have coloured walls. Each unit is a different colour, emphasising each one as an individual element within the terminal, and also reflecting the name of the road buses use to access the terminal: Szivárvány Utca (Rainbow Street, in English). The mess facility is lime green, the retail units are blue and yellow, and the toilet block is red.
Perhaps most surprising to an English observer is the dramatic application of supergraphic bus route numbers applied in white to the various units. It’s hard to miss where to catch your bus from when the route numbers are this big.
Thanks to the fact that in most of England bus routes are operated commercially by private sector operators, routes can be altered with just 70 days’ notice (42 days’ notice to the Traffic Commissioner, with 28 days’ notice given to the relevant local transport authority before that). Not only can they be altered at these short notice periods, they often actually are, as bus companies respond to changes in the local travel market. That’s fair enough, but if you’ve ever tried to put up signage in a bus station showing which bus routes stop where, it frequently goes out of date, sometimes before you’ve even finished putting the signage up (and I can attest to this from personal experience).
In Budapest, the public transport network is coordinated by Budapesti Közlekedési Központ, contracting out routes to operating companies; this is similar to the situation in London, which is about the only place in England you could decorate a bus station with supergraphic route numbers and have some degree of confidence that they would remain accurate in the medium to long term.
England’s new national bus strategy suggests that under the new arrangements it proposes, bus service changes should be “relatively infrequent”, which is promising in a vague sort of way, although the arrangements for delivering this aspiration in practice (as with most of the outcomes desired by the strategy) are, to say the least, rather unclear.
Meanwhile, back at Budaörsi lakótelep bus terminal, Intramuros Architecture designed bespoke benches to complement the four coloured units which make up the bus terminal building. The angular benches feature coordinated colours on the seats, a very satisfying touch.
A number of fully segregated cycle routes (this is mainland Europe, after all) run near the bus terminal. Cyclists who want to swap their bike for a bus there are well served by a neat cycle shelter, with a cut out cycle sign on the top.
The bus terminal opened in 2019 and secured a BigSEE Architecture Award 2020 in the public and commercial architecture category. It’s a colourful and practical piece of public transport architecture that should serve local bus passengers well for years to come.
Special thanks to Máté Vida for the assistance and photos for this article. It goes without saying that any inaccuracies regarding public transport in Hungary will have been caused by me.
Bibliography and Further Reading
Intramuros Architecture Studio’s website (but note it appears not to have been updated since 2012, and does not include the new bus terminal)
…and anything else linked to in the text above.